It has become customary each year for there to be an influenza outbreak and epidemic and a strong promotional campaign for every individual to be vaccinated. Because of this we have set out to provide a fact sheet to address the flu, it’s prevention, it’s treatment, aspects about vaccination and alternatives and adjuncts. This is of course not to be considered individual medical advice and should be discussed with your health care provider who is educated in Naturopathic Medicine.
The Basics About the Flu
The flu is caused by a virus. Symptoms are typically rapid in onset: fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aching, dry cough, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, and runny nose are common. Typically the onset is quite rapid. Because the flu is a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Secondary infections that are bacterial can often occur including pneumonia. It can worsen underlying diseases such as heart failure, diabetes, COPD, and asthma.
The flu spreads from respiratory droplets by sneezing, shaking hands, etc. That is why covering the mouth (preferably putting in the inner elbow) when sneezing or coughing helps reduce transmission. Washing hands regularly can reduce transmission for this reason as well. People with the flu are contagious 1 day BEFORE and up to 7 days AFTER symptoms begin.
Influenza and pneumonia are classified as the leading cause of infectious disease death in the United States. Each year 5-20% of the population suffers from the flu or flu-like symptoms. 200,000 people are hospitalized each year and 36,000 will pass away from complications and flu related causes.
However, these figures are debated and the numbers may be grossly overestimated. “Are US flu death figures more PR than science?” was the headline of an article in the prestigious British Medical Journal. The Huffington Post reviewed this and other research a few years ago in an accessible article on the topic. From the article “The CDC’s decision to play up flu deaths dates back a decade, when it realized the public wasn’t following its advice on the flu vaccine.”
In other words, because of a perceived rate of low vaccine use our public health leaders may be promoting fear and offering up misleading information – in attempts to increase flu vaccine compliance. Again and again, particularly when there is a tragedy, the mantra ‘the best protection is the flu vaccine’ is continually and dutifully reported.
The Influenza Vaccine is annually promoted heavily and despite its unknown effectiveness it is called ‘the best prevention’. However – that may not be the case and it may be creating more problems than we realize, possibly even more problems than it is solving.
Whether our patients get the flu vaccine or not, we do recommend doing other immune supportive and flu prevention strategies. Below are some of the concerns about the flu vaccine and it’s variable utility, and after that are the recommendations regardless of whether one take the vaccine or not.
The conventional vaccine is created based on the predicted viral types for later in the year. This hit or miss approach is a guessing game that contributes to the variability of the benefit of the vaccine. A benefit that is unknown until after the epidemic has begun and passed. The question of whether the immune system will be stimulated against the correct viral pathogen isn’t known until it is too late. And there may be other problems with the vaccine as well – including declining effectiveness if taken every year.
Research on the influence of vaccination from 1980 when widespread vaccination developed up until 2004 found that the vaccine was not responsible for the declining mortality of the flu in any age group. Furthermore the benefits from smaller observational studies substantially overestimate benefit.
“We attribute the decline in influenza-related mortality among people aged 65 to 74 years in the decade after the 1968 pandemic to the acquisition of immunity to the emerging A(H3N2) virus. We could not correlate increasing vaccination coverage after 1980 with declining mortality rates in any age group. Because fewer than 10% of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”
Arch Intern Med. 2005 Feb 14;165(3):265-72.Impact of influenza vaccination on seasonal mortality in the US elderly population. Simonsen L
The flu vaccine is not effective in preventing emergency department, in-patient or out patient visits in children under 5.
“We could not demonstrate (vaccine effectiveness) in preventing influenza-related inpatient/ED or outpatient visits in children younger than 5 years.”
From: Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008 Oct;162(10):943-51. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.162.10.943. Influenza vaccine effectiveness among children 6 to 59 months of age during 2 influenza seasons: a case-cohort study. Szilagyi PG1,
Flu vaccination does not prevent pneumonia in the elderly and its benefits have been overestimated.
“1173 cases and 2346 controls were included in the study. After we adjusted for the presence and severity of comorbidities, as defined by chart review, influenza vaccination was not associated with a reduced risk of community- acquired pneumonia (odds ratio 0.92, 95% CI 0.77-1.10) during the influenza season. INTERPRETATION: The effect of influenza vaccination on the risk of pneumonia in elderly people during influenza seasons might be less than previously estimated.”
Lancet. 2008 Aug 2;372(9636):398-405. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61160-5.
