November 2009

Alternative views on combating flu: Holistic practitioners offer options for the vaccine-leery

By Gail Binkly

Related story

Swine-flu furor

For naturopathic and alternativemedicine practitioners, a shot in the arm is not the preferred way to prevent the flu, whether it’s H1N1 or the typical season flu.

While they say there may be certain patients for whom a flu vaccination is a good idea, alternative-medicine practitioners advocate building up one’s immune system and avoiding germs as ways to stay well, particularly for people who are leery of vaccines.

“Vaccination is a very controversial subject,” said Jeff Santay, a doctor of Oriental medicine practicing in Cortez. He said he received the swine-flu vaccine during the pandemic scare of 1976, “and I’ve never been sicker in my life, as a result of the vaccination.”

Since then, he doesn’t get flu shots. “If somebody is used to getting a flu shot every year, I don’t tell them not to do it, but personally I believe keeping the immune system stronger is the way to go,” he said.

Lyn Patrick, a doctor of naturopathy with Durango Natural medicine, agrees. While she is not opposed to all vaccines, she does believe there may be alternatives to flu vaccine for people who are hesitant to be vaccinated.

“Whether to get vaccinated is a very, very political issue,” she said. “I believe there are alternatives to being vaccinated, unless someone is immune-compromised. [Such individuals include people with severe respiratory diseases, diabetes, heart disease or other health conditions.] People in those high-risk categories need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.”

Patrick said she has concerns about the H1N1 vaccine because it was hurried into production. “We do have a historical perspective from the last time there was a fast-tracked vaccine that the U.S. population was subjected to,” she said, referring to the 1976 swineflu vaccine also cited by Santay.

That episode lingers in the minds of many older Americans as an example of the government scaring people needlessly over a possible pandemic that never materialized. After reports of a potentially dangerous swine-flu strain emerging early in 1976, the government launched a $137 million program to produce and distribute a vaccine against that flu.

Seasonal-flu vaccine: The skeptics' view

The journals, newsletters and Internet sites published by complementary physicians and other health professionals are replete with commentaries critical of the flu vaccine and those who push it onto the public (such as officials at the Centers For Disease Control, or CDC, who often have ties to the pharmaceutical industry).

For example, Mark A. Sircus, O.M.D., writes (http://www. mercola.com/ 2004/oct/23/ flu_crimes.htm) that officials at the CDC, trying to marshal whatever evidence they can to substantiate the belief that flu vaccines are needed, state that 135 children died during the 2003-2204 flu season. Well, 59 of these children had received the “much-needed” flu shots. Yet a researcher at the CDC estimated that from 1990 to 1999, an average of approximately only 92 influenza-related deaths occurred each year among children less than 5 years of age. How many of those were vaccinerelated, and, given the fact that those who died with flu usually do so because of compromised immune systems from other causes such as poor nutrition or other environmental causes, not flu virus, who, other than those who profit from it, would want to recommend a vaccine? (See SCDC: www.cdc.gov/flu/ avian/gen-info/pandemics.htm and www.cdc.gov/ flu/about/qa/ 0304season.htm)

For adults who think the flu vaccine may be helpful for them, Sircus notes that Dr. Hugh Fudenburg states that if an individual has five consecutive flu shots his or her chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease are 10 times greater than if they had one, two or no shots. Sircus paraphrases Fudenburg speaking about officials at the CDC who set vaccine policy nationwide: “Medical’ terrorist [could be a description] because of their well-known conflicts of interests with the major pharmaceutical companies, meaning too many people in the medical establishment benefit directly or indirectly from pharmaceutical profits.

The entire vaccine department at the CDC should be faced with Nuremberg Trials for they are breaking the Nuremberg Code by administering the flu vaccine [with its toxic load of mercury, aluminum and even formaldehyde — in addition to the already heavy childhood immunization schedule in place] to 6-month-old babies starting this year, and every year thereafter.” (See reference above. Dr. Fudenburg’s comments are from his speech at the NVIC International Vaccine Conference, Arlington VA, September, 1997.

For more vaccine related information see http://www.909shot.com/, http://www.vaccines.net, http://www.access1.net/via and http://home.sprynet.com/~gyrene/ind ex.htm.)

This commentary is provided by Dyanna Hoffman and is reprinted from the January/February 2005 issue of Well Being Journal.

