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Less Salt or More Potassium and Fiber?




The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting your salt consumption to no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day, with an ideal intake of 1,500 mg per day for adults.1 The rationale used says salt in your bloodstream draws in more water, creating greater work for your heart and increasing your blood pressure.2

However, this is an overly simplistic answer to a far more complex condition, as I discuss in the video above with James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D. As with all vitamins, minerals and chemicals in your body, each affects and is affected by several different systems.

Your sodium balance is at least impacted by magnesium, calcium and potassium, which in turn affect several aspects of your health, including blood pressure, bone density and heart and kidney health. Each time you change the level of one, you impact the levels of others.

Sodium restriction has been the cornerstone of heart failure management, but a paper published by researchers at Rush University Medical Center created significant doubt, as it found restriction was associated with an increase in the risk of heart failure and death.3 In a second, more recent study, researchers found the risk of cardiovascular events decreased as potassium levels increased.4

Salt has been vilified in much the same way as fat. But just as there are healthy fats necessary for optimal health and unhealthy fats that trigger health problems, there are healthy and unhealthy types of salt. However, sodium is only half the ratio required to keep your body healthy.

The second half of the equation is potassium. One study demonstrated a balanced ratio of potassium and sodium was more strongly associated with blood pressure changes than either sodium or potassium individually.5

History of Salt Use in Food

Historically, salt has been widely and regularly used. In centuries past, people consumed over 10 times the amount of salt we do today as it was a primary food preservative. Salt has been an important part of society and interwoven into countless civilizations.6 Salt was so highly valued and production legally restricted, it even became used as a method of trade and currency.

Special salt rations were given to early Roman soldiers, known as “salarium argentum,” the forerunner to the English word “salary.” It has played a vital part in religious rituals, symbolizing purity. Salt motivated the early American pioneers and denying access to salt was part of the strategy used by Great Britain against American rebels during the American Revolution.

It played a key role during the Civil War and has been subjected to governmental monopoly and special taxes throughout history. In the 1600s, it was estimated the average person in Sweden was eating 100 grams of salt per day. Today, most get 10 grams per day or less; the average American consumes about 3.4 grams.

Despite this dramatic reduction in salt intake, rates of hypertension are far higher now than they were then. The rapid increase in blood pressure did not really begin until the early 1900s when low salt intake was recommended for heart health.

DASH Diet Did More Than Lower Salt Intake

The DASH diet is a nutrition plan promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute7 as a means of preventing and controlling high blood pressure. The acronym stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and emphasizes portion size, reducing processed foods and eating a wide variety of foods.8

There are two versions of the DASH diet. The standard DASH diet allows up to 2,300 mg of sodium per day, while the lower sodium DASH diet allows 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Both versions recommend consuming a lot of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. The plan also strongly recommends limiting sugary beverages and sweets.

Although researchers found blood pressure measurements went down with the DASH diet, they also found that better predictors of heart disease, such as ratios of cholesterol levels, got worse. The INTERSALT study, published in 1997, was a worldwide epidemiological study of over 10,000 people from 52 countries.9

While the overall results of the study found habitual high-salt intake triggered unfavorable high blood pressure, in the video DiNicolantonio points out a flaw in these assumptions. Of the populations included in the study, four were primitive cultures who consumed no salt.

When the researchers removed those four tribal populations and looked at the remaining developed countries, there was a reduction in blood pressure with an increase in salt intake. When those for primitive cultures were included, the results were different.

DiNicolantonio believes this occurred because those primitive tribes ate foods high in potassium, were leaner, exercised and did not drink alcohol or consume sugar. He points out that when salt is reduced, your body becomes insulin resistant as it preserves sodium by increasing insulin. Increasing your insulin level in turn increases inflammation and your risk of heart disease.

A better endpoint for the study would have been some type of cardiovascular mortality, but the researchers instead measured a midpoint — reducing blood pressure measurements — without looking at the whole picture.

Low-Salt Diets Affect Bone Health and Have Surprising Metabolic Effects

DiNicolantonio goes on to point out your body strives to maintain an optimal level of sodium regardless of your intake. Your body uses magnesium and calcium levels to control your sodium level. As your intake declines your body begins to pull sodium from the bone, and at the same time pulls out magnesium and calcium.

So, reducing your salt intake results in your body stripping sodium from elsewhere, significantly impacting your bone health. As bones are stripped of magnesium and calcium, your risk of osteoporosis rises. Magnesium is also one of the most important mineral deficiencies from which you can suffer. Nearly half of the U.S. population consume less than required amounts from food.

Low magnesium intake and blood levels have been associated with Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerotic vascular disease and sudden cardiac death.10 There is also evidence suggesting optimal levels of magnesium may mitigate the negative impact of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on human cells through voltage-gated calcium channels.

Research published in BMJ Open Heart calls magnesium deficiency a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis.11 Consuming a low-salt diet only makes magnesium deficiencies worse. In order to conserve sodium, your body will release magnesium and calcium in sweat, reducing your magnesium levels even further.

