It’s that time of year again. People are getting sick with colds and the flu. And so, they ask me, Ron, what do you think about the flu shot?
I try to be humble, and so I mention that research has shown that flu shots are no more effective than a placebo at preventing the flu in elderly (see the NY Times article). The same result was found for infants under two years old (see the article).
For those of us who are not infants and not yet elderly, the evidence is mixed. The problem is that, before the flu season begins, the CDC makes an educated guess about which strains of the flu virus will be most prevalent in the upcoming season. Sometimes, this guess is off, sometimes it is on. In the former cases, you get studies that show that the flu virus does nothing (like this one).
There are studies that indicate that flu shots are helpful and reduce sick time (see this article). So, for me to say that flu vaccines are entirely ineffective, would be, from a scientific perspective, dishonest.
However, I still don’t recommend flu shots. Why? For several reasons.
1) Flu shots may contain additives which are bad for you. Even the CDC warns us: “The following substances are found in vaccines: aluminum (brain toxin), antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde (now listed as carcinogenic), MSG or monosodium glutamate (a known neurotoxin),and thimerosal (neurotoxic mercury).” Would you want want these in your child? How about in you?
2) My patients who receive acupuncture get fewer colds and flus (for studies that prove this, click here).
3) My patients who take Chinese Herbal Medicine also get fewer colds and flus (see this study).
This all reminds me of a patient who came to me for depression. She knew that she responded well to acupuncture and that it would help her depression (as it had done before). But she told me that it would be easy to get a prescription for Prozac because her insurance covered it.
In the end, she opted for acupuncture, and felt great. And her liver and kidneys were spared from known toxins (and there was no withdrawal period after stopping her meds, which is another blog post).
The problem with studies on flu shots is that they are always compared to “placebo” groups. What does the placebo group do to prevent the flu? Of course, nothing.
But you can do some things to prevent the flu (and colds):
1) Engage in a regular exercise program (but don’t overdo it).
2) Take a multivitamin.
3) Reduce your stress with exercise, meditation, talking it out with friends, or making concrete changes in your life.
4) Get acupuncture.
5) Take Chinese herbal medicine to boost your immunity (as prescribed by your certified practitioner of Chinese Medicine).
It would be great if we lived in a world where “quick-fixes” were the solution to every problem. But, the meds, the vaccines (the quick fixes) unfortunately don’t get to the root of the problem.
If you are ready to make real changes, start focusing on prevention, and start considering Chinese Medicine.