February 1, 2015

Dr. Virender Sodhi ND, MD (Ayurved) and Dr. Anup Mulakaluri, ND

Introduction:

Flu season 2014-2015:

Like every year, the CDC, FDA, and the makers of the flu vaccines invest a lot of money in marketing and educational campaigns with a goal to reach as many primary care physicians and consumers as possible to ensure that masses choose to take the flu vaccine for the season. For many years, CDC has maintained its position that flu vaccines are the frontline for prevention of influenza.[1] These vaccines are to be taken as soon as they are available in October, before the onset on the next flu season. Children under the age 8 are required to get 2 doses – although, now children of 2-8 years old can use inhalant vaccine.

However, the effectiveness of a particular flu vaccine appears to be a business of trial and error. As the CDC explains “Flu viruses are constantly changing and it's not unusual for new seasonal flu viruses to appear each year. These viruses have small antigenic or genetic changes,  which have evolved from previously circulating human seasonal flu viruses. When viruses change in that way, they are said to be “drifted” viruses.”[2] Because the flu vaccine is planned, designed, and manufactured before the beginning of the new flu season – the possibility of viral drift and vaccine ineffectiveness is significant.

For this year, the main influenza virus is influenza A virus that appears to have drifted from the previous year’s strain and thereby significantly less effectiveness of the flu vaccine. In an early report, the overall effectiveness has been estimated to be below 23% — prevention is as low as 12% in healthy adults.[3] Indicating that, as a healthy adult, you have 88% chance of getting flu despite getting the vaccine.

Where is the protection??? What about those who don’t get the flu vaccine??

The truth about effectiveness of Flu vaccines:

The true benefit of flu vaccine can be measured when its preventive effect is tested against people who don’t get the vaccine. In a review of studies, researchers compared vaccinated versus unvaccinated healthy adults. It was found:[4]

  1. Vaccination reduced development flu-like illness (fever, fatigue, body-aches etc.) by only 5.6% among the vaccinated compared to the non-vaccinated.
  2. The prevalence of flu was 2.4% in unvaccinated adults – the prevalence of flu was 1.1% among vaccinated adults. Vaccine reducing contraction of influenza by 1.3% only.
  3. Reviewers state that the effectiveness of the “influenza vaccine on healthy adults is small” – they estimate that “71 people would need vaccination to prevent one case of influenza”
  4. Also, flu vaccines had “no effect on hospital admissions or complication rates.

In another study,[5] preventive effect of the vaccine was tested on pregnant women and their infants. Researchers found “Women who received influenza vaccine during pregnancy had the same risk for Influenza-like illness (clinical) visits compared with unvaccinated women” Also, “Infants born to women who received influenza vaccination had the same risks for influenza or pneumonia admissions compared with infants born to unvaccinated women,” This indicates that vaccines did not prove effective for protecting the mother or their infants. Additionally, there is 3.4% likelihood of developing severe side-effects and 21% likelihood to develop mild side-effects after taking the flu vaccination.[6]

Let’s see it  again: we need to vaccinate 71 people to prevent ONE illness; on the other hand, 3.4% (that is 2.5 people) out of 71 have serious side effects of vaccine… One would say that we are creating more illness by giving the vaccine.

With these dismal statistics, one wonders if flu vaccine is really worth the trouble, time, and money we spend on them each year. Both, the government and the public line up every fall to buy a product that has very little proven benefit. Is this where we should be investing our health-care dollars?

Nature and Immune system:

Mother nature is cyclic. These cycles are marked by the seasons, changes to the ecosystems and changes in availability of foods and resources.  Sun and moon are the major player in this rhythmic cycles. These rhythms are the major governing forces for the natural activity of life on the Earth. Subjected to these cycles of seasons, our bodies also undergo seasonal changes that affect our hormone levels, chemical and physiological composition, our behaviors, our activity level, energy, as well as the activity of immune system. During the winter time, the cold weather combined with high winds and fluctuating weather activities are quite common. The coolness and variability are very challenging to our body, which enjoys warmth and harmony. This causes our tissues to shrink or contract and our energy channels or nadi’s to become more constricted. The result is diminished internal fire, vitality, combined with increased blockage in absorption and elimination processes.

Therefore, it is no surprise that most of our energy and tissue resources are focused on supporting thermogenesis (creating warmth) and maintaining immune activity during the winter months.[7] In other words, our body becomes more focused on conserving energy and ensuring survival through the harsh time of year. This is the reason why we experience the peak of the seasonal flu, colds and other upper respiratory tract infections. Between the months of January to March is considered the most active part of the seasonal flu virus in United States of America.

From Nature’s perspective, weak effectiveness of the flu vaccine, side-effects, viral drifts seem to be small arguments. When we consider the amount of exposure to bacteria, virus, fungus and  more; the diversity of exposure we face through the changing seasons – we realize that our immune system is specifically designed to deal with a much more complicated situations compared to any vaccines we may develop.