The life saving benefits of the flu vaccine in the elderly have been exaggerated.
“We conclude that frailty selection bias and use of non-specific endpoints such as all-cause mortality have led cohort studies to greatly exaggerate vaccine benefits. The remaining evidence base is currently insufficient to indicate the magnitude of the mortality benefit, if any, that elderly people derive from the vaccination program”
Lancet Infect Dis. 2007 Oct;7(10):658-66.
The following are from the Cochrane Database- the Gold Standard of Evidence Based Medicine-
"The available evidence is of poor quality and provides no guidance regarding the safety, efficacy or effectiveness of influenza vaccines for people aged 65 years or older. To resolve the uncertainty, an adequately powered publicly-funded randomised, placebo-controlled trial run over several seasons should be undertaken."
From: Vaccines for preventing seasonal influenza and its complications in people aged 65 or older. Published 2010
Our review findings have not identified conclusive evidence of benefit of (health system) vaccination programs on specific outcomes of laboratory-proven influenza, its complications (lower respiratory tract infection, hospitalization or death due to lower respiratory tract illness), or all cause mortality in people over the age of 60 who live in care institutions. This review does not provide reasonable evidence to support the vaccination of healthcare workers to prevent influenza in those aged 60 years or older resident in (long term care facilities)
From: Influenza vaccination for healthcare workers who care for people aged 60 or older living in long-term care institutions June 2016
The benefits of flu vaccine for children under 2 is no more effective than placebo, the benefits for 2 to 16 years olds does not prevent ‘flu like illnesses’ and there is very little information on the safety of the vaccination for children.
From the Cochrane Database Jefferson, et al August 2012
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. And this conclusion cautions that even these benefits may be overstated as they come from industry funded studies.
From the Cochrane Database Review, Jefferson, et al 2010
Naturopathic Influenza Prevention
So what can we do that is safe, effective, natural, and reliable?
The focus on immunity from a naturopathic perspective focuses on a healthy soil or terrain. Just as a seed cannot grow on pavement but only in its cracks, naturopathic health begins with strengthening and hardening ourselves against infection and minimizing those cracks.
Good sleep, proper hygiene, good nutrition, low amounts of sugar, regular exercise, stress management, use of sauna and steam baths, are always to be considered beneficial.
Colostrum from cows milk was shown to be at least 3 times more effective than the influenza vaccination in a high risk heart disease population. The dosage recommended is 1 capsule daily for 2 months, wait a month and repeat, or take ongoing.
Ending hot showers with a cool spray – first briefly, then slowly for a longer period lasting up to 2 minutes, with cooler water as one tolerates it, reduced colds and flus in one study by 50%. It took 6 weeks for beneficial effects to be seen. 1990 German study, details can be found in Naturopathic Physical Medicine, 2009 Chaitow and Blake
Optimize Vitamin D
People who had low levels of Vitamin D were 40% more likely to have a respiratory infection than those with a normal level. Vitamin D is easily tested with a simple blood test.
Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23;169(4):384-90. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA Jr.
Current recommendations for Vitamin D supplementation are likely exceedingly low. In Finland studies and intervention showed that Type 1 Diabetes rates, which had been climbing, stabilized after significant increases in Vitamin D intake. Based on their research Infants less than 1 should have 1000IU daily, Toddlers and children 3000iu daily, and Teenagers and Adults more than 8000 iu daily. If you are a patient using the drops from the clinic that is 4 drops a week for infants, 10 drops a week for children, and 4 drops DAILY for teenagers and adults.
The prestigious Cochrane Database Review looked at numerous studies on zinc supplementation in children. The studies showed that it reduced pneumonia incidence significantly. This is important because it is the complications of the flu such as pneumonia that are associated with negative outcomes and loss of life. Zinc Liver Chelate 1 tablet daily.http://www.cochrane.org/CD005978/ARI_zinc-supplementation-prevention-pneumonia-children-aged-two-59-months
Are there alternative forms of vaccination?
There is a system of immunization from homeopathy called Homeoprophylaxis. Utilizing identical principles from oral vaccination a dead virus or bacteria is diluted sequentially many times. The dilution is safe and does not contain whole or living virus or bacteria.
Has Homeoprophylaxis been studied?
Yes. It has been studied around the world in real life situations on large numbers of people – from 600 to 50,000, and even 9.8 million people in various epidemic diseases in the US, Cuba, India, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Africa. The 9.8 million people was in Cuba during the Swine Flu epidemic.
