Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Flu Vaccine - To Vaccinate or Not?

When flu season comes along many people are faced with the dilemma of whether to vaccinate or not with the flu vaccine. We hope to provide you with the information here to make an informed decision to vaccinate or not.

How the Flu Vaccine Works
The flu vaccine is different from other types of vaccines in that it has to be re-created every year because there are different strains of flu. Each year the people that make the vaccine have to try to figure out which strains will be dominant that year and design the vaccine accordingly. This is tricky, since without a crystal ball there is no way to guarantee that the vaccine they create will cover all the strains that will show up for the season. Then there are other factors that influence whether or not the vaccine will work for you or not. Age plays a role. Health officials predict the current vaccine to be 56% effective for children and adults up to age 64. For adults over 64, it is reported to be only 9% effective. For seniors however, the vaccine can prevent them getting a more severe version of the flu which reduces the chance of having to be hospitalized by as much as 70% and reduces the risk of death by as much as 80%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that overall getting the flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu by 70-90% and they especially recommend the flu shot for anyone with a weakened immune system such as those with HIV or cancer. It is also recommended that children under the age of 6 months do not get the flu vaccine.

Generally, the flu vaccine works best in healthy adults. The older you get, the weaker your immune system can become. The flu vaccine is made with a dead or weakened virus that doesn't give you the flu, but rather alerts the immune system to recognize it. Then if you are exposed to the flu, your immune system recognizes it as a threat to be fought off.

Your Immune System's Role
Since the vaccine is alerting your immune system to identify and fight off the flu virus strains in the vaccine, obviously the stronger your immune system is, the better able it is to combat the virus. Older adults often have weaker immune systems either because they don't produce as many immune cells as they did when they were younger or their nutrition doesn't contain enough of the nutrients they need for a healthy immune system. When deciding whether to vaccinate or not with the flu vaccine, also consider how you can boost your immune system. That way whether you decide to get the flu shot or not, your immune system will be in tip top shape to fight off not only viral infections like the flu, but also bacterial infections that also go around during flu season.

Natural Solutions for a Healthy Immune System
The immune system is a combination of cells and organs that fight off foreign chemicals, bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast, parasites and other invaders that make us sick. You have cells that block intruders and those that track down intruders to fight them off. Your body produces antibodies that can kill off intruders such as viruses and bacteria that make us sick. Keeping your immune system healthy and strong starts with eating a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep. Here are some other things that can help you in strengthening your immune system.

IgA -
IgA is a protein that is part of the immune system and helps fight off infections by preventing invaders from getting into the body. Stress reduces these levels leaving the immune system more vulnerable. Levels of IgA can be increased by activities such as laughing, social activities, music, and sex. Reducing stress or learning methods of coping with stress can go a long way towards strengthening your immune system.

Exercise –
Too much exercise can actually weaken the immune system. Exercising 3 times a week for 20 minute sessions can help strengthen the immune system.

Wash Hands -
Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to beat germs. Wash with soap and warm water periodically during the day especially before touching food, after interacting with someone who is sick, being out in public and after using the restroom.

Diet –
Antioxidants fight off the damage created by free radicals which age our bodies and weaken the immune system. Flavonoids in fruits and vegetables as well as Vitamin C, E and A are all antioxidants. Green tea is another good source of antioxidants. Zinc is also an important nutrient for a healthy immune system in the development of white blood cells that help fight off infections and is lacking in most of our diets. Eating foods such as lean meats, seafoods such as crab, oysters and lobster, peanuts, cashews, almonds, dairy products and wheat germ are all ways to get zinc in your diet. Avoid saturated fats and instead add the healthy fats such as omega-3 to your diet. Drink at least 2 quarts of pure water daily.

Intestinal Support –
The digestive tract is a large part of the immune system and healthy probiotics in this system are necessary to support good digestion and aid in the elimination of waste from the body. Lifestyles that include chlorinated water, environmental toxins, stress, and diets high in processed and refined foods as well as foods with many of the nutrients cooked out of them contribute to reducing our probiotic population. Taking supplements of acidophilus and bifidus can support the digestive system and the repopulation of these necessary intestinal flora. Acidophilus helps absorb nutrients in food, strengthens the intestinal wall, activates vitamin production and helps with overall food digestion. It also produces Acidophilin which is a natural antibiotic and inhibits growth of 23 toxic producing microorganisms. Bifidus helps absorb water from food, helps reduce bloating and gas and helps with elimination of waste from the body.

Immune Support Supplement –
To help fortify the body's immune system, you can also add a dietary supplement that contains WGP beta glucan. Beta glucan is a complex carbohydrate of glucose that can come from yeast, bacteria, fungi or cereals like oats, barley and rye. In the 1960s, scientists discovered the immune boosting properties of beta glucan. Numerous studies have shown WGP beta glucan to be able to activate macrophages which are a type of white blood cell in the immune system that help fight off invaders.

As you can see your immune system is the key to defending yourself against illness. When flu season comes around it's up to you whether you decide to vaccinate or not, but building a healthy and strong immune system is a must. I hope you now have the information you need to make the decision on whether to vaccinate or not when it comes to getting the flu shot and also have some ideas on changes you can make to your lifestyle to strengthen your immune system. Flu season comes around every year, make sure you are ready for it.

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Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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