Each year, we see a peak of patient visits with flu or flu-like illness during the winter months. Most of these patients get the flu once every 2-3 years. I think that a challenge like this is good to help re-invigorate our immune system. Another pattern we see is that individuals have same pattern of infections every year. For example, some patients almost always come in the winter with infections; others only get it in spring or summer or fall… This tells me that developing illnesses is not so much related to which bugs are present, instead it may be related to individuals constitutional susceptibility – which may increase or decrease depending on the season.

Nature, Seasons, and our Home – Some solutions for the flu season.

As living beings, we are a part and product of Nature. Though our modern culture gives the delusion of superiority, we are inseparable from Nature, because it is our home; it makes up our Earth. The seasonal changes in climate are like the changing decors of the home. Changes call on us to adapt and change with the season. When we recognize the changes and adapt accordingly, Nature supports us in health. When we are unaware and unable to adapt, imbalances begin to take hold. In Ayurveda, we try to conform to Nature’s change and strengthen each individual’s vitality based on their unique constitution. Conforming to Nature and using natural tools optimizes our changes for health because this is what we are evolved to do.

Mother Nature is a gracious host. When the seasons change, the seasonal foods that are available usually have the most beneficial nutrients to help us balance in that season. Our body also has a natural ability to adapt to the changing hours of the day and night and the weather changes. We can support adaptation by modifying our diet and activity to balance the energy according to the season.

Ayurvedic Hygiene for supporting health:

Ayurveda was the one of the earliest medicines to teach proper hygiene as part of health promoting daily practices. The science of hygiene is called Swasthavritta, meaning , “ The circle of health.” This science teaches many daily practices that support health and prevent disease. The roots of modern practices like gargling, brushing teeth, hand washing, bathing, meditation, and more originated from the science of Swasthavritta.

In the Vedic culture of India, it was a strict practice to wash one’s hands and feet before entering the kitchen and even home. Dragging dirt into the kitchen with shoes or handling food with unclean hands was recognized as a way of introducing unhealthy energy into the food. Additionally, the cook prayed for the food before and after preparation. Food was also offered to neighborhood animals like the cow, the dog, the birds, and the ants – as a way of making an offering to the whole ecosystem that surrounds us.  Therefore, precaution was taken to avoid mixing unhealthy energy with the pure energy of the fresh and organic food that was being prepared. The ancients did not just consider physical cleanliness; they added elements of mental cleanliness through prayers and spiritual cleanliness through food offerings to the practice of good hygiene.

In modern times, cleaning our hands is considered one of the most fundamental practices for preventing transmissions. This practice minimizes the presence of foreign bugs on our hands, while making space available for our natural skin bacteria to flourish. Having a healthy skin flora also prevents growth of fungus and other invaders from making a home. For a healthy practice:

  1. Wash your hands regularly with clean water – doing this especially before cooking food, before eating, and after using the restrooms.
  2. Use natural soap on occasions when in contact with infected or other dirt – soaps are good for a thorough clean when that is needed – but too much use can cause dryness and irritation.
  3. Avoid the use of hand sanitizers – Isopropyl alcohol used in many sanitizers is an irritant that can cause reactivity and also gets absorbed rapidly.

Use of face mask to cover mouth and nose is another great practice to prevent transmission of infection. Face mask should be used by the infected individual to prevent coughing or sneezing in the public areas. These are easy to obtain at most drug stores and using them can be very beneficial to prevent illness from spreading from one family member to another.

Spices for supporting winter health

Spices can be of great benefit of boosting the metabolic fire on the daily basis. Healthy metabolic activity ensures efficient energy production in the body that supports for boosting immune surveillance in the body. Healthy metabolism ensures proper digestion food, separation of nutrition from waste, and elimination of waste products. Spices like ginger, garlic, black pepper, and turmeric can provide a great support for metabolic and immune activity.

Ginger is a warming in nature and supports circulation – thus, promoting thermogenic activity of the body (i.e. producing warmth), as well as immune surveillance. Fresh ginger can be taken as a tea or it can be added to food. Dry ginger powder can be added to food as well.

Black pepper is a very helpful digestive spice that has a sharp, warming, and drying quality. Black pepper is closely related to the medicinal herb Piper longum that has been shown to enhance bioavailability of nutrients.[8] In other words, black pepper can help improve absorption of essential nutrients – thus, making various vitamins, minerals. and phyto-nutrients more bioavailable and ready-to-use for the body.

Turmeric is a great spice for adding to your curries, soups, stir-fry and  smoothies. Mixed in food, it can be eaten at a significant dose on a daily basis. Turmeric is the source of a powerful antioxidant and inflammation-modulating compound called Curcumin. This compound is has been proven as immune supportive through balancing excess inflammation and supporting health inflammation.[9] The protective qualities of Curcumin also contribute to its anti-aging and anti-cancer effects of the herb.[10]

Herbs for supporting the immune system.

