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Researchers Find Microplastics in Stool Samples

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Tests reveal both tap water and bottled water1 contain microplastics, as does your household dust2 and many foods, especially seafood3,4 and sea salt,5 but also any food that has been stored in plastic packaging.

The suspicion that we’re consuming our own plastic pollution was recently reconfirmed when researchers reported the discovery of microplastic particles in human stool samples. The consequences of ingesting microscopic plastic bits and pieces is still relatively unknown.

But considering the fact that plastic will not degrade within a human lifetime, and that many of the chemicals used in the production of plastic are known endocrine disruptors, chances are the impact on human health may be greater than suspected.

Animal research has also shown microplastics affect the gut barrier and the composition of gut microbiota in mice, and that they have toxic effects on the liver in fish.

Microplastic Debris Found in Human Stool Samples

The study6,7,8,9 in question was done by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna in collaboration with the Austrian Environment Agency. The findings of this pilot study were presented October 23, 2018, at the annual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna. As reported by Salon magazine:10

“Eight people from Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and Austria participated in the study. Each person kept a food diary the week before the stool sampling occurred which showed researchers that all participants were exposed to foods that were either wrapped in plastic, or they drank from plastic bottles. Six of the eight ate sea fish, too; none of them were vegetarians.”

The stool samples were tested for the presence of 10 different types of plastics, of which nine were found in the samples. On average, participants had 20 microplastic particles per 10 grams of stool.

The most common types of plastic were polypropylene (found in bottle caps), polyethylene terephthalate or PET (found in water bottles, plastic bags and textile fibers) and polystyrene (found in takeout food containers, cups and plastic utensils). The particles ranged in size from 50 micrometers (about the width of a human hair) to 500 micrometers. According to lead researcher Dr. Philipp Schwabl, who called the results “astonishing”:

“This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut. Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases11

There are initial indications that microplastics can damage the gastrointestinal tract12 by promoting inflammatory reactions or absorbing harmful substances13

While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver. Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health14

I believe that trying to reduce plastic usage and plastic-packed food might be beneficial for nature and for us. Certainly, plastic is a very useful material and has a lot of clever applications. But maybe we should try to rethink about the necessity of abundant plastic use, and search for and support ecological and sustainable alternatives.15

World’s Oceans Will Soon Contain More Plastic Than Fish

Indeed, the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2050, the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish,16 thanks to the addition of 8 million metric tons of plastic each and every year — a figure expected to increase 10-fold17 over the next decade alone unless decisive action is taken. Already, in some ocean waters plastic exceeds plankton by a factor of 6-to-1.18

To avert such a travesty, the World Economic Forum recommends focusing on three key strategies, all of which hinge on rethinking how plastics are made in the first place, i.e., switching to renewable sources rather than using crude oil to produce plastic:19

  1. Improving the design of plastic packaging and other plastic products
  2. Devising “new and creative delivery models based on reusable packaging”
  3. Making recycling pay off — Plastic can, and should, be recycled, but a 2017 analysis20 reveals a staggering 91 percent aren’t
transform plastic packaging strategies

Disturbingly, plastic pollution is also accumulating on farmland. According to research21 published in Science of the Total Environment, the annual release of plastics to land may actually be four to 23 times greater than that released to oceans! The use of sewage sludge (biosolids) as fertilizer is one major source of all this plastic pollution.

When factoring in the range of sludge application rates, and assuming data from certain other countries with similar plastics usage are comparable, the total annual input of microplastics to European and North American farmlands is thought to be 63,000 to 430,000, and 44,000 to 300,000 tons respectively.

Are Microplastics Contributing to Bowel Diseases and Cancer?

Dr. Herbert Tilg, president of the Austrian Society of Gastroenterology and chair of the United European gastroenterology scientific committee (who did not take part in the study), worries that microplastics may be a factor contributing to rising rates of inflammatory bowel syndrome and colon cancer. He told New Hampshire Public Radio:22

“Colon cancer is increasing in young people, and we think that either dietary or environmental components are a factor. Now that we know we can detect microplastics in humans, we can develop larger studies, in both healthy and diseased patients, to find out if they are a contributing factor.”

Microplastics Linked to Altered Microbiota, Impaired Metabolism and Liver Toxicity

As noted by Schwabl, recent research suggests microplastic may indeed have an adverse effect on gut microbiota. The study,23 published in The Science of the Total Environment, found that polystyrene microplastics affected the gut barrier, microbiota and metabolism of mice. As reported by the authors:

“In this study, we exposed male mice to 5 micrometers pristine and fluorescent polystyrene microplastics (MP) for six weeks. The results showed that the polystyrene MP was observed in the guts of mice and could reduce the intestinal mucus secretion and cause damage the intestinal barrier function …

At the phylum level, the content of Actinobacteria decreased significantly in the polystyrene MP-treated group … [T]he diversity of gut microbiota was altered after polystyrene MP exposure. At the genus level, a total of 15 types of bacteria changed significantly after exposure to polystyrene MP.

Furthermore, the predicted KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes) metabolic pathway differences indicated that the main metabolic pathways of the functional genes in the microbial community were significantly influenced by the polystyrene MP.

In addition, indexes of amino acid metabolism and bile acid metabolism in the serum were analyzed after polystyrene MP exposure. These results indicated that polystyrene MP caused metabolic disorders. In conclusion, the polystyrene MP induced gut microbiota dysbiosis, intestinal barrier dysfunction and metabolic disorders in mice …”

Another study24 published in 2016 found polystyrene microplastics accumulated in zebrafish and stressed the liver. After just seven days of exposure, particles measuring 5 micrometers had accumulated in the gills, liver and gut. Particles measuring 20 micrometers in diameter accumulated the gills and gut only.

