As autumn comes to an end, the colder days and chilly nights start to set in.
All the while, the media and pharmaceutical companies begin reminding us that the flu season is upon us once again.
Many people are triggered to begin thinking about the flu vaccine, and perhaps they'll make a decision to get vaccinated this year, or not.
If you’re expecting a baby, you're probably wondering if you should have the flu shot while pregnant.
Something important to understand is that you don’t get those unpleasant cold and flu symptoms because it’s cold outside.
Sorry mums and dads, you were wrong when you nagged your kids to wear a jumper, in case they caught a cold!
Nor are colds and flus from an inconsiderate individual, rudely spreading their nasty germs all over you.
There are a few things you probably don’t know about the flu vaccine.
These things are readily accessible on the web, even on credible agency and government websites. You're able to look it up yourself if you would like more information. But it's important that we research such things more fully, so we can feel more in control and confident of our healthcare decisions – for ourselves and our families.
Here's something that should have you thinking:
Did you know the flu vaccine is produced many months (even up to a year) before the flu season actually begins?
The vaccine’s formula is based on guesswork as to what the perceived flu threat will be in the next flu season, based on what's currently circulating. Three viruses will be selected for the new vaccine. These will then be injected into chick embryos (the most common way flu vaccines are made), then the eggs are incubated, so the viruses can replicate.
Obviously, this method of vaccine production allows pharmaceutical companies to be prepared to pump out vast quantity of vaccines when flu season comes around. But it also means the shot you have may already be redundant if its not the bug that’s taking everyone down in the current flu season.
How Effective Is The Flu Shot?
From the CDC’s website on the seasonal flu vaccine:
“The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends on the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine, and the similarity or “match” between the viruses or virus in the vaccine and those in circulation.”
“Influenza vaccines protect against infection and illness caused by the three influenza viruses in the vaccine that research indicates will be most common this season. Flu vaccines will NOT protect against infection and illness caused by other viruses that can also cause influenza-like symptoms. There are many other viruses besides influenza that can result in influenza-like illness that spread during the flu season.”
As an example here in Australia, from the Department of Health’s website (Victoria):
“The 2012 influenza vaccine strains
A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-pdm09-like virus
A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus
But, over 200 viruses cause influenza and influenza-like illness (which result in the same symptoms) and influenza viruses mutate.
You can already see that there are going to be issues here.
You can imagine without surprise that this is a big part of the reason why the history of the flu vaccine has been riddled with recalls, bad publicity and even lawsuits due to ineffective vaccines, side effects and poor duration of effectiveness.
All this, when a study found that vitamin D3 was more effective at stopping influenza than the actual vaccine.
So, the whole idea of having something disease-causing injected into your body – that likely isn’t protecting you for the seasonal bug that you think it is (let alone the toxic ingredients that are added into vaccines), just in case… how does that sound now? Let alone while you're pregnant, and there are zero studies that these flu vaccines are safe during pregnancy.
No-one wants to test on pregnant women, which is understandable. But if the flu shot is not safe for newborn babies, and if babies are more at risk of serious complications from medications and toxins while in utero, compared to when being breastfed, this is a big red flag.
If the cashed up soft drink manufacturer Coca-Cola has endless money to throw at researchers to prove their products (specifically sugar) are harmless, then surely, they aren't the only major corporation doing so. How ethical is it for a company to pay scientists to tell us that there's no proof that sugary drinks are linked to obesity and Type 2 diabetes?
What else could we be blindly believing?
Flu Vaccines In The Media
Here are some stories of the flu vaccine in the media, which you’ll find every year – there is always some sort of controversy and for good reason.
Remember the Swine Flu?
“A LEADING health expert [Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe] says the swine flu scare was a “false pandemic” led by drugs companies that stood to make billions from vaccines. He believes it is “one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century” and has called for an inquiry.” As a result of this, an inquiry was launched: Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to Investigate WHO and “Pandemic” Scandal.
