Eating Right Gives the Most Protection During This Flu Season

 We are having lots of viral illness going around, and I was asked to comment on the flu vaccine again.  Certainly, with the flu virus circulating this season, flu-phobia is everywhere.  Plus, there is a shortage of flu vaccines, so what are we to do?   The answer is eat right, get enough sleep, and keep your hands away from your face (until right after you wash them).  It is very difficult to get a significant viral inoculum if you do not put your hands near your mouth and nose.  Remember, when you are in public, such as at work or school resist the temptation to touch your face or put your hands near your nose or mouth.  That works, because you can’t get enough virus in the orifices of your body just by breathing the air, unless someone coughs right on you.  

Flu shot sign. Flickr: paulswansenPlus, the flu shot is not very effective anyway.  Please consider that over 200 viruses cause influenza and influenza-like illness; both produce the same symptoms, such as fever, headache, aches and pains, cough, and runny nose.  Laboratory tests are required for doctors to tell the two illnesses apart.  Both illnesses last for days and both rarely lead to death or serious illness. Even in the best-case scenario, vaccines might be effective against only some influenza A and B, but those represent less than 10% of all circulating viruses.  

Each year, the World Health Organization makes recommendations for which viral strains should be included in the upcoming year’s flu vaccinations.  So the vaccines may have some effectiveness against specific viral strains, but the degree to which the vaccine-included strains match the virus actually in circulation varies from year to year. 

So that means that even if you are in that 10 percent of sick people with flu-like symptoms who really have influenza A or B, only about half of those vaccinated will be helped by the vaccine because the other half will have strains that were not included in the vaccine.1  And even with the best matching conditions the vaccine may diminish your symptoms somewhat, but not necessarily preclude you from catching the flu.  The internationally renowned Cochrane Collaboration investigated this issue directly by reviewing all the relevant studies, involving over 70,000 participants.  The most impressive thing about this meta-analysis was that the authors were completely independent from the U.S. vaccine manufacturers and the powerful pharmaceutical and vaccine lobby, so the reported results were unbiased.

They assessed all trials that compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated people. The combined results of these trials showed that even under ideal conditions (vaccine completely matching circulating viral configuration), 4% of unvaccinated people and 1% of vaccinated people became infected – the vaccine had only a minor benefit. They authors estimated that under average conditions, 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms or you would have to be vaccinated every year for 100 years, to save yourself one flu episode. Interestingly, the study showed that flu vaccine did NOT significantly affect the number of people hospitalized or working days lost, and did not prevent flu-associated complications or those rare flu-associated deaths.1, 2  So even though the vaccine had some very slight effects, the benefits were very small.  In fact, in  children two years and younger they found the effectiveness of the vaccine was no better than a placebo.3 

The Cochrane review’s authors were highly critical of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, with its members having financial ties to the pharmaceutical companies. They noted that industry-funded studies were more likely to report findings favorable to the vaccines, that there was evidence of “widespread manipulation of conclusions” in those studies. The authors disagreed with the CDC’s  recommendation for universal vaccination at all ages without clear evidence of significant effectiveness and safety.  Certainly the elderly, the group most vulnerable to non-pandemic flu, should benefit the most, but this also is not observed as the vaccine does not work well in the elderly because of their decline in immune function.3, 4

To summarize, the vaccine does have some slight effects in reducing flu incidence and severity, but in those at most at risk, the very young and the very old, it is not yet clear whether the vaccine has any protective effect at all.

Those of us that are healthy need not worry about the dangers of the flu anyway.  No treatment, drug or vaccine is without risk, and you only have to read the circular with the vaccine to be informed of those clear risks.  Also, if you do get a flu shot, never get a shot from a multi-use vial, which contains more mercury and preservatives than the single dose vials. 

On the other hand, eating your G-BOMBS has no known side effects.  

 

Image credit: Flickr - paulswansen

References:

1. Cochrane Summaries: Vaccines to prevent influenza in heatlthy adults. [http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001269/vaccines-to-prevent-influenza-in-healthy-adults]
2. Jefferson T, Di Pietrantonj C, Rivetti A, et al: Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010:CD001269.
3. Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C, et al: Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012;8:CD004879.
4. Jefferson T, Di Pietrantonj C, Al-Ansary LA, et al: Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010:CD004876.