In 1994, Dr. Jens Titze, a kidney specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, studied the urine output of a crew on the Mir space station and discovered the astronauts complained of being constantly hungry when given higher amounts of salt.12

Follow-up animal testing confirmed that the more salt mice were given, the less water they drank and the more food they required to avoid weight loss. As salt intake increases, the animals produced higher amounts of glucocorticoid hormones, causing an increase in fat and muscle breakdown.

These proteins converted into urea, known to help your body excrete waste through urine. The urea also helps retain water. In other words, a side effect of higher salt consumption is it frees water for your body to use. The process is energy intensive, which is why the animals required more food on a higher salt diet, and why the astronauts complained of hunger.

Impact of Fiber on Your Cardiovascular Health

Most people, Americans in particular, need to eat more fiber. It helps manage your weight, and researchers have discovered short chain fatty acids produced by bacteria feeding on unprocessed plant fiber actually communicate with your DNA and protect against a number of different diseases.

Additionally, unprocessed high-fiber diets reduce your risk of premature death from all causes. An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and the incidence of heart attack.

Research shows those eating a high fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease and it has been associated with beneficial reductions in blood pressure, improved insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation, all of which help lower your risk for heart disease.

Interestingly, researchers13 discovered a receptor (Olfr78) in your kidneys and in your nose that receives messages from gut bacteria to help regulate your blood pressure. The smell is acetate and propionate, which are produced when fiber is fermented. As reported by Scientific American:14

“The researchers have uncovered a direct, molecular-level explanation of how the microbiome conspires with the kidneys and the blood vessels to manipulate the flow of blood …

[M]ore than 99 percent of the acetate and propionate floating through the bloodstream is released by bacteria as they feed … Bacteria are therefore the only meaningful source of what activates Olfr78 — which, further experiments showed, is involved in the regulation of blood pressure.”

Potassium-to-Sodium Balance Key to Normalizing Your Blood Pressure

Potassium works in your body to relax the walls of your arteries, keeping your muscles from cramping and lowering your blood pressure. A reduction in blood pressure with potassium has been associated in studies with a reduced incidence of stroke.15

Other research has found women without high blood pressure who consumed the most potassium had a 21 percent reduced risk of stroke; those who consumed the most were also 12 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who consumed the least.16

A better strategy to promote public health would be to forgo strict sodium restriction and focus on a high-quality diet rich in potassium. An imbalance in your potassium-to-sodium ratio may also contribute to a number of other diseases including memory decline, osteoporosis, cataracts, erectile dysfunction and rheumatoid arthritis.

The easiest way to negatively affect this ratio is by consuming a diet of processed foods, notoriously low in potassium and high in sodium. Potassium is used to maintain proper pH levels and plays an integral role in regulating blood pressure. In fact, as indicated in the PURE study, deficiency in potassium may be more responsible for hypertension than an excess of sodium.17

According to a 1985 article in the New England Journal of Medicine,18 our ancestors ate nearly 11,000 mg of potassium a day and 700 mg of sodium. This is nearly 16 times more potassium than sodium. Comparing this to the standard American diet, potassium consumption averages 2,500 mg with 3,600 mg of sodium.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine19 was one of the first and largest to evaluate the relationship of salt, potassium and heart disease deaths, finding those at greater risk had a combination of too much sodium with too little potassium.

Balance Your Potassium-to-Sodium Ratio With the Right Salt and Fiber

When you’re choosing foods to increase your potassium levels, one of the first foods many consider are bananas. One medium banana contains 422 mg of potassium. However, bananas are far from being your only source of potassium and also contain 6 grams of total fructose. So, consider foods20 high in potassium without the added fructose, such as spinach, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and grapefruit.

From my perspective, the clear answer is to avoid processed salt and use natural salt in moderation. I believe it is hard for a healthy person to overdo natural salt, as it is a nutritional goldmine — provided you pay attention to your sodium-to-potassium ratio.

The beauty of using Himalayan salt is that, in addition to being naturally lower in sodium, it’s much higher in potassium compared to other salts — including other natural salt like sea salt or Celtic salt. Additionally, Himalayan salt is far lower in toxic pollutants, such as plastic microparticles, commonly found in processed salt and sea salt.

Remember, aside from the basic differences in nutritional content, it’s processing that makes table salt (and the salt used in processed foods) detrimental to your health. What your body needs is natural, unprocessed salt, without added chemicals or pollutants.

Fiber is another important addition to your nutritional plan to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. There are two main types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Ideally, you need both on a regular basis.

Soluble fiber — Soluble fiber, found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans and nuts, dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer, which can help with weight control.

Likewise, it slows down the rate at which other nutrients are digested, including carbs, so they’re not as likely to raise your blood sugar. Some foods rich in soluble fiber also help feed good bacteria in your gut.

Insoluble fiber — Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery and carrots, does not dissolve and stays basically intact as it moves through your colon. By adding bulk to your stool, it helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.

Insoluble fiber is also sometimes called roughage, a term describing one of its functions. As it moves through your colon, it helps move along food particles tending to adhere to the sides. Food remaining stuck to your colon may cause bloating, pain and constipation, as well as other problems.

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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes





(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





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





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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