“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will launch an inquiry in January 2010 on the influence of the pharmaceutical companies on the global swine flu campaign, focusing especially on extent of the pharma's industry's influence on WHO. The Health Committee of the PACE, a body representing 47 European nations including Russia, has unanimously passed a resolution calling for the inquiry. The step is a long-overdue move to public transparency of a “Golden Triangle” of drug corruption between WHO, the pharma industry and academic scientists that has permanently damaged the lives of millions and even caused death.”
Wolfgang was quoted as saying this: “In order to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against flu, pharmaceutical companies have influenced scientists and official agencies, responsible for public health standards, to alarm governments worldwide. They have made them squander tight health care resources for inefficient vaccine strategies and needlessly exposed millions of healthy people to the risk of unknown side-effects of insufficiently tested vaccines.”
The media also revealed that Sir Roy Anderson, a scientist who advised the Government on swine flu, also held a £116,000-a-year post on the board of GlaxoSmithKline (who manufacture flu vaccines).
Pharmaceutical companies are very well known for offering incentives, bonuses and gifts (from simple to outright lavish) to medical professionals to sell their products – they are highly driven by sales – you can google if you want to read many reports about this ‘incentive spending’ at an all time high.
The UK was also trying to fob off 1 billion pounds worth of the vaccines, as was France who had 79 million vaccines in stock that they were trying to offhand — let alone other countries. Some are calling it the biggest scam this century.
Virus In The System (baby death from Fluvax): “When the ambulance arrived at Perth's Princess Margaret Hospital, doctors and nurses were waiting out the front. Kirsten remembers hearing one of them remark, “It's another Fluvax baby.”
“THE US drugs watchdog has slammed Melbourne-based drug manufacturer CSL for mounting an ’’inadequate’’ investigation of convulsions suffered by children who had used its flu vaccine.”
“Perth mother Kirsten Button, whose toddler Saba suffered brain damage after her Fluvax shot in 2010, said yesterday she was “shocked” the government would award the contract to CSL when it did not know why Fluvax had caused so many febrile convulsions. “What assurance does the public have, when they have not explained to us what happened with Fluvax in the first place?” Ms Button said.”
“A clinical trial led by Mitsuyoshi Urashima and conducted by the Division of Molecular Epidemiology in the the Department of Pediatrics at the Jikei University School of Medicine Minato-ku in Tokyo found that vitamin D was extremely effective at halting influenza infections in children. The trial appears in the March 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The results are from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 334 children, half of which were given 1200 IUs per day of vitamin D3. In other words, this was a “rigorous” scientific study meeting the gold standard of scientific evidence.”
In short, flu vaccines have been proven time and time again to be unsafe and ineffective. People rarely die from the flu – what you hear about in the media are usually complications from the flu as a result of a vulnerable immune system and those in high risk groups like the elderly. Yet it's easier to prevent than you may think.
The Flu – Who Is To Blame, The Flu Bug? The Kids From School? My Neighbour?
Contrary to popular belief, catching the flu isn’t a case of pot luck. It's not something you’re just unlucky with. It's a case of a bug finding a susceptible host. Humans don’t have such a thing as a flu vaccine deficiency: we don’t need a vaccine in order to not get the flu! But many of us have immune deficiencies, and we can blame our lifestyle, nutritional choices and the toxins that we put into our bodies daily.
If you’re in the US, it's even worse – everyone points the finger at the big, bad, nasty…. (insert animal or Asian location name here) flu for the big outbreaks. But it's also around the same time of year where you drink and eat to excess… and disaster! The flu is taking out the town, right around the same time of the chilly, festive holiday season. Big and scary story-worthy bugs is what the media would prefer to have you believe, when its actually more likely to be people hungover from one excuse to over-indulge after the other. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years – poor immune system copping a beating.
Food, alcohol, stress, lack of sleep and rest, all resulting in poorly functioning immune systems. No surprises there!
While you are pregnant, you do have lowered immunity. So it's even more important to protect your immune system. It can be a far more effective defense system against colds and flus, as well as many other bugs and problems. If vitamin D can be more effective than the flu shot, then so can a primed immune system.
