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Dollar Stores Feed More Americans Than Whole Foods

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Dollar stores such as Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which also owns Family Dollar) are becoming a primary source of food for many families. The chains feed more Americans than Whole Foods,1 which isn’t surprising when you consider there are 30,000 Dollar General and Dollar Tree stores across the U.S. — outnumbering Walmart’s and McDonald’s’ combined — compared to 446 Whole Foods locations.

The dollar store chains also claim to have their sights on yet another 20,000 locations. The problem with this trend is that dollar stores typically do not carry fresh food; it’s primarily ultra-processed packaged foods and canned foods, which we know is a recipe for ill health in the long term.

Sadly, dollar stores specifically target urban neighborhoods and small towns where economic struggles are commonplace,2 turning these areas into food deserts as they push out smaller, already struggling grocers. As reported by Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR):3

“Although dollar stores sometimes fill a need in places that lack basic retail services, there’s growing evidence that these stores are not merely a byproduct of economic distress. They’re a cause of it.

In small towns and urban neighborhoods alike, dollar stores are leading full-service grocery stores to close. And their strategy of saturating communities with multiple outlets is making it impossible for new grocers and other local businesses to take root and grow.”

Driving this trend is the U.S. government’s subsidy of processed food, both through the Farm Bill and through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This sets the stage for discount stores to monopolize the food market, which subsequently leads to poorer diets, higher disease rates and associated health care costs.

In truth, food subsidies and health care really cannot be separated, as the nation’s diet is a primary contributor to chronic disease and therefore drives our health care expenditures. The idea that big box stores and dollar stores are doing Americans a favor by making inexpensive food more available is a twisted one, as it’s really just making people sicker.

Racial Discrepancies

ILSR also notes that dollar stores tend to target areas based on race rather than income. Using Tulsa, Oklahoma, as an example, ILSR shows how these stores are congregated in census tracts with more African-American residents, even though there are low-income Caucasian areas as well.

“One reason for this link might be that dollar stores see an easier revenue stream in places that lack competing grocery stores,” ILSR writes. “In the case of Family Dollar, for example, ‘Food deserts’ are its sweet spot,” notes Ann Natunewicz, an analyst at Colliers International.

The absence of grocery stores is, in turn, a direct result of a history of racial discrimination by banks that have been less likely to lend to African American entrepreneurs and by supermarket chains that have tended to bypass black neighborhoods.”

How a near-total diet of ultra-processed food affects health and longevity can be seen in the city’s mortality statistics. Life expectancy in north Tulsa, which is predominantly black, is a staggering 14 years lower than that of the south. In an effort to address this disparity, Tulsa’s city council has enacted a dollar store ordinance that limits dollar stores in the northern part of Tulsa and provides incentives for full-service grocers instead. As reported by ILSR:4

“This is the first ordinance in the country to specifically target dollar stores, and its passage is being felt both locally and nationally. It’s marked a new era of political inclusion and grassroots power for the city’s African American residents. It’s also focused national attention on the growth of dollar stores and inspired other cities and towns to take steps to check their spread.

Who Benefits From Government Food Subsidizes?

In the U.S., 12.4 percent of the population, some 40 million in all as of 2017,5 live at or below the poverty line and rely on a monthly allotment of food stamps through SNAP to cover their food bill. Today, these monies are doled out once a month via electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.

Disturbingly, the fastest-growing group of people on food stamps are people who have jobs and work year-round. Ironically, many of them work in the very same big box stores and discount outlets that profit from the SNAP benefits their employees are forced to use due to low wages.

In 2017, the program distributed $76 billion worth of EBT transfers, and across the country there are about 240,000 retailers approved by the federal government to accept EBT cards (i.e., food stamps).

A 2014 article6 in Slate Magazine addressed a little-discussed facet of the food stamp subsidy — which stores actually profit from this program, funded by tax dollars, and how much. As it turns out, this data is actually kept confidential.

“Even basic facts such as how many food stamp dollars go to a particular store in a particular location are not publicly available,” Slate notes. “In what stores and neighborhoods are the most food stamp dollars spent? What kinds of foods do those stores promote and sell? What are the store’s business and labor practices?

The answers to those questions might help you see how food stamp subsidies are serving a community — if they’re doing what they were meant to do.”

Discount Stores Likely Gain the Most From SNAP

The confidentiality of SNAP sales information is in sharp contrast to other government programs, where you can find out how much a participating business is getting paid. What is known, however, is that sales of staple items typically spike on days when SNAP benefits are distributed, both at grocers and discount stores.

Walmart’s annual report for 2014 listed cuts in SNAP payments as a potential risk factor for declining sales, as that same year the U.S. government cut SNAP by $8 billion over the next decade.

And, according to Slate, Walmart likely receives about 18 percent of all food stamp spending in the U.S., based on the company’s own estimates, making it “the biggest single corporate beneficiary of SNAP.”7 Other players include Target, Costco, 7-Eleven and, of course, dollar stores. Slate notes:

“It’s a paradox that the more people are struggling to get by, the more valuable food stamps become for business. In 2009, the CEO of Family Dollar told shareholders that expanding in to the multibillion-dollar food stamp market represented a ‘significant opportunity’ that would help the company weather the bad economy.”

By Encouraging Junk Food, Government Subsidies Drive Rising Health Care Costs

As mentioned at the beginning, by encouraging dollar stores and other discount stores to accept EBT, the food stamp program has become a driving force of ill health. Poor people receive money to buy food, but if all that’s available in their neighborhood is dollar stores, the food they buy will be limited to ultra-processed foods that cannot support optimal health.