In these studies diseases Influenza, Swine Flu, pneumonia, leptospirosis, dengue fever, polio, chikungunya fever, meningitis, and more. Additionally there is extensive international literature accumulated from homeopathic clinics over the last 200 years. In all of those diseases it was found to be effective. Typically the medicine is taken once daily for one month each year.
Remember the problem pointed out earlier that the flu vaccine is a guess in advance of the epidemic to pick the correct virus? The homeoprophylaxis method is different. At the beginning of the flu season, when the strains are first known, the medicine is created using the currently circulating flu virus. This means that unlike the vaccine we are not guessing whether we are stimulating the immune system to fight the current strain, we can be confident that we are. This is a distinct advantage. The clinic makes effort to stock the current influenza strain each year.
The Clinic will have available (2018) Influenza Homeopathic Prevention Kits. The kit is for one person and consists of 2 vials – (1) each of Influenzinum 2018 30c and Anas Barbariae200c with instructions. Due to the severity of the epidemic this year we are advising our patients, whether vaccinated against the flu or not, to use the Homeopathic Prevention Kit.
Influenza has been studied several times showing significant benefit. Based on those studies we are recommending Influenzinum 30c, 1 dose (3 to 5 pellets under the tongue away from food) daily for one month. Homeopathic Anas Barbariae has been studied as a useful general remedy to be taken at the first signs of the flu, without complication risk, and showing benefit.
Conventional Medical Treatment of Influenza
Tamiflu is approved for flu treatment but its’ benefit is largely debated for almost 20 years and evidence doesn’t support it saves lives. Research shows that it reduces the flu by 1 day at best. That is it- just 1 day. And its’ side effects can be life threatening. A 2011 study even found that its use was associated with rapid death. This was done in Japan which had been using the largest amounts of Tamiflu in the world and their experience should be considered a warning.
Please refer to the Infection and Fever Guidelines for the Naturopathic management of flu and infections. It is an evolution of the methods used by Naturopathic Physicians during that epidemic. We have attached it to the end of this document so it is easily accessible.
Why is there so much concern about the flu?
The flu has become a fearful annual infection since the pandemic of 1917-1918. There have been about 7 of these pandemics in the last 120 years. A pandemic is determined by the large number of person affected around the world and the high loss of life. However, research is showing that the large losses may be due to the nature of the treatment and management once infections occur and that the methods of prevention centered around the vaccine may be misguided.
The death rate in the 1917-1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic under regular medical care was upwards of 20%. As we have pointed out current regular medical care management is such that the flu and pneumonia are still the leading causes of infectious disease death.
What was the track record of natural treatment in flu epidemics?
In 1918 Naturopathic Physicians (ND) Osteopathic Physicians (DO), Chiropractic Doctors (DC), and Homeopathic MDs, worked in a similar comprehensive natural fashion in their management. While the mortality rate of the conventional MD’s surpassed 20% the loss of life under DC’s and DO’s 2-3%, and the Homeopathic MDs and Naturopathic Physicians less than 1%. The reports from the Naturopaths on their loss of cases indicates that they were seen after the patient had already tried regular medical care. In Chicago at the Lindlahr Hospital for example they treated 300 cases in patient naturopathically and 1200 outpatient cases. They saved every life. Down the street at the Cook County Hospital mortality was 20% or 1 in 5.
The first 5 steps of the infection guidelines below were the consistent principal interventions of the Naturopathic Physicians in the Influenza epidemic.
Why didn’t Naturopathic doctors use aspirin for fevers?
We know that part of the high loss of life from the Spanish Flu epidemic from 1917-1918 was due to the prescription of aspirin and not the flu itself. While Dr. Blake has been lecturing on this topic for almost 20 years the renowned Dr. Karen Starko published a detailed evaluation of the data in 2009 in the Oxford Academic. Dr. Karen Starko is known around the world for leading the discovery that aspirin could be toxic to infants and lead to Reye’s Syndrome.
Aspirin was a new wonder drug against fevers and had recently become generic after Bayer lost a lawsuit to claim it as an exclusive patented drug. It gained widespread international distribution just before the outbreak. The starting dosages at the time we know now are the lowest level of toxic dosages – and induce pulmonary edema, hyperventilation, and death. Her conclusion was that “a significant proportion of the deaths (during the epidemic) may be attributable to aspirin.” http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/49/9/1405.full
Naturopathic doctors at the time did not use aspirin to suppress the fever as the fever was seen to be beneficial and instead used hydrotherapy to comfort the patient, control the fever and harness it, and to help fight the infection.