Alfred Hero is a professor at the University of Michigan in the College of Engineering, who authored a flu study where participants were infected with the flu virus – and only half of them got sick. He said this via MSNBC regarding the immune systems function with the flu:
“Many people might conclude that if you are exposed to a virus and you don't get sick, it's because the virus didn't stick or it was so weak, it just passed right through your system and your system didn't notice. That's not a correct notion … There is an active immune response which accounts for the resistance of certain people getting sick, and that response is just as active as the response we all know and hate, which is being sick with the sniffles, fever, coughing and sneezing. It's just that the responses are different.”
So, the state of your immune system can dictate how sick you get and what you get…
What Studies and Reports Say About The Flu Vaccine
According to the Cochrane Database, a reliable, unbiased source of study reviews, had this to say about the effectiveness of flu vaccines:
“The corresponding figures [of people showing influenza symptoms] for poor vaccine matching were 2% and 1%. At best, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10% of all circulating viruses.”
So, 1-2%?! At best, 10%?! They continue:
“Vaccine use did not affect the number of people hospitalised or working days lost but caused one case of Guillian-Barré syndrome (a major neurological condition leading to paralysis) for every one million vaccinations. Fifteen of the 36 trials were funded by vaccine companies and four had no funding declaration. Our results may be an optimistic estimate because company-sponsored influenza vaccines trials tend to produce results favorable to their products and some of the evidence comes from trials carried out in ideal viral circulation and matching conditions and because the harms evidence base is limited.”
Well there you go. The flu vaccine didn’t improve hospitalisation rates or reduce lost days at work, and someone ended up with a neurological condition which is well known to be related to vaccines in general (not just the flu vaccine). And the results were “at best”, because pharmaceutical companies tend to produce favourable results to their own vaccines… hardly surprising.
Something even more ironic? Studies from around the world have shown low uptake rates of influenza vaccine for health care workers (HCW), including doctors and nurses. So why are they suggesting it, but not having it themselves? A review of these studies published in the Medical Journal of Australia concludes:
“Despite recommendations for annual influenza vaccination, this review demonstrates that there has been little change in levels of uptake among Australian HCWs since 1997. Only three of the 10 studies reported vaccination coverage of >50%.”
A CDC report found: “When compared with those vaccinated, significantly lower percentages of unvaccinated HCP [health care professionals] expressed the beliefs that getting vaccinated was worth the time and expense and that influenza vaccination can protect them and the persons around them from disease.”
From browsing through other studies, they all show similar sentiments from healthcare workers – they are not vaccinating due to concerns over vaccine effectiveness, lack of testing, side effects and not feeling that its worth the time. That has to say something, even if it's not what they are saying to you.
So, hopefully the big thing you’ve taken from this so far is that it’s not vaccines that protect you against the flu – it’s your trusty immune system. Vaccinate yourself with immune boosting foods, good nutrition, filtered water and healthy lifestyle choices.
Eradicate or reduce immune system destroyers – many of which we are all guilty of at some point in our lives.
What Foods and Drinks Will Inhibit or Lower My Immune System?
We’ve become a society obsessed with comforts and quick fixes. So it's no surprise that for many, our diets revolve around comfort foods and caffeinated drinks, because we think we need these things to keep us going – or to get going!
We eat an excessive amount of meat products (even if not processed, serving sizes are getting heftier) and have unhealthy farming practices.
We suck down flavoured and sweetened drinks like juices and milks, while indulging with chips, chocolate, alcohol, pizza, pasta, bread, cake, lollies… shall I go on?!
We have more stress than ever, we don’t take the time to breathe deeply and we don’t use our bodies as much. We live a pretty sedentary lifestyle making any effort seem more exhausting than ever.
How do you even begin to fix this?
When your diet, lifestyle and emotional state is out of balance, you’re inviting a host of viruses, yeast, fungus and bacteria to come and party in your palace. Your body is the only one you have, and if the environment is not right, systems start to fail.
- If your pet fish is sick, do you change the water, or just give the fish a drug in an attempt to make it better?
- If your freezer is without power, the ice will melt, the foods will quickly start to defrost, smell and grow mould.