As a result, they get sick, and must rely on more government aid to receive health care, which then drives up those costs. The U.S. government also subsidizes junk food ingredients — commodity crops such as corn, soy and wheat — over healthy foods via the Farm Bill, despite dietary guidelines calling for healthy portions of fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.

Considering this is what farmers get paid to grow, it’s no wonder that processed corn, soy and wheat products such as bread, soda, pizza, pasta, cookies and doughnuts account for a majority of calories in the U.S. diet.

Considering these foods are a primary driver of weight gain, it’s also not surprising that people who consume the most subsidized foods have a far greater risk of obesity — 37 percent greater, according to research published in 2016.8

As noted by Integrative Nutrition,9 “While the subsidies were initially implemented to support struggling farmers and to secure America’s food supply, the subsidies program has unintentionally supported the creation of a health epidemic.”

Food Subsidies Cannot Be Separated From Health Care

A September 2017 article10 in The Conversation by Dariush Mozaffarian, professor of nutrition at Tufts University, hit the nail on the head, pointing out that in order to fix America’s health care, we must make food a priority.

Cost is one of the primary challenges of most health care related issues, be it access or the expansion of Medicaid. But changing how care is delivered is never going to solve the problem of how we’re going to afford to care for everyone. We really have to shift our focus to food, as poor diet is the primary driver of chronic ill health, both in children and adults.

Research11 has shown as much as 40 percent of American health care expenditures are for diseases directly related to the overconsumption of sugar (a key staple in processed and ultra-processed food). Time magazine12 cites data13 showing food insecurity incurs $77.5 billion in added health care expenditures.

Children in food-insecure homes are also less likely to perform well academically, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Adding insult to injury, once you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, you’re less likely to be able to manage your condition well if you cannot afford real food. 

According to Mozaffarian, his research suggests poor diet is the cause of nearly half of all deaths from heart disease, stroke and diabetes in the U.S. “To put this in perspective, about twice as many Americans are estimated to die each year from eating hot dogs and other processed meats (~58,000 deaths/year) than from car accidents (~35,000 deaths/year),” Mozaffarian writes, adding:  

“It’s hard to fathom how much our country actually spends on health care: currently $3.2 trillion per year, or nearly 1 in 5 dollars in the entire U.S. economy. That’s almost $1,000 each month for every man, woman and child in the country, exceeding most people’s budgets for food, gas, housing or other common necessities …

Yet, remarkably, nutrition is virtually ignored by our health care system and in the health care debates … Traveling around the country, I find that dietary habits are not included in the electronic medical record, and doctors receive scant training on healthy eating and other lifestyle priorities.

Reimbursement standards and quality metrics rarely cover nutrition. Meanwhile, total federal spending for nutrition research across all agencies is only about $1.5 billion per year. Compare that with more than $60 billion spent per year for industry research on drugs, biotechnology and medical devices.”

Ultra-Processed Junk Food — A Sick Idea That’s Making People Ill

About 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes to buy processed food,14,15,16 which matches up nicely with data17 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which suggests 90 percent of Americans don’t eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain good health.

While that’s bad enough, research18 reveals nearly 60 percent of the food Americans eat is not just processed but ultra-processed, defined as:

  • Food products containing several ingredients that are not traditionally used in cooking
  • Besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, they can include artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners and other additives “used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods”
  • These ingredients may also be added “to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product”
  • Products containing preservatives and chemicals that give them an unnaturally long shelf-life

Less than 1 percent of daily calories comes from vegetables. Those ultra-processed foods account for 90 percent of the added sugar consumption in the U.S., and the dangers of eating too much added sugar have been well-established.

Research has even suggested refined non-vegetable fiber carbs such as potatoes, bagels and breakfast cereal are as risky as smoking, increasing your risk for lung cancer by as much as 49 percent.19

The 2015-2020 U.S. dietary guidelines20 even recommend limiting your sugar intake to a maximum of 10 percent of your daily calories.21 (No sugar limit was ever included in earlier guidelines.)

The difference between processed foods and ultra-processed foods in terms of sugar content is quite dramatic. The researchers found that about 2 percent of the calories in processed foods came from added sugars. By definition, unprocessed or minimally processed contained none. Ultra-processed foods, meanwhile, got 21 percent of their calories from added sugars!

Protect Your Health by Eating Real Food

There’s no doubt we have serious health epidemics on our hands — and that a majority, if not all of them, are linked to our government’s subsidy of junk food over real food, and a system that encourages the use of SNAP benefits in discount stores selling nothing but ultra-processed food.

There are no quick and easy answers here. All you can do is remember that your diet really is the foundation upon which your health is built, and that eating a processed food diet is a recipe for long-term disaster. Studies have repeatedly shown that real food is more expensive than processed fare, and there’s no denying the fact that there are areas where the only food retailers available are dollar stores and gas stations.

Still, if you have access to real food, I encourage you to take the time to learn how to cook from scratch and make the most of any leftovers. Also consider growing some of your own. To learn more, see my previous article on creating edible gardens in small spaces. I’ve also written about how you can garden during the winter. This clearly requires a bit more dedication and planning, but it can be done if you have the will.

One of the easiest foods to grow at home, even if you’re new to gardening and have limited space, is sprouts. A highly-concentrated source of enzymes, vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals, sprouted seeds are a true superfood that many overlook. In fact, the protein, vitamin and mineral content of many sprouted seeds far surpass that of organic homegrown vegetables.

Also emphasize foods high in healthy fats, such as avocados, coconut oil, butter and nuts. The high fat content will provide you the calories you need despite smaller portions and keep you satiated longer (opposed to high-sugar, low-fat meals which will have you craving more food in a matter of hours). Healthy fats will also promote efficient fat burning and support mitochondrial health, which is essential for cellular functioning.

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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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