Not long after people began being vaccinated, there were reports that the vaccine increased the risk for Guillain- Barre syndrome, a rare and dangerous neurological condition. Some 40 million Americans received the shots and 500 reportedly developed Guillain- Barre syndrome. Tenty-five died, a number that Patrick believes may be too low because of under-reporting.

“The episode triggered an enduring public backlash against flu vaccination, embarrassed the federal government and cost the director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control. . . his job,” stated an article in the Los Angeles Times published earlier this year.

“When you fast-track vaccines, people have to suffer the consequences,” Patrick said. She is especially concerned about pregnant women receiving the H1N1 vaccine. “I think subjecting a fetus to a vaccine whose safety has not been tested on pregnant women on a large scale is a big concern.”

However, she knows that pregnant women are also especially vulnerable to the effects of the H1N1 flu and she emphasized that she is not telling people not to be vaccinated. “I’m not telling them what to do. You have to educate people thoroughly and let them decide.”

Patrick said there are many vaccines that are definitely beneficial under certain circumstances. For example, people who carry the Hepatitis C virus need to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B because those illnesses can be swiftly fatal otherwise, she said. “There are situations in which I absolutely believe vaccination is appropriate and necessary. I’m not an anti-vaccination person as a physician, but the question has to be decided on a case-by-case basis.”

The Los Angeles Times article noted that flu vaccines have been given annually since 1976 without such serious side effects, and the technology used to develop vaccines has improved greatly in the three decades since then.

For people who don’t want to get a flu shot, Patrick recommends the standard common-sense hygiene practices. She also suggests taking Vitamin D supplements — it should be D3, not D2, she said — of up to 2,000 IUs per day. Americans tend to have low levels of Vitamin D, and the literature suggests it helps strengthen the immune system.

Several recently published studies have suggested a relationship between low Vitamin D levels and susceptibility to upper respiratory infections. One study published in the Archives of Internal medicine in February found that in a group of 19,000 people 12 and over, those with low levels of the vitamin were 55 percent more likely to have had a respiratory infection recently. Some researchers even speculate that the flu could flourish in the fall and winter because people aren’t in the sunshine and have less Vitamin D in their blood then.

Patrick also recommends supplements of N-acetyl cysteine, an overthe- counter amino acid, and getting plenty of sleep.

Santay likewise recommends taking other measures to stay healthy rather than just relying on vaccination. He said people in the United States become sick for two major reasons.

First, they simply don’t take enough preventive measures to avoid illness in general.

He said he went to a house recently where a party was going on, “and there was a woman in the middle of the room sitting with a box of Kleenex, sneezing and blowing her nose constantly. I just turned around and walked out. People don’t think about the fact that, if you sneeze, the germs will travel 9 to 12 feet.

“In China and Japan, people are much more conscientious about germs and prevention, perhaps because of the higher population density.”

Wearing a mask to avoid airborne germs is a commonly accepted practice in the Orient, but is rarely seen in the United States. “If you see somebody wearing a mask in Wal-mart or City Market, very likely they’re one of my patients,” Santay said. “We don’t tend to do that in America, and that’s one reason why colds and flu spread so much in our culture. You go to stores and there are people coughing and hacking — they’re coughing on the things we’re going to put in our shopping basket. These viruses can live on a surface for hours or even days, but we aren’t educated in prevention in this country.”

He said frequent hand-washing is hugely important. “I wash my hands 15 to 20 times a day, sometimes until my knuckles bleed,” Santay said. “That’s because of my profession, but I’d do it anyway.”

The second major reason Americans get sick, he said, is “the standard diet of wheat, dairy, sugar, beef and pork, especially dairy and sugar.” Dairy products and sugar are phlegm-producing foods, he said.

Santay said there are Chinese herbal formulas for different stages of illness, whether colds or flu, that can strengthen the immune system and shorten the course of the disease. He believes in high doses of Vitamin C for illness prevention; the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling took several grams a day, he said, and lived to be 93. Drinking orange juice is not as good as Vitamin C pills, he said, because the acidity upsets the body’s pH balance.

Chinese herbal-medicine prevention is very effective, he said, and acupuncture can also help.

Santay also advises using saline nasal sprays or neti pots to keep the sinuses moist and flushed out, especially in the Four Corners’ dry climate.

“To me, prevention is the best way to go,” he said.