By: Kristen Johnson, Registered Dietitian at On Target Living
Should you get a flu shot? Should you not get a flu shot? Perhaps this is the question that some of you may be struggling with now that cold and flu season is upon us. At On Target Living, we have learned that there is no such thing as a bad question; but there is always such thing as a better question.
Let’s dive in a bit deeper to get a better understanding of how the flu shot can protect you.
There are 3 different types of influenza viruses, A, B, and C. Each one can then either be divided into several different sub types or strains leading to many different flu-causing pathogens. Preliminary data from the CDC shows that the flu shot it is about 50-60% effective for the most common strains of the flu virus but not for all. Which means your basic flu shot cannot protect you from every single sub type or strain of the flu or other non-flu viruses. This data is based on the number of flu illnesses that result in a visit to the doctor’s office or urgent care provider but does not take into account the people who get the flu shot, get the flu and don’t report it or go in for a doctor’s visit. Therefore, it is hard to say exactly how many people it actually protects.
“Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses might develop less immunity than healthy children and adults after flu vaccination. Older people with weaker immune systems often have a lower protective immune response after flu vaccination compared to younger, healthier people. This can result in lower vaccine effectiveness in these people.”
“CDC conducts studies each year to determine how well the flu vaccine protects against flu illness. These estimates provide more information about how well this season’s vaccine is working. Recent studies show vaccine can reduce the risk of flu illness by about 50-60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are like the viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against.”
Source from: CDC Article: Vaccine Effectiveness- How Well Does The Flu Vaccine Work?
Some may feel that it is important for everyone to get the flu shot in order to protect those around them that may not be able to get flu shots including babies, people with chronic illness or weakened immune systems, and the elderly. However, as stated above, flu shots may still not protect you from getting the flu and spreading the virus to these at risk groups.
With that being said, perhaps a better question may be: What is the best way to protect not only myself, but also those around me from getting sick this year?
At On Target Living, we believe that the number one way to protect yourself (and therefore those around you) is by building a strong immune system that can help you fend off disease causing viruses. Did you know that the gut makes up 90% of the immune system, which is why it is important to have a healthy balance of gut bacteria?
The human body is made up of over 100 trillion cells and turns over 3 to 4 trillion cells each day. Because of this, the body has a remarkable ability to adapt and heal itself each and every day. To give you an idea of just how powerful our gut can be-- the bacteria in our gut out number our cells 10 to 1. Which means, our gut is the powerhouse for the entire body and is essential for protecting us from harmful organisms.
There is so much that happens in on our gut from digestion to serotonin production. Serotonin contributes to our mood, memory, learning, and feelings of satiety. The gut-brain connection is becoming ever more popular as research continues to expand. Current research suggests that digestive-system activity may even affect cognition (thinking skills and memory).
To learn more about the gut-brain connection visit: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-gut-brain-connection
Building a Strong & Healthy Immune System
Start with improving your gut health for a strong immune system that will keep you healthy no matter what sort of cold, flu, or germs come your way.
Here are some things that may contribute to poor gut health and stand in your way of a healthy immune system. We call these gut villains.
- Antibiotics (Including antibiotics found in animal products)
- Kills both good and bad bacteria
- When eating meat, cheese, eggs, etc. always choose organic sources
- Processed sugar (HFCS)
- GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
- GMOs are made with an antibiotic type pesticide that not only kills weeds but kills also the bacteria in the gut
- High risk crops include: corn, soybeans, canola, sugar, wheat, alfalfa
- Buy these items organic to avoid a genetically modified version
- MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
- Also know as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, spice, natural spices, natural flavoring, and fermented sugar beets
- To avoid consuming MSG--always read the ingredients
- Synthetic Colors
- Usually made from crude oil and petroleum that can kill good bacteria in the gut
- Also known as the gliadin protein which can be difficult for the gut to breakdown leading to poor gut health and digestion issues
- Gliadin made now is much different than the gliadin made in 1960 due to genetic modification to increase crop yield
- Most superfoods including fruits, vegetables, ancient grains, organic animal products, and wild game meats will naturally be gluten free (center target superfoods)
- Can cause issues with daily elimination
- Lack of sleep
- Can increase the stress hormone cortisol which can disrupt the digestive system
- Chlorine found in tap water
- Choose better water (spring, artesian, alkaline, mineral, or ionized)
Eating the right foods will help you to build a strong immune system that can help your body fight off sickness naturally and can also prevent you from ever becoming sick. Important nutrients to support a healthy immune system include A, B, C, and E vitamins along with essential minerals like potassium, zinc, and magnesium which can all improve gut health.
The superfoods found in the center target of the food target naturally contain a balance of these nutrients. They are super powerful foods, which is why they are called “superfoods.”
It’s important to use healthy food as medicine and your first line of defense.
Here are some things you can do to improve your gut health and help you build a strong immune system. We call these gut heroes.
- Live Foods (Fresh fruits and vegetables)
- Example: Apple. When you bite into an apple it turns brown because it is full of live (living) enzymes. When live enzymes are exposed to air, it causes browning, which is called enzymatic browning. These enzymes are also known as digestive enzymes. The reason we have so many digestive problems and food sensitivities is because we lack digestive enzymes from eating too many foods that come in a box or a package which contain zero digestive enzymes. The number one way to improve digestion is to eat (and chew) live foods full of natural digestive enzymes. Ask yourself if the food you are eating will rot if you let it? If so, you know it is probably a good choice.
- Ancient Grains (Teff, Amaranth, Quinoa, Millet, Wild Rice, Amaranth, Freekah, Oats)
- The reason these are called "ancient" are because they have not been altered since their origin. Therefore, they contain lots of essential vitamins, particularly B vitamins, minerals like magnesium, potassium, and iron along with fiber and antioxidants.
- Fiber (Flaxseeds, Oats, Fruits, Vegetables)
- Fermented Foods
- Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchee, Napa cabbage, Nordic Naturals Probiotics
- Exercise (Daily Movement)
- Sleep (7-8 hours/night)
- Peppermint or Licorice Tea
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Overall, the best way to protect yourself from the cold and flu this year is to eat a diet full of superfoods, heal your body with adequate sleep and rest, and incorporate some form of movement every day. Oh, and wash your hands!
REST EAT MOVE will be the most powerful defender this season! Stay healthy and happy!