Alternatives to the Flu Vaccine

Healthy Habits Essential for Winter Wellness

Andrea Morgan, at Bare Essentials natural food market in Boone, where she is bombarded with questions about flu prevention and treatment at this time of year. Photo by Bernadette CahillAndrea Morgan, at Bare Essentials natural food market in Boone, where she is bombarded with questions about flu prevention and treatment at this time of year. Photo by Bernadette Cahill

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu vaccine is only 70 percent effective in preventing flu infections.

For people who are wary for whatever reason of flu shots, healthy habits that support and strengthen the immune system are essential, said Andrea Morgan of Bare Essentials.

Morgan is a wellness consultant at the natural foods and health store in Boone. Morgan brings a lifetime of knowledge to her customers, as she grew up in a natural health household.

The flu vaccine is supposed to prevent you getting the flu, but the Centers for Disease Control report that the seasonal flu vaccine is only about 70 percent effective in preventing flu infections, said Morgan.

“Folks who have hesitation [about taking a flu shot should] take that into consideration,” she said. “It may help prevent a flu infection, but it is not a guarantee.

“My husband was in the military service for four years,” she added, “and each year they required him to have the flu vaccine, and each year [he] had the flu but I never did.”

Morgan has worked at Bare Essentials since 2005 and in the natural health industry since 1993. The store is “a retail environment where people come in for answers to questions about their diet, lifestyle or their supplement regimen as they hunt the right resources to bridge the gap [between what they know and] information that’s not readily available in the doctor’s office or the popular media,” she said.

She always gets many questions in the fall.

“[Parents] see a surge in respiratory infections [of their children], so [they] try to take a proactive approach…and also folks who are older or maybe have a compromised immune system…they are certainly thinking ahead and trying to be more proactive,” she said.

The most common request is for anything to take on a daily basis to help prevent infection.

“There are a lot of potential answers to that question,” she said. “We promote healthy diet, adequate sleep, exercise, stress control, hand washing…[and] nasal rinsing.

She also referred to two “well-documented natural medicines that may be effective prevention and are known to be effective treatments for flu or respiratory infection.”

One is Black Elderberry, which is well documented for flu, specifically to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Because it’s a food, many families feel comfortable taking it throughout the winter in baking, teas or as a supplement in tablets, syrups and lozenges.

“There have been a number of studies with Black Elderberry relative to flu specifically,” Morgan said. “We feel very comfortable suggesting that especially as a preventative measure and certainly as a natural alternative treatment.”

Morgan also refers to Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy by the French company Borin whose studies have demonstrated that it can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms of flu. Such remedies have only a tiny amount of active ingredient, so there is very little potential for allergic sensitivity drug interaction or any side effects.

“They are among the safest kinds of medicine in the world,” said Morgan. “They can be quite effective if you have the right remedy.”

She said that Oscillococcinum is specifically labeled for the fever, aches, pains and chills associated with flu.

“Whether someone decides to take Black Elderberry every day during the winter or whether to take the flu vaccine, it is still important to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep and wash your hands regularly and consider all those other aspects of promoting a healthy immune function,” Morgan said.

There’s a “huge role” in getting to bed immediately at the onset of symptoms.

“Going home and getting into bed is the best way to support your immune system in dealing with the [illness],” added Morgan. “If we let our other systems rest, the immune system has the benefit of all our energy and resources for that period of time.”