Histopathological analysis revealed the particles caused inflammation and the accumulation of lipids in the liver, and “significantly increased activities of superoxide dismutase and catalase, indicating that oxidative stress was induced.” Metabolomic analysis also found the microplastics “induced alterations of metabolic profiles in fish liver and disturbed the lipid and energy metabolism.”

Earlier research25 has also proven that microplastics are taken into cells and cause significant effects on the tissue of the blue mussel under laboratory conditions.

Bottled Water Nearly Universally Contaminated With Microplastics


As mentioned earlier, recent tests26 reveal drinking water is now nearly universally contaminated with microplastics, whether you’re getting it from your tap or from bottled water. Just 17 of 259 bottles of water tested were found to be free of microplastic particles, and none of the 11 brands tested consistently free of plastic contaminants.

On average, the bottled water tested contained 325 pieces of microplastic per liter. The worst offender was Nestlé Pure Life, the most contaminated sample of which contained 10,390 particles per liter, while the least contaminated brand, San Pellegrino, contained a high-end density of 74 particles per liter. Here’s a summary breakdown of the most and least contaminated brands:27







Most contaminated brands Least contaminated brands

Nestlé Pure Life

San Pellegrino

Bisleri

Evian

Gerolsteiner

Dasani

Aqua

Wahaha

Epura

Minalba

As noted by Orb Media, which commissioned the testing:28

“[F]indings suggest that a person who drinks a liter of bottled water a day might be consuming tens of thousands of microplastic particles each year … For microplastic debris around 100 microns in size … bottled water samples contained nearly twice as many pieces of microplastics per liter (10.4) than the tap water samples (4.45) …

According to existing scientific research, the plastic particles you consume in food or drinks might interact with your body in a number of different ways … Some particles might lodge in the intestinal wall. Others might be taken up by intestinal tissue to travel through the body’s lymphatic system …

Smaller debris, in the range of 20 microns (0.02 mm) has been shown to enter the bloodstream before it lodges in the kidneys and liver … Ninety percent of the plastic particles we found … were … small enough … for some to cross the gut into your body.”

In response to these findings, the World Health Organization has promised to launch a safety review to assess the potential short- and long-term health risks of consuming microplastic in water.29

How You Can Be Part of the Solution

Our cultural affection for all things disposable has left a trail of destruction. Now, how can you be part of the solution? In short, by becoming a more conscious consumer. Really give some thought to the manufacturing of the products you buy, how they may affect you during use, and what will happen to them once you dispose of them.

Few of us are capable of living a zero-waste lifestyle at this point in time, but every single one of us can take small but definitive steps toward the goal of reducing plastic trash in all of its forms. Here are a few suggestions to consider:





Avoid bottled water — Instead, invest in a good water filtration system for your home and fill your own reusable bottles with filtered tap water. Previous testing has revealed most bottled water is nothing but tap water anyway, which may or may not have undergone additional filtration. With over 267 toxins found in public tap water, it’s worth the investment to install a high-quality filter and bring your own water wherever you go.

Reduce your use of all things plastic — Purchase products that are not made from or packaged in plastic. While the items involved are near-endless, here are a few ideas:

  • Use reusable shopping bags for groceries
  • Bring your own mug when indulging in a coffee drink, and skip the lid and the straw
  • Store foods in glass containers or mason jars as opposed to plastic containers or bags
  • Take your own leftover container to restaurants
  • Request no plastic wrap on dry cleaning

Avoid microfiber clothing such as fleece, and/or wash them as infrequently as possible — Stretchy fabrics and fleece items shed copious amounts of microscopic plastic fibers each time they’re washed. Due to their tiny size, these microfibers30 flow straight through the wastewater treatment plant without being caught.

Up to 1.7 million tons of microfibers enter the ocean each and every year,31 and testing shows synthetic microfibers make up 85 percent of shoreline debris worldwide.32 Once in the water column, this plastic microdebris blocks sunlight required for plankton and algae to thrive, and the ramifications of this reverberates throughout the entire food chain.

Not only do the actual fibers pose a health hazard to the sea life that consume them, since they bioaccumulate, these fibers also act like sponges, soaking up and concentrating toxins like PCBs, pesticides and oil, making the animal — which could end up on your plate — even more toxic than it normally would be.

A far “cleaner” option all-around is 100 percent organic clothing — cotton, hemp, silk, wool or bamboo fabrics dyed with natural, nontoxic dyes. The Bluesign System Certification33 tells you the item has been manufactured with a minimal amount of hazardous chemicals, or none.

Wash synthetic clothing as irregularly as possible using a mild detergent. Line dry instead of putting them in the dryer, as the heat and agitation will break down fibers. Handwashing or using the gentle cycle with cold water will also minimize the shedding of fibers, as will using a front loading washing machine.

You can also install a microfiber filter on your washing machine, but the fibers will still end up in the environment since they’ll end up in trash destined for a landfill.

Recycle what you can — Take care to recycle and repurpose products whenever possible, and/or participate in “plastic drives” for local schools, where cash is paid by the pound.

Remember recyclables must never be placed in a plastic bag, as recycling facilities will simply send bagged items to a landfill.34 So, to ensure your recyclables actually get recycled, make sure you place the items loose in your recycle bin.

For more do’s and don’ts of recycling, see “Surprising Recycling Mistakes Most People Make.” You can also check out this Lifehacker article for more information about what you can and cannot recycle in general, over and beyond plastic.35

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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes

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(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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