You need the environment right for anything to function optimally. If you don’t have the right environment for your body, you get sick too. How many of these problems sound familiar on a regular basis?
- Lack of energy, fatigue
- Excess weight (your body stores fat to protect organs from damage)
- Lower body temperature; frequently feel cold
- Prone to infections
- Depression, anxiety, nervousness, irritability, easily stressed
- Acidic saliva
- Excess stomach acid, reflux
- Loose or easily cracked or chipped teeth
- Inflamed, sensitive gums
- Teeth sensitive to hot, cold or acidic foods
- Mouth ulcers, cracks at the corners of the lips
- Tonsil and throat infections
- Nails are weak, split and break easily
- Hair looks dull, split ends, falls out
- Dry or easily irritated skin (can be where there are heavy concentrations of sweat)
- Leg cramps and spasms
All signs that things are out of balance on the inside.
So, What Foods Are Causing The Problems?
Sugar causes spikes… followed by a crash… in blood sugar levels. Then your body craves more sugar and the cycle continues. Don't be fooled – even savory foods can produce this very response. A bowl of pasta spikes blood sugar levels higher than a bar of chocolate. Ask any diabetic and they'll tell you what flour products do to their blood sugar levels.
Sugars in soft drinks, even foods and drinks labelled “sugar-free” need to be avoided. In fact, artificial sweeteners should be avoided at all costs. Not only can they make you crave more sugar, but there are a range of health problems associated with it's use, including migranes and other serious illnesses. As someone once said, if you see sugar-free, diet, or similar on the label, think chemical sh*tstorm.
It's well known that caffeine can stimulate the adrenal glands – many of us consume it daily even with the belief we need one to get through the day or even to start the day!
However the adrenal glands eventually become exhausted and don’t respond any more – which can leave you a perfect target for health problems. Caffeine can result in headaches, anxiety, fatigue, irritability and dehydration. When you have a cup of coffee, your body is triggered to excrete more water than you took in from that drink.
Just 1-2% dehydration can result in a temporary impairment of physical and mental capabilities. Your body needs plenty of water to be at it's best, physically and mentally.
If you're in this category, I'm sure you well know the risks to your baby’s (and those around you) health and immune system.
If you need help trying to quit, please read our article on smoking while pregnant, which is full of loads of information, without the guilt.
#4: Processed Grains (e.g. Flour Products)
As best you can, avoid or eliminate white or flour foods, for example bread, rice, biscuits, cake, pizza etc. These high glycemic foods make your blood sugar levels rise rapidly like sugar – its like throwing fuel onto a fire.
Again another category you may not be in, or perhaps you’re still having a glass of wine here or there. We know what alcohol does to brain cells, it kills them, not strengthens them for resistance to illness. Alcohol is often loaded with sugar too, or we mix it with soft drinks or juices full of sugar.
#6: Medications and Drugs
Only take medications if you truly need them. You only have to see media stories over the years to see drugs recalled, having undesirable side effects, being claimed as a ‘wonder drug’ only to result in serious complications down the track. A healthy immune system is a strong force to be reckoned with! A body in balance is a body that has resistance to disease.
What Foods and Drinks Will Help To Boost My Immune System?
Here are 7 highly powerful foods and drinks to get you started!
If you think of the most important things in the human body to survive, you might come up with air, water, food. You can last a very short time without air. A couple of days without water. A couple of weeks without food. So water is the second most important thing to your body’s survival.
The body is made up of around 55-75% water, so it's common sense that it will work optimally when we have good water and plenty of it. Our body will start to feel sluggish, unfocused and at worst, fail when we don’t have enough. You should be drinking at least 2 litres a day, ideally with a slice of lemon and/or lime.
Even better – convert to filtered water and seek out a reverse osmosis filter. You’ll also be surprised how a good intake of this healthy water will help your energy levels and so much more.
Avocados have a high water content as well as being nutrient dense – not to mention delicious! According to the Australian Avocados website, half of an avocado can provide:
- 5g of fibre (17% of adult fibre needs)
- 31% of RDI for vitamin K
- 24% of RDI for vitamin E
- 15% of RDI for potassium
- 32% of RDI for vitamin C
- 18% of RDI for copper
Avocados also contain minerals which are critical in neutralising excess acidity in the body.