Amla, Emblica officinalis, is one of the more popular Rasayana; indicating that the herb has a general benefit to all tissues of the body. Thus, Amla support vitality and resilience of the individual. Amla has been used as part of a traditional formula called Chavanprash for over 2000 years. Amla is a very useful antioxidant and liver supportive herb. Antioxidant function of this herb also has a regenerative effect on the immune system.[11] The liver supportive activity of Amla has been shown to restore anti-oxidant system of the liver and restore elevated liver enzymes to normal. It has been observed to protect liver damage due to toxins and protect development of liver cancer.[12,13] Liver is the primary detoxifying organ of the body. Optimal function of the liver reduces toxic burden, which alleviates the burden of chronic toxicity and low-grade inflammation that keep the immune system distracted from its real job. Amla supports the immune system to deal with real threats.

Guduchi, Tinospora cordifolia, is a versatile herb for supporting immune and liver function. Guduchi is traditionally used in wide variety of conditions for its combination of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune modulating, liver supportive actions and this is another Rasayana herb.[14] A review of research indicates that Guduchi produces its anti-inflammatory effect through blocking the effect of inflammatory signals like histamine and bradykinin..[15] These actions are very useful for controlling non-specific allergic reactivity of the innate immune system – reducing burden on the immune system. On the other hand, it has a stimulating effect on the humoral immune system. Immune supportive activity of this herb is demonstrated in animal studies by elevation and circulation of B-cell and T-cell lymphocytes, which perform surveillance and elimination of infective agents.[16,17] In a demonstration of its dual functions as liver and immune support, Guduchi treated  animals reversed liver abscess due to Amoebiasis.[17] A traditional name for Guduchi is Amrita, which means “nectar of immortality”. Traditional use of this herb has been described in wide range of ailments including: immune system, liver support, anti-allergy, asthma, skin diseases, neurological diseases, eye diseases and general debility.[18]

Neem, Azadirachta indica is a famous anti-microbial herb of the Ayurvedic tradition. Medicinal compounds found in neem oil and leaves stimulate various immune cells to act against pathogens. This bitter herb is traditionally used in topical treatment of Methicillin-resistance Staphylococcus aureus, usually called MRSA infections.[19 ]Use of the herb as a mouthwash has proven effective in eliminating streptococcal bacteria.[20] Studies on the properties of neem have demonstrated direct toxicity against variety of fungus, bacteria, and viruses.[21] Further benefit of neem is derived from its capacity to lower blood sugar. This is helpful because sugar is the main source of sustenance for bacteria and fungus.

Holy Basil, Ocimum sactum another Rasayana, is central to many ceremonial and religious activities in Indian culture. This herb is considered the incarnation of the divine feminine principle. It promotes mental and emotional clarity, as well as creativity. In addition to the Spiritual significance, the value of holy basil comes from its versatile medicinal activities. It is rich in essential oils that have beneficial effect on the nervous system, immune system and the oxidation.  The herb has been observed to have anti-stress effect in animal studies.[22 ]Further protective effect on the brain has been shown to protect from memory loss in Alzheimer’s.[23] Holy Basil has an anti-oxidant effect that protects all organs of the body from glucotoxic oxidative damage. Holy basil helps to replenish anti-oxidant enzyme in the body, while putting a cap on inflammation.[24,25]

Vitamin C – intravenous therapy: Along with above herbal protocol, patients who did not respond to standard drug regimen of antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and antibiotics, can be given intravenous vitamin C . Most of these patients will bounce back to health with one or two intravenous treatments. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that circulates in our blood stream. In times of infection, when our immune system is taxed and overwhelmed by oxidative stress – infusion of Vitamin C has proven effect treatment for supporting the immune system.[26]

One 19 years old female who has been sick for almost 6 weeks and was unable to attend her University, she had all the standard drug treatment without much response, after receiving one intravenous treatment she went back to University within 3 days.

Conclusion:

Our children will get 49 doses of 14 different vaccinations by the age of 6 and 69 doses of 16 different vaccinations by the age 18.  One in seventeen kids have allergies and there has been 256% increase in the hospitalization since 1992 with allergies. America has the highest incidence of cancer than rest of the world. Even young children are getting more cancer than it ever happened before. Other diseases like obesity, allergies, asthma and diabetes have risen many fold in spite of boasting best medical help available in the world.  Is it our food, lifestyle, environment, toxicity of vaccination or combination of all. Do these vaccines are really helping you or providing you the prevention as promised? Many scientist and celebrity  doctors like Dr. Oz or Dr. Sanjay Gupta comes on media and tell people to get flu shot, I am questioning show me the evidence. Isn’t that we are supposed to practice evidence based medicine? So far there is no evidence available for flu vaccine that it does any prevention, certainly it make big bucks for the Pharma. Where as we know when we do yoga, breathing exercises, walking, exercise, stress reduction and eat healthy diet we get very less diseases, even if we get them we bounce back very quickly.

References

  • [1] MMWR, “Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines:” Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — United States, 2014–15 Influenza Season
  • [2] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “What You Should Know for the 2014-2015 Influenza Season.”
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