As winter approaches, it’s time to begin thinking about getting your flu vaccine.

As you know, I am not a big fan of medical interventions but the flu vaccine is one of those interventions that provide great benefit with little risk. I recommend that all my patients get a flu vaccine each year, unless they have a contraindication.

National Recommendations: The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months of age obtain a flu vaccine each year. Ideally, you should get vaccinated in November.

Flu Season: November through May is flu season, with peak infection occurring during the winter months.

What are the benefits? 

  1. Avoiding the flu:

In general, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu by 60-70%. In addition, the antibodies generated from the vaccine may also confer protection against other strains of flu virus that are not included in the vaccine.

  1. Reducing your chances of future heart attack and death:

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed 260,000 adults age 65 and older showed a 49% reduction in risk of death from all causes (heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, flu, etc.) A subsequent review published in Circulation Journal showed similar provocative findings.

If you ever had ‘the flu’, you will remember with exceptional clarity that you feel a truck hit you—your entire body aches, your joints hurt, and you are laid out in bed. These symptoms are diagnostic of your body’s immense immune response and the resulting inflammation makes you feel achey and exhausted. This large inflammatory response is thought to increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, or other major life threatening event. As you’ve read in previous blog posts, inflammation is one of the central underlying physiological pathways that results in disease and illness.

Which vaccine should I get?

In my practice, I offer the inactivated single-dose quadrivalent (4 strains in lieu of 3 strains) vaccine. It contains no mercury/thimerosal preservatives.

Side Effects and Contraindications to getting the Vaccine:

It’s not unusual to feel soreness where the vaccine is given (typically on the shoulder). 10-20% people may feel body aches or low-grade fever.

With the exception of one vaccine (trivalent recombinant influenza vaccine, or RIV3), all flu vaccines are cultured in chicken eggs; therefore, if you are allergic to eggs or have had a bad reaction to vaccination previously, you should consult with your physician and consider getting RIV3.

What else can you do to protect yourself from the flu and other viral infections?

Boost your immune system by:

  • Following my 6 Pillars of Health Living
    • Active Living – regular daily movement for  20 minutes
    • Healthy Eating – particularly root vegetables and warming foods
    • Restorative Sleep – unplug 60 minutes before bed and get to sleep before 10pm
    • Navigating Stress & Cultivating Resilience – engage in daily prayer or meditation (sitting or moving)
    • Connection & Relationship – isolation has been shown to lower immune function!
    • Finding Passion & Meaning – engagement with passion boosts immune function!
  • Take Dietary Supplements during the winter season, such as Mushroom formulas (e.g. Stamets 7)
  • Take Dietary supplements such as oscillococcinum (if you get the flu) or Vitamin C (1-3 grams daily), Elderberry, and herbal formulations specific to your condition.

I wish you a healthy and joyful winter season!

To your health!

—Dr. Brad