Being pregnant, you would be concerned with folate – well half an avocado contains 144 micrograms of folate which is 36% of the RDI for folate.
Avocado is delicious with a couple of strips of bacon and two eggs for breakfast. Or, dice up avocado and sprinkle with chia and sesame seeds – a delicious snack and very nutritious!
Garlic is a brilliant herb and has been used over time for a host of problems, from respiratory and digestive infections, to thrush and for blood pressure issues. It is best taken fresh as opposed to a jar – the process of cutting up the clove which releases that odour is the active ingredient. 1-2 cloves a day are ideal, just don’t over do it and irritate your tummy!
Wheatgrass contains a host of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. From the Energise For Life website:
“Many health experts have highlighted that the chlorophyll molecule in wheatgrass is almost identical to the haemoglobin molecule in human blood. The only difference is that the central element in chlorophyll is magnesium and in haemoglobin it is iron.
Due to this inherent similarity the human body can easily transform chlorophyll into haemoglobin increasing the red blood cell count as well as the blood’s capacity to deliver oxygen and other nutrients to the body’s cells (Hagiwara, 1985).
Chlorophyll has been shown to build red blood cells quickly, normalise blood pressure by dilating the blood pathways though out the body, destroy poisonous carbon dioxide, release free oxygen and promote higher metabolism and stimulated enzyme systems. On top of all of these benefits, consuming chlorophyll from wheatgrass is a highly effective way to alkalise the blood and energise the body!”
Another water rich and nutrient dense food which is also fabulous for skin!
Cucumbers are a very good source of vitamins A, C, and folic acid. The skin contains fibre and a variety of minerals including magnesium, silica and potassium.
Great for including in juices as well as salads.
Like all the dark green, leafy veggies, spinach is a brilliant alkaline food, full of chlorophyll and nutrient rich. It sports the following vitamins:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6
- Vitamin E
… and the following minerals:
One serving of spinach can provide you with around 11% of the RDI of protein and around 25% of the RDI of calcium.
You’ve likely heard stories in the media about the health benefits of broccoli, including its protective properties against cancer. If this is the case, its not hard to see why, as it's another alkaline food loaded with nutrients, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
Diet Idea: Switch Your Salt
Ditch the table or sea salt – Himalayan salt is not like the sodium chloride that you’re used to. It’s packed with 84 elements and minerals which are not only better for you but taster better too. Try it and see the difference.
What Else Can I Do To Boost My Natural Immunity?
Quality Prebiotics and Probitoics
As you are probably familiar with, your body contains both good and bad bacteria. When the bad bacteria outnumber the good, you have a problem – you get sick. You can buy probiotics from the pharmacy, natural health store or a naturopath (ideal as they have the more potent formulas and can help with specific problems). By taking probiotics daily, you’re helping to keep the good bacteria topped up in your system and helping to fight off any nasties. Around 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut – so treat it well!
Supplement With Vitamin D3
There is more and more evidence coming to light about the importance of vitamin D, especially when supplementing for pregnancy. Not only has it shown to reduce the amount of colds and eczema in the infants born to those mothers, but it also appears to reduce a host of other major pregnancy related health problems, including:
- Reduced risk for premature birth (by around half)
- Reduced occurrence of small for dates babies
- Reduced risk for infections, especially respiratory infections (colds and flu) as well as infections of the vagina and the gums (around 25%)
- Reduced risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia
The women in this study were taking 4000 IUs of D3 per day and the controls took only 400 IUs (which is the amount typically found in pre-natal vitamins). There were no side effects found in either group. For a list of recent studies, check out the link HERE.
