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Flu shots – the middle way

I’m grappling with the decision about having the flu shot. Actually, I know that I don’t want it but everyone around me says that I should have it and I keep asking the question why? Why do I want to put foreign substances into my body? I work hard to keep healthy and when I had to have medication for pain I took it, gratefully. But the long-term side effects of most medications are damaging. Who’s to say that the long-term effects of the flu shot are not more detrimental than the flu itself?

Lets start with understanding the flu. There are different strains of flu including bird and swine flu and then there is the seasonal influenza. This is what the flu shot covers and what the World Health Organization (WHO) describes as “an acute viral infection caused by an influenza virus.” There are three types of viruses but only two are covered in the flu shot.

The ‘powers that be’ have to guess, an educated guess I’m sure, which strain of influenza will be the dominant force in the coming flu season. Based on that the flu shot is concocted. That means that even if you get the shot there is no guarantee that you won’t get the flu especially if you are in contact with a different strain. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the effectiveness of the flu shot depends on, in my words, how well they guess the strain and, in their words, “the age and health status of the person getting vaccinated.”

The people most at risk - those with compromised immune systems, the young and elderly - are those who have priority in getting the flu shot. Yet the CDC also says on their website that the shot is less effective for “older people with weaker immune systems.” And it goes on to say, “in general, the flu vaccine works best among young, healthy adults and older children.” That sounds contradictory and if I'm already healthy why do I need the shot when my body is equipped to handle viruses? And just what age group is the young adult? I consider myself young, adult and healthy - most days.

The good news is the CDC reports the of death children have dropped drastically since the 2009-10 season from a reported 282 to only 20 so far in this 2012-13 season. They say that this year the vaccine has been effective 62% of the time, though not as good as other years, and that hospitalizations continue to be highest for the elderly.

It’s good to hear the successes but I still don’t think that I need the shot. The influenza virus, as acute as it may be, is just a virus. The Mayo Clinic website says, “If you're young and healthy, seasonal influenza usually isn't serious. Although you may feel miserable while you have it, the flu usually goes away with no lasting effects. Usually, you'll need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids to treat the flu.” It seems then if my immune system is already healthy, the flu shot is not going to help much.

Then there is the other side of the coin. According to the CDC, "the following substances are found in vaccines: aluminum, antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde, MSG or monosodium glutamate, and thimerosal." Aluminum is considered a brain toxin; formaldehyde a carcinogenic; monosodium glutamate (MSG) a neurotoxin; and thimerosal is a neurotoxic mercury. Hmmm…do I really want these things injected into my body?

A few years ago Johns Hopkins confirmed that Desiree Jennings suffered from seasonal influenza vaccine toxicity leading to her inability “to walk, talk normally, and focus on more than one stimuli at a time." In Finland children developed narcolepsy, a condition where they uncontrollably fall asleep at any time. It was conclusively linked to their swine flu shots and the government of Finland has agreed to pick up their lifelong medical expenses.

These are only two extreme examples but there are numerous of cases of vaccination-induced injuries before the courts in the US. They cost the government millions; whether they win or lose, and I wonder, again, why we feel that we need to be injected with foreign substances? My body when doing its job well is working to purge the virus through the runny nose, the coughing, the fever and the night sweating. What I need to realize is that I can support my body with rest, fluids, and many items found right in the kitchen. Things like honey, lemons, garlic, thyme and chicken noodle soup.

It is important to understand that there are no antibiotics that will help with the flu or a common cold virus; they only work if you have a bacterial infection. And those over the counter medications? Forget about them curing you, they are only there to deal with the symptoms and to make you feel a little better.

The last thing anyone in chronic pain needs is to get sick with the flu or even a common cold. That would be like heating up the knives already twisting in the body. But I’m not convinced that the flu shot is the right answer either. Why add more medications to clog the already overworked body? It seems to me that you would be better off boosting your immune system. However, the Harvard Medical School website says that studies on how to do so are in preliminary stages and there are “no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function.” They do know that to function well the immune system requires balance and harmony. They also suggest, “general healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand.”

I’m all for self-care but this is a serious decision each of us has to make for ourselves. I believe that whether I suffer with chronic pain or not, when I get sick with something like the flu there are healthy ways to support my body. It is doing what it was designed to do as it purges what does not serve me. And when I’m not sick with the flu I can move toward a healthier body with regular exercise, eating well, reducing sources of stress and proper rest. There will be times that drugs are necessary but when drugs are useless why not use simple solutions to benefit the body?

What do you think? Am I just one of those conspiracy theorists who thinks that the Government is actually injecting us with computer chips to control us? Or could there be truth in self-care? Maybe it falls under the Buddhist way – somewhere in the middle.

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