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How to Prevent the Flu, Naturally

Current news reports inform us that the flu vaccine will be scarce this year. Due to the contamination at a major vaccine production center, supplies are low and fear has erupted.

Just how successful is the flu vaccine at preventing the illness and what are our alternatives?

The flu vaccine only protects against three specific viruses included in that particular year's formulation. It does nothing to protect against other common viral or bacterial infections. Each year, health officials observe last year's patterns of influenza activity around the world and make assumptions about which three flu strains are most likely to affect our population this year. These are the strains included in the current vaccine. It is guess work to a large degree.

It is estimated that only 3-14% of those vaccinated last year were actually protected against the strain of influenza that actually occurred here. Even if the vaccine matches the current virus, it is thought to provide 70-90% temporary immunity in healthy people under the age of 65. For those over 65, the protection rate drops to 30-40%. Only 20% of those with flu-like symptoms actually have influenza. Most often, it is another virus creating symptoms that we interpret as "the flu".

The vaccine itself can carry certain risks. Thimerosal, a mercury containing substance is used in many vaccines and can cause fever, fatigue, painful joints and headache. A bill is in legislation now to ban the use of thimerosal in childhood vaccines and reduce the amount used in adult vaccines.

So what is the best way to prevent the flu, given the serious limitations and risks of the flu vaccine?

There are several prudent measures to take this season. They sound simple.

Eat a well balanced diet. As we celebrate the holidays many of us are tempted with sugary treats, alcohol and snack food. Minimize these. Eat 2-3 cups of fresh vegetables, 1-2 pieces of fruit per day and include complex carbohydrates and high quality protein. These benefit your immune system.

Get 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is restorative.

Even though it is cold outside, let some fresh air into your living space every day. Circulation of air is necessary to move offending viruses and bacteria out of your space. Consider buying a high quality air purifier that also offers the technology of germicidal protection. How to Prevent the Flu, Naturally (continued)

Wash your hands often! This may be the simplest, yet most often ignored suggestion. Proper hand washing with soap and hot water offers excellent protection. Think about all the things you touch in a day -- the supermarket cart, doorknobs, other people's hands -- the list seems endless, yet most people rarely wash their hands.

We do not recommend anti-bacterial soaps as studies show that they are not any more efficient at cleansing the hands in normal circumstances than regular soap. Anti-bacterial soaps also remove the normal bacteria that live on your skin that can actually protect you. Remember, you aren't about to perform surgery. You just want clean hands.

There are also a number of natural remedies that offer protection against the flu and other winter viruses. In our office we have successfully used homeopathic preparations such as Mucococcinium in a flu prevention strategy. Combination herbal preparations like Immune Support, Vira Con and Herbal Biotic have been patient favorites. We also blend certain herbal tinctures.

We have used these and other products to successfully treat the flu, other viruses, and bacterial infection symptoms when they occur.

This is a good time of the year to set up an appointment with your physician at The Center to discuss flu prevention and possible treatment options that best suit you. We'll review your diet, discuss your home and office environmental options and you can take home some natural protection to keep you healthy through the coming winter season.