Some people label us “crunchy.” A few years ago I had no idea what that term meant. I now know it refers to folks who are health-conscious, environmentally-sensitive types. It seems to have become a junk-drawer term for anything that sounds remotely hippie-ish: wearing babies in a sling, owning chickens, breastfeeding a 6-year-old in public, thinking coconut oil is the nectar of the gods, drinking black-market raw milk, thinking circumcision is heinous mutilation, using cloth diapers, following paleo or gluten-free diets, making your own toothpaste, using midwives to help with your home-birth, and eating placentas.
Like I said, it’s a junk drawer term and we don’t meet all of the descriptions of a crunchy lifestyle, but when it comes to vaccines, we tend to avoid the ones certain ones. We are “selective vaccinators.” We vaccinate ourselves and our children based on what the research says: if benefits outweigh the costs, we’re okay with it.
For this reason, we don’t get flu shots, but not because we love the flu.
I understand that medications have their place. I am thankful for science, doctors, and researchers that have made them available. I still avail myself to modern medicine. I still see a regular doctor—albeit one who is open to natural alternatives and doesn’t seem to think I’m too crazy. But when there is a good natural approach, an approach that may work as well or even better than the alternative, you better know I’m signing up for that option.
Tips for those who choose not to get the flu vaccine
That’s where I am at with the flu vaccine. The benefits of the flu shot are just not that convincing. But, you still may be interested in knowing how to protect yourself. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to boost your immune system.
1) Avoid Inflammatory Foods
It’s very, very important to decrease inflammation in your body. The best way to do this is by watching what you eat. Below are a list foods you should avoid in order to decrease inflammation:
- Sugar (even natural sugars should be limited)
- Wheat (even if you’re not ready to go completely gluten free, it would be worthwhile to cut back on wheat or switch over to using traditionally prepared real sour dough bread).
- Margarine, canola oil, all trans-fats (for a complete list of fats to avoid see this post)
- Any foods you are sensitive or allergic to.
2) Eat Foods that Decrease Inflammation
So what should you eat instead? Below are a list of foods that are anti-inflammatory:
- Grass-fed meats
- Eggs from free-range hens
- Vegetables and fruits
- Healthy fats: butter, coconut oil, palm oil (for the complete list of health fats see this post)
- Green tea—it is packed with anti-oxidants and has been shown to decrease the incidence of the flu
- You should also try this immune boosting tea!
3) Protect Your Gut
I can not stress the importance of this enough. Think about it. Every single thing you eat or drink passes through your gut. If you can’t assimilate nutrients because of poor gut health, you’ve got problems. If your gut is leaky, you’ve got problems. If your gut isn’t healthy, you’re not healthy. Simple as that.
Besides eating an anti-inflammatory diet, here are some important things you can pay attention to.
- Probiotics are essential for maintaining a healthy gut. You need to populate your gut with beneficial bacteria. I use a combination of probiotics found in foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kombucha, and kefir as well as a probiotic supplement. I’m a big fan of the BioKult probiotic, but there are other good brands on the market too. I love that it doesn’t have to be refrigerated!
- Gelatin is another essential for good gut health. You can get this either by drinking homemade bone broth and using it in your cooking or by using a good quality gelatin. I like to do both. I’m not a huge fan of drinking bone broth, but I use it in my cooking. I also use this gelatin from grass-fed cows to make homemade jello and I also use this hydrolyzed collagen (basically gelatin that doesn’t gel up) in smoothies and hot drinks.
4) Vitamin C
Vitamin C with Flavanoids is a power-house antioxidant. Supplementation with vitamin C can do great things to boost your immune system.
If I find myself beginning to get sick, I start to mega-dose with Vitamin C.
5) Optimize Vitamin D Levels
It is well documented that optimal levels of vitamin D play a huge role in your immune system function. Research has shown that vitamin D supplementation resulted in a decreased rate of influenza. In fact, researchers have found that the better your vitamin D levels are, the less likely you are to succumb to the flu and not just the flu, they’ve found this to be true for upper respiratory infections too!
The first step, is to get your lab work done. It’s best to find out where your levels currently are before just randomly supplementing. The range of “normal” on the lab tests is quite large. I try to keep our levels to the upper half of the range.
The sun in the very best source of vitamin D. Be sure you’re spending enough time outside in the sun with no sunscreen to make plenty of D! Although, Living in Michigan, especially during the dark winter months, means I need to supplement. This is my favorite Vitamin D supplement. We also supplement with fermented cod liver oil capsules for the adults and liquid fermented cod liver oil for the kiddos. It is very important, whatever vitamin D supplement that you use, that it is prepared with oil because Vitamin D is fat-soluble and requires fat in order for your body to use it.
As with Vitamin C, I use mega-doses of Vitamin D when I begin to feel under the weather.
6) Plant Based Therapies
There are a plethora of plant-based therapies that can help boost the immune system. A few of them include:
- Echinacea is a popular immune stimulant. The flowers, roots, and leaves of this plant are known to both help prevent and treat infections. Studies have found that both white blood cells and spleen cells increase when echinacea is taken and also the core body temperature increases.
- Astragalus is one if the top immune boosting and modulating herbs. It works very similarly to echinacea. It not only boosts your immune system when you’re trying to avoid getting sick, but can also help you recover more quickly after getting sick.
- You might also try incorporating elderberry syrup (or gummies)! Elderberrys have been used as a remedy for the flu and other viruses for centuries. These berries are high in antioxidants and naturally high in bioflavanoids. Bioflavaoids and other proteins in this berry help destroy the ability of the virus to infect a cell.
7) Plenty of Sleep
Last, but certainly not least is sleep. In today’s busy-paced world, sleep is undervalued…but ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I certainly am not one to undervalue sleep! Working on little sleep is almost considered a virtue. It’s not. Sleep is important. Sleep is when your body has a chance to recover. If you are sleep-deprived, your cytokines (proteins that help fight infection) and infection-fighting antibodies are reduced.