Naturopathic physicians, including Hippocrates, have long clinically observed the benefit of fever in infections. Modern research above has validated these observations resoundingly. Fever is considered a part of the curative response of the body. The role of hydrotherapy is not to artificially stop it with ice packs or drugs. The role of naturopathic hydrotherapy and Bio-Thermal Therapy® is to harness the fever to more rapidly resolve the infection.
Additionally, naturopathic doctors believed that infections, particularly the childhood fevers such as measles, mumps , rubella etc, were a part of a larger cycle of immune development. In other words, that by going through these infections the immune system was strengthened and chronic diseases such as cancer, paralysis, mental degeneration, arthritis, etc would be prevented and reduced.
Because of the effective clinical approaches outlined above these infections were routinely benign for naturopathic physicians whereas in the hands of conventional doctors using ice packs, anti-fever medications, stuffing patients with food, etc, in other words non-biological and anti-scientific approaches, complications were more frequent.
This believe- that the childhood fevers have a larger benefit when handled correctly- has also been confirmed by modern scientific research and here is a not complete list of some of that research:
Febrile childhood infections such as measles, mumps, rubella, etc protect against all non-breast cancers.
A Swiss study found that adults are significantly protected against non-breast cancers — genital, prostate, gastrointestinal, skin, lung, ear-nose-throat, and others — if they contracted measles (odds ratio, OR = 0.45), rubella (OR = 0.38) or chickenpox (OR = 0.62) earlier in life, and all febrile childhood diseases were associated with lower rates of non-breast cancer later in life. Albonico HU, et al. Med Hypotheses. 1998. Febrile infectious childhood diseases in the history of cancer patients and matched controls.
Mumps infection provides protection against ovarian cancer. Cancer Causes & Control August 2010, Volume 21, Issue 8, pp 1193–1201
Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Chickenpox, and Pertussis, at an earlier age prevent Multiple Sclerosis. Neuroepidemiology. 1998;17(3):154-60. Multiple sclerosis and infectious childhood diseases
Childhood febrile infections reduce the likelihood of cancer and spontaneous remissions of cancer are associated with fever inducing infections Neuroimmunomodulation. 2001;9(2):55-64. Fever, cancer incidence and spontaneous remissions.
Chicken pox early in life reduces the likelihood of brain cancers (specifically glioma) later in life.
History of chickenpox in glioma risk: a report from the glioma international case–control study (GICC)
Amirian et al 2016
Having measles is protective against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Leuk Res. 2006 Aug;30(8):917-22. Epub 2006 Jan 6. Montella, et al Do childhood diseases affect NHL and HL risk? A case-control study from northern and southern Italy.
Measles is protective against allergies and eczema
Shaheenet SO, Aaby P, Hall AJ, Barker DJ, Heyes CB, Shiell AW, Goudiaby A. Measles and atopy in Guinea-Bissau. Lancet. 1996 Jun 29;347:1792-6.
Rosenlund H, Bergström A, Alm JS, Swartz J, Scheynius A, van Hage M, Johansen K, Brunekreef B, von Mutius E, Ege MJ, Riedler J, Braun-Fahrländer C, Waser M, Pershagen G; PARSIFAL Study Group. Allergic disease and atopic sensitization in children in relation to measles vaccination and measles infection. Pediatrics. 2009 Mar;123(3):771-8.
Childhood exposure and infection with measles and mumps reduced cardiovascular disease later in life.
Kubota Y, Iso H, Tamakoshi A, JACC Study Group. Association of measles and mumps with cardiovascular disease. The Japan Collaborative Cohort (JACC) study. Atherosclerosis. 2015 August;241(2):682-6.
When the unfortunate stories on the news are shared that discuss the loss of life from influenza and promote vaccination we all feel a heavy heart. No one wants to lose a single life. Especially hard are the young children, and our hearts go out to those families and we pray for them. No one has a crystal ball, we have to make the best choices we can, and when there is so much conflicting data we must maintain our rights to make that choice.
One of Hippocrates great quotes is “Success sometimes depends not just on what the doctor does, but what he does not do.”