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Alternative Medicine Cabinet - Flu Season Fandango
Choosing between flu shots and alternative remedies can dance you in circles. Here are pros and cons of each.
With flu season upon us, it’s time again to face that annual dilemma–flu shot or no flu shot? Conventional medical circles embrace it as a simple, slam-dunk solution: Get the shot and you can walk into a room full of flu germs with near impunity. But if this is the case, why do so many alternative medical practitioners distrust it? And if such mistrust is justified, should you get one, or could it wind up doing more harm than good?
Pierre Brunschwig, MD, a holistic doctor at Helios Integrated Medicine in Boulder, Colo., and a charter fellow of the American Board of Holistic Medicine, is wary. He says that each winter’s flu formula is reformulated based on strains of flu that arrive in the Southern Hemisphere during its winter, which is our summer. Brunschwig says there’s no guarantee that the Southern Hemisphere formulation will match the strains active in North America by the time our winter rolls around.
But making the decision to get a flu shot goes well beyond this issue. While some holistic practitioners do think the harm always outweighs the good, others feel the shot could prove helpful, depending on your age, health and circumstances. Regardless of whether you get the shot or not, natural alternatives can help keep you healthy this winter.
The flu shot controversy
If you‘re debating whether to get a flu shot, consider the advice of Sherri Tenpenny, DO, of Middleburg Heights, Ohio: Become informed about the specific substances being delivered through the needle, she warns. For example, Tenpenny says, “during the flu vaccine manufacturing process, antibiotics such as neomycin, polymyxin B and gentamicin are added to eliminate stray bacteria found in the mixture.” The final solution can contain additives such as Triton-X 100, a detergent; polysorbate 80, an emulsifier that is a potential carcinogen; and additives such as formaldehyde to inactivate the virus as well as gelatin and residual egg proteins used to nourish the cultures. Bottom line, according to Brunschwig, “if you have an egg allergy, you simply can’t get the vaccine.” Not all flu formulations are alike, either, so if you decide to get one, ask your doctor about the specific ingredients.
One of the most worrisome issues is that some flu shots contain a substance called thimerosal, an organic form of mercury used as a preservative. “Many influenza vaccines still contain thimerosal,” Tenpenny says, which is being investigated for its link to brain injury and autoimmune disease. Several studies have found significantly increased odds of neurodevelopmental disorders—including autism, mental retardation, speech disorders, personality disorders and thinking abnormalities—in children (not adults) following thimerosal-containing vaccines.
Brunschwig says that further risks with the injectable flu shot include local reactions at the injection site and anaphylaxis (a s...
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