by Dr. Greg Eckel
Nature Cures Clinic physician
Well it’s that time of year again. The marketing machine rolls on with the public health campaign that says the only protection you have against the deadly flu is to get your flu shot. We have been reporting on this since the avian flu scare of 2005 (see podcast here).
We recently just produced a new flu vodcast/ podcast. Dr. Nigh and I really try to have fun while (hopefully) giving you some sane (and entertaining) commentary on the current climate of information.
A few years ago, we were asked to write up what you can do for viral illness for the state of Oregon. We wrote this while working with the Alliance Working for Antibiotic Resistance Education (AWARE), a group working towards educating the public and doctors about improper antibiotic prescriptions and how they lead to antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. There is pressure at doctor’s offices to do something when their patients are sick. The doctors in general will write a prescription for antibiotics, even though the majority of cases are viral in nature. This improper prescribing of antibiotics in turn leads to the creation of super bugs, that are resistant to antibiotics. The current medical system has very little to offer patients with viral illnesses.
The Centers of Disease Control, in the name of public health, has their 1,2, 3 list of what to do to increase your odds of not getting the flu this year:
1) Get a flu shot.
2) Stay away from those that are sick, wash your hands often.
3) Take anti-virals if you get the flu.
As far as public policy, this is lacking considerably. Here I will once again reference our position paper linked above as another view of what you can do to increase your immune system’s vitality.
Let’s look at the research. The conservative group the Cochrane Review, a consortium of scientists around the globe has done a great job in collecting the data on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. If we were to believe the propaganda machine of the mainstream media, you’d experience a 100% effective rate against getting the flu. It is repeated by most of the medical societies so much so it must be true. On review of the literature, we find, “Authors’ conclusions influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.
This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.”
Last year during the swine flu (H1N1) hysteria, I got into several debates with conventional doctors, who continually referred to websites of their professional organizations, saying they were supporting the flu vaccine. I kept asking for the research to support their conclusions. In reality, the data is very slim and suspect, as the Cochrane review suggests.
The second recommendation is actually not bad; washing your hands often is a very good hygienic practice. I like to have our patients focus more on their own terrain, rather than being paranoid of others’ illnesses. But I do agree with the CDC recommendation number 2.
Let’s look at the third recommendation. Take anti-virals if you get sick. This seems to be more of a sanctioned ad for the pharmaceutical industry. The research shows these anti-virals produce at best one day less of illness. This is hardly enough for a national public health policy. (Here is the citation that goes with this information: Antiviral medications are adjunctive agents for the prevention of influenza. They also are used early in the course of uncomplicated influenza infection to reduce the duration of illness by approximately 1 day. 12 12. Gubareva LV, Kaiser L, Hayden FG. Influenza virus neuraminidase inhibitors. Lancet. 2000;355:827-835. )
We have talked a lot through the years about the issue of terrain versus the bug. Unfortunately, Louis Pasteur won the debate on germ theory and we are currently stuck with the outlook that the bug is the issue. His contemporary at the time was Beauchamp, who argues that we are all exposed to the bug, why do only some of us get sick. His point was that is the terrain that matters.
In practice of course it is both of these theories. Our public policy only views the bug, holistically we consider both of them. In recent times there is more and more research to support Vitamin D’s usefulness for immune system response. We encourage all of our patients to have their vitamin D level checked at least once per year. This gives you an opportunity to make sure you are in the ideal range for vitamin D’s effectiveness.
If you are interested in optimizing your immune system this cold and flu season, please call the office and schedule an appointment. For more information be sure to watch or listen to our current vod/podcast here.
Here’s to a healthy and happy fall!
In health and sanity, Dr. Eckel