The flu vaccine; clarifying the debate

According to Health Canada, flu season affects 10-25% of Canadians, typically beginning in November lasting through to April. While I agree with the Public Health Agency that prevention is necessary I believe there are more natural and effective ways of safeguarding against the flu while simultaneously strengthening your immune system.  This blog, though lengthy, details how our immune systems and vaccines work, and why getting the shot this flu season might not be as good as naturally supporting our immune systems.

The immune system & how it works

In order to fully understand how vaccines work we must understand how our own immune system operates. During infection, our main defensive line consists of T-cells, B-cells and macrophages.  Macrophages are our body’s surveyor, it samples various things in our environment and spits out fragments called antigens.

Our B-cells and T-cells then examines these antigens and if it’s not recognized as “self” raises the alarm. B-cells produce antibodies tagging the antigen as an “intruder”. Anything that looks like the “intruder” antigen is then destroyed.  While our body wages war, some of its best defenses are fever, mucous production and cough. Basically our body’s defenses is what makes you feel sick.

In addition to antibodies, memory T-cells are also produced.  Their job is to continue to circulate our body and stay on the lookout should the same virus or bacteria come back.  Memory T-cells allow our immune system to react almost immediately the second time it meets the same the bacteria or virus.  This helps to eliminate infection before we even know we’re sick.

Vaccines and their general role

If our bodies are pretty effective at dealing with infection, why then, do we need vaccines to take care of us?  Vaccines were created as a type of short cut.  By introducing parts of, or dead bugs into our body, vaccines are supposed to skip the part where you have to deal with being sick and fast forward to your bodies producing memory T-cells.  It’s not a completely perfect system though because your body will create some type of reaction to the antigen in the vaccine and often people will feel a little feverish after their flu shot.

So what’s the argument against the flu vaccine if it’s keeping us from having to feel sick?

Effectiveness – Since vaccines are produced based on predictions of which viral strains are about to hit, there is room for error.  According to Dr. Tom Jefferson, MD, coordinator of the Vaccine Field for the Cochrane Collaborative (a highly respected group that collects information on evidence based medicine): under ideal conditions (where the right strain of flu virus is predicted), of 33 people vaccinated only 1 person will be effectively protected from the flu.  Under average conditions, where there’s only a partial match between the actual infecting flu and the strain of flu in vaccines, only 1 person out of a 100 will benefit from the flu vaccine.

To read more on Dr. Jefferson’s report, check out effectiveness of vaccines in healthy adults:

Bias – In addition to the low effectiveness of vaccines, Dr. Jefferson says that the data currently touted by the government and medical community is based on studies privately funded by pharmaceutical companies and are likely skewed. In his words:

“Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies.”

Toxicity: Though most vaccines licensed in Canada do not contain thimerosal, the Public Health Agency of Canada admits that influenza vaccines (along with hepatitis B vaccines) do.  Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative used as an antifungal and antibacterial in vaccines.  Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause symptoms of memory loss, confusion, visual and sensory impairments and is harmful to the kidneys and digestive system.

Wondering what other toxins might be hiding in our vaccines visit: http://www.novaccine.com/

Not allergy friendly:  Vaccines are grown on an egg medium and can cause serious reactions in those allergic to egg protein.  If you don’t react well to eggs and are keen on vaccines, make sure to check the medium that the vaccine is grown on.

Safety: According to the Vaccine Field for the Cochrane Collaborative; out of 206 studies on vaccines, only 6 studies address the issue of safety in vaccines.  6 studies!?!?  When it comes to an intervention that is so widely promoted to the public 6 studies does not suffice.

Though there are many reasons why people may want to rely on the flu vaccine to protect them this time of year, I hope my piece has provided some food for thought as people begin to line up for their annual flu shots. Take some time to do your own research and whether or not you decide to get vaccinated be sure to support your immune system. Regardless of whether your body has to  handle a flu antigen delivered through a needle or fight the real deal, be sure to keep your immune system healthy enough to protect you .

For tips on supporting your immune system naturally through flu season read: “It’s that Wonderful time of Year! Flu Season!”

For more information about Sophia Ma, ND please visit www.EnvisionHealthND.com or schedule a 15 minute consult with her by email.

NOTE:  The information provided is not to be used as medical advice.  This blog is written from a personal viewpoint and I would encourage everyone to investigate both evidence for and against the flu vaccination before making your own decision about the flu vaccine.

My Purpose as a Naturopathic Doctor

There are many challenges to be faced when committing to a new relationship, but the biggest challenge is recognizing and sharing the expectations you have for yourself and the other party. This is true for all relationships including that of the doctor and patient.

Partnership

This piece is dedicated to myself and my patients as a reminder of the intent I hold each time I engage in a therapeutic relationship.  Some may say that this should be obvious to a doctor, but even clear waters can be muddied and the simplest matters complicated.  I would like to use the personal guidelines outlined below as a beacon to help me stay true to my patients as an ND.

My purpose as a naturopathic doctor:

To provide hope for my patients.

To share knowledge so that my patients can effectively participate in their treatment.

To help my patients recognize their strengths so that they are inspired to advocate for their own health.

To create a space safe enough for my patients to explore their fears so that they are empowered to achieve true healing.

To ensure my patients leave each visit with a sense that they are cared for.

This is my purpose as a naturopathic doctor.  As I move forward in my career, I do not and cannot guarantee a cure but I aim to provide the next best thing:  Hope, care and health through knowledge, inspiration and empowerment.

In good health,

Sophia Ma, ND

A naturopathic doctor’s return to the blogging world

  Welcome back,

After a long hiatus I have returned to the wonderful world of blogging.  During the months away I’ve graduated from naturopathic medical school, survived an intense set of licensing exams and now am finally SOPHIA MA, ND ( cue: streamers and balloons)!

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Never have I been more excited about my career as a naturopathic doctor. I have set to work lining up a series of interesting topics ranging from dealing with the flu to men and women’s health, diabetes to anti-aging.  I will be blogging weekly around a specific topic each month.  If there are topics that you are interested in reading about please feel free to comment and make a suggestion.

I’d also like to introduce my new website: www.EnvisionHealthND.com.  Here, you can check out the naturopathic services I offer and find the answers to your burning questions about naturopathic medicine.

I will be available at The Corrective Healthcare Group, Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 10:00am – 7:00pm.  To schedule an appointment please call (416) 281-0640 or email mail@EnvisionHealthND.com.

Look out for my upcoming blog on my purpose as an ND.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PAST AND CONTINUED SUPPORT!