 

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Comments (20) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Dia Kristy - January 17, 2013 10:52 AM

This was great but we really need you to tell us WHAT TO EAT! So we can follow your great advice this flu season.

I know it's all in your book, 'SuperImmunity' but by the time we order the book, receive the book and read the book, flu season might be over for this year! :(

Ron Brandt - January 17, 2013 11:10 AM

I respect your experience and your medical perspective. I also can't disagree with you about the importance of eating healthy to combat illness and disease. In fact both my wife and I are following your Eat to Live advice. But, I have to disagree with you about your comment that the flu "rarely lead to death or serious illness". I live in Minnesota and I believe at last count 27 deaths this year have been attributed to the flu and it is a pandemic in many parts of the nation. You can't tell me that the elderly and young children should not be getting the flu shot this year. Even if you are one of the small precentage that is saved by getting the shot is worth it, don't you think.

Rick - January 17, 2013 11:19 AM

Great article. Thanks.

Just another example of drug companies marketing products that will only benefit a few (less than 5%), but will cost everyone in time, money and possible side effects. Even if your flu shot is free someone is paying for it. Either the government or it is included in our ever skyrocketing health insurance premiums.

Maureen - January 17, 2013 11:33 AM

I never get the flu shot or give it to my kids. My parents in their late 70's think "it's a bunch of baloney" and don't get it either. We all eat healthy and wash our hands often. Have any of us gotten sick? Yes but not every year and not severely.

DIANE HOOPENGARNER - January 17, 2013 12:07 PM

Hi,
I work in a medical office and they are demanding we get the flu shot. I do not believe in these shots nor do I trust that what they are putting in them isnt toxic materials. They are talking about terminating people that dont get it. Is there anyone or anywhere we can go with this issue.
ThankYOu Diane

Mary - January 17, 2013 12:23 PM

I work for a large hospital that was adamant about everyone getting vaccinated. However, I work from home 130 miles away so I filled out a refusal form and wrote a letter and happily they accepted my choice not to get the vaccine. I obviously had no patient exposure. After reading Dr. Fuhrman's email regarding vaccines, I'm extra glad I did not get one. I never have and I never want to get the flu vaccine. I am careful to wash my hands as soon as I get home after being out anywhere and so far I am free of illness this winter and expect to remain that way. Big Pharma drives me crazy.

Irene - January 17, 2013 1:11 PM

I respect Dr. Fuhrman highly and I have eating a strict Eat to Live protocol since 6/2012. I drink green smoothies every morning, have a big salad with beans for linch and a hot dinner with the GBOMBS in the evening. Plus I take the requisite vitamins and supplements and have no chronic diseases. I am pleased with the results, especially weight loss, so far but I am on Day 12 of the flu and although I went back to work after a week I am operating at half-speed. So I know statistics aren't people but I don't think this eating plan helped me from either getting the flu or making it last less time. And neither did the flu shot.

Sharon - January 17, 2013 1:52 PM

I was gonna share this but I don't see what you recommend we eat. I googled cold & flu cures b/c everyone around me is sick. So far, it's working. I had a little scratchy through, a tiny runny nose & was tired for ONE day!

Susan Hennessy - January 17, 2013 2:01 PM

To Dia Kristy: Go to www.drfuhrman.com Eat produce. Greens, dried beans, berries, onions, mushromms, nuts & seeds. Eat the broadest range of produce you can find. Forget everything else!
When I was a hospital nurse 7 years ago I reluctantly took my last flu vaccine. I was always afraid of getting Guillian-Barre syndrome. In fact I was taking care of a patient with that from a flu shot. She had contracted it 4 years prior and had no use of her arms or legs....yet. I took my shot and long story short I developed a mild case of neuropathy in my feet the very next day. Felt like I was walking on a dirty, gritty floor. Neuropathy was listed as a side effect for only 2% of the people who took the vaccine. I began the ETL program over a year ago and will never ever go back to eating SAD again or rely or trust conventional medicine.

Lisa Mayer - January 17, 2013 3:44 PM

Thanks for this reminder. I also do not get the flu vaccination (or the shingles or the pneumonia). I'm in my late fifties, slim, fit and now committed to following "The End of Diabetes" plan (which includes G-BOMBS) as I have Type 2 diabetes and the associated high cholesterol.