BellyBelly Naturopath, Nicole Tracy of Nurtured by Nature say this about vitamin D:
“I am finding so many cases of VItamin D deficiency amongst my patients these days. The recommended reference range of serum Vitamin D recently changed from a minimum of 50 nmol/L to the increased minimum level of 75 nmol/L. Ideally, as a Naturopath, I like to see levels over 100nmol/L, and I find that if this kind of level is maintained there are far fewer incidences of colds or flu. Vitamin D3 is such a crucial nutrient for immune system health, preventing the occurrence of viruses such as the common cold and influenza, and reducing the development of many forms of cancer – particularly breast, colon, prostate, lung, blood and bone cancers. In preference to vaccinating oneself against just a couple of strains of influenza, isn’t it wiser to build and nourish the immune system so the body can defend itself against an entire spectrum of pathogens?
Vitamin D of course has the added benefits of maintaining bone density, increasing fertility and maintaining regular ovulation, promoting healthy pregnancy and better birth outcomes, improving insulin sensitivity, slowing DNA damage, improving mood, supporting healthy thyroid function and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease. We don’t receive large amounts of Vitamin D through our diet (it is found mainly in deep sea fish, egg yolks, butter, cream, liver and cod liver oil) so our primary source is through direct exposure to sunlight. We need approximately 40% of our body exposed for 8 minutes daily in Summer and 22 minutes in Winter. Supplementation is usually required in addition, and Vitamin D3 id available in capsule form, of highly absorbable liquid form.”
Please see a naturopath to work out a dosage for you if you feel you could benefit from vitamin D3 – any vitamins or herbs especially while pregnant should be ran past an experienced naturopath. While you are there its a great idea to get onto a multi-vitamin they recommend – as much as you can eat healthy fruit and veggies, the soil foods are farmed in these days are not as nutrient rich, and so its not passed on in the foods. A good quality multi is a must, especially when pregnant. Supermarket level multis are nowhere near as good or potent as a practitioner supplied brand.
Cook With A Healthier Oil – Switch To Coconut Oil
Cooking with cold pressed olive oil is commonly known as the best, healthiest option. But there is something else which is brilliant, especially for the immune system, digestive system and heart – coconut oil. It looks a little different to traditional cooking oil in that it has a higher melting point, therefore you buy it solid in a jar, but it has an exquisite taste and a host of great properties which you can read more about here. You can use it for all sorts of applications, not just cooking. I do all my cooking with coconut oil and love the taste. Unlike many other oils, it isn’t as affected or damaged by heat and contains anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. Its a brilliant immune booster.
There are loads more health benefits – visit the Coconut Research Center to see the huge list!
Sort Out Your Stress!
Stress, anxiety and anger are a huge drain on the immune system – emotions can effect your body more than you realise. They help create acidic conditions and you probably notice the more stressed you are, the more frequently you get sick (or more sick than usual). Find ways to relax and unwind, speak to a counsellor if you need to – just find a way to help get your body in a peak emotional state – which will make for a better birth too! Try and mediate for at least 20 minutes a day – even if it’s just in the shower. Switch off your thoughts and be present, in the moment.
“Cutting-edge scientific research now proves what the yogis have always known: deep relaxation can have a profound effect on a wide range of medical conditions… “Harvard researchers asked the control group to start practising relaxation methods every day,” explains Jake Toby, hypnotherapist at London’s BodyMind Medicine Centre, who teaches clients how to induce the relaxation effect. “After two months, their bodies began to change ” the genes that help fight inflammation, kill diseased cells and protect the body from cancer, all began to switch on.”
Studies show that if you’re healthier you recover much quicker from respiratory conditions. This study shows up to 50% reduction in upper respiratory tract illness durations for active people opposed to sedentary. While pregnant, walking is a great way to improve your health and prepare you for birth – where you’ll be pushing your physical and emotional limits more than ever before. Walking is very relaxing and a great form of exercise for the body and mind. Try and get out for 20-30 minutes of walking for 5-7 times a week.
Get Good Quality Sleep!
If you’re not getting good sleep this can impact on your immune system, metabolism and emotional health. Get to bed at a decent time (as they say, each hour before midnight is worth two hours sleep!) and make sure there are no distractions in your room – tv’s, even mobile devices. Studies have shown that just by having your mobile device in the room, it interrupts sleep patterns, even when on silent. If you aren’t comfortable at night (which is common in pregnancy), look for some solutions, like extra pillows.