The comment that I have is really a question and pertains to something I read about the benefits of vaccines like those mentioned above, and the statin drugs. Both articles suggested that they reduce inflammation, which causes heart attacks, stroke, etc. My response is that if we are healthy, and eating right and exercising, there should be little inflammation anyway, and we avoid playing with substances that are dangerous for our overall health. Does Dr. Fuhrman agree?

Deana Ferreri, Ph.D. - January 17, 2013 5:25 PM

For dietary recommendations, read the links below and consider reading one of Dr. Fuhrman's books, such as Eat for Health or Super Immunity.

http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/gbombs.aspx
http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/are-you-a-nutritarian.aspx

http://www.drfuhrman.com/shop/books.aspx

Richard Kirsten - January 17, 2013 5:36 PM

There is no date for the Cochrain reference and if they studied thee flue in 2012 which was a mild year.?
As to trasmittal of flue and other virus, the Spanish Flu in 1917 or so spread rapidly through the army at first because one infected person with a bad cough reportedly spread it via airborn germs to the whole barrack full of soldiers. Your premise that it is difficult to spread via airborn mechanism may not be supported by the spanish flu case?
As to fatalities, There were also huge casualties from Spanish flu and who knows what may happen during the season and if a mutant virus will start this year. I say stay out of airplanes, subways and groups of people who may cough on you or in your airspace.

Patricia Hill - January 17, 2013 9:56 PM

I am 87 years old, in good health and have never had a flu shot. Although from Michigan, my husband and I are currently spending eleven weeks in Steamboat Springs, CO, where we still enjoy alpine skiing. I am depending on G-BOMBS, frequent handwashing and no hand-to-face touching unless after washing hands, to avoid the flu epidemic, despite being exposed to people from all over the world. Needless to say, in our 60 years of marriage, wehave both always been exercises.

Linda H - January 18, 2013 1:23 AM

The experts are always saying that the vaccine will not cause a person to get the flu. My sister is a nurse and she gets vaccinated every flu season; and every flu season she gets the worst case of flu imaginable. Thank God their is someone out there presenting another side to all this fear mongering. I was listening to NPR the other day, and they had the nerve to say that even if you've had the flu this season,take the vaccine anyway! Tommyrot!!!!

Deana Ferreri, Ph.D. - January 18, 2013 9:53 AM

Richard, the date for reference #1 is 2010

Essie - January 19, 2013 9:58 AM

Click the G-BOMBS link in the last line there to see the list of recommended Super Immunity foods.

We're sailing through our sixth flu season without catching it. Thanks, Dr. F!

Mac - January 20, 2013 10:17 AM

Regarding the Spanish influenza: I think people forget that it was so deadly because that particular strain caused an excessive immune response... it sort of brilliantly tricked the body into overreacting to it (via something called a cytokine storm). Obviously, the body's ability to defend itself is generally a positive thing but when it goes out of whack (auto immunity, for one example), it's not so great. This was taken to horrible extremes in the Spanish flu: the healthiest and strongest adults died -- a result of the immune response. Children and the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system fared better.

All this to say: this flu isn't doing that, so in this case a good immune system's a good immune system.

I happily eat ETL and am very grateful to Dr. Fuhrman. But I get a little leery of "all conventional medicine is of Satan" and "all vaccines poison you" stuff. It seems to go hand and hand with the sort of mentality that blames anyone for getting ill. I'm worried it will drive people away who might learn to eat better here. Nearly did me, some time back.

Irene, sorry you got so sick! Everyone does sometimes, and 12 days is nasty. Hope you're healing up and can get lots of rest.

Dr. Fuhrman - January 20, 2013 3:29 PM

Mac,

I have allegiance only to the best science available. The problem ensues when beliefs and egos are threatened by facts. My article on the flu vaccine only presented the facts. I am not concerned with accommodating what people would like to believe about their drugs, but rather presenting the facts as accurately as possible.


Jamie - January 21, 2013 9:37 AM

Great article! My family has been much healthier since we changed our diets a few years ago.

Mac - January 21, 2013 11:07 AM

I should have clarified that I was referring to some of the comments on this blog and not to the article itself. My fault.

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