Should You or Shouldn’t You?
Every year when flu season rolls around I get questions concerning whether or not to get a flu shot.
As with everything Hashimoto’s related, this is a seemingly simple question wrapped in a crazy complicated not-so-fast answer.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone aged six years of age and older get a flu vaccine.
However, when you have Hashimoto’s you are not “everyone” and there are some unique challenges that need to be factored in first.
Some People with Hashimoto’s Get Wiped Out By the Flu Shot
In my experience in working with over 2,000 people with Hashimoto’s, I have found that some patients just get completed wiped out after getting the vaccine.
So, naturally, I have tried to figure out why. (‘Cause that’s how I roll.)
One person who has some great insight into this is infectious disease specialist Dr. Kent Holtorf, an MD I have a lot of respect for.
He’s a clinician and researcher and he operates outside of big pharma.
One thing he recommends is that people with mitochondrial dysfunction, chronic neurological illnesses, and fibromyalgia not get vaccinated because he has seen it “devastate” them.
I thought this was interesting because we have looked into the connection between fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s (here’s a link if you missed that post) and these 2 patient populations have a lot in common.
So I would add Hashimoto’s patients to this list.
Because people with Hashimoto’s also have mitochondrial dysfunction, many have chronic neurological issues and more importantly, they also have an overzealous immune system.
Viruses and Hashimoto’s
And while viruses have not been definitively linked to the initiation of Hashimoto’s, upwards of 80% of the patients I have treated have been exposed to Epstein Barr virus somewhere in their history.
Of course, Epstein Barr (which is in the herpes family) and influenza virus are not the same.
However, the same part of the immune system is stimulated by the the influenza virus.
And if this is the part of the immune system that is over excited, then it stands to reason that bad things may happen if we make it mad.
It’s not nice to fool mother nature.
The Influenza B Virus and Hashimoto’s
In fact, there is also strong evidence that the Influenza B virus is also involved in the formation of Hashimoto’s, in some people.
So, what does that tell us?
That tells us that, for some people, the influenza vaccine (which is the exposure of dead fragments of the influenza virus to the immune system) may result in an aggressive immune response.
Which may result in a flare up of Hashimoto’s because this is also the part of the immune system that attacks the thyroid.
And for some of those people, that flare up may be “devastating”. I have seen this happen in my patients and this is precisely what Dr. Holthorf is describing, as well.
And these effects can be severe and long lasting because they may fire up the process that led to Hashimoto’s in the first place.
Of course this is not true of everyone. Some people with Hashimoto’s can tolerate the vaccine and do just fine.
Should You Get a Flu Shot?
Like so many things with Hashimoto’s, there is no simple yes or no answer.
If you are among the group that is triggered by viruses, then you run the risk of igniting the fire that already burnt you.
Another question is, what is your risk of exposure?
If you mostly stay home or work from home and have limited contact with other people, your risk of exposure to the flu will be small.
On the other hand, if you have school aged children who love to share every germ and virus imaginable, then your risk is considerably higher.
Also, there’s the question of whether or not you have other serious health conditions, in addition to Hashimoto’s.
If you have a serious chronic illness like emphysema, diabetes or heart disease, catching the flu could have life-threatening consequences for you.
You’ll have to weigh the risks of getting the vaccine and triggering a Hashimoto’s flare up against the potentially serious complications from catching the flu.
Generally, if you’ve had a flu shot in the past and didn’t have an adverse reaction, then you’re probably ok to have another.
Another thing to be aware of is that it’s kind of a crap shoot with the flu vaccine because the manufacturers simply make an educated guess about which strain will be prevalent next year.
And they are not always right.
What Can You Do If You Can’t Get the Vaccine?
What about those of us who don’t want to play with mother nature, but also don’t want to get the flu?
Fortunately, there are some really excellent natural solutions for this.
These include herbs and essential oils that have broad spectrum anti-viral properties and can help protect against both the cold and the flu.
Chinese Medicine to The Rescue
Chinese medicine has a wide variety of broad spectrum anti-bacterial and anti-viral herbs that have been used for centuries to treat many infectious diseases.
In fact, there are whole schools of Chinese medical thought that are based on some very famous texts that taught early Chinese doctors how to treat infectious diseases.
2 of the most famous are The Shan Han Lun or On Cold Damage by Zhang Zhong Jing (thought by many to be the Hippocrates of Chinese Medicine) and Wen Bing Xue or Warm Disease Theory authored by five medical geniuses of the Qing Dynasty.
These texts were (and still are) the clinical manuals for generations of doctors who had to treat epidemics long before the advent of vaccines.
And they have saved countless lives.
Which Herbs Can You Use?
Let’s take a look at some effective herbs that you can use both to protect you from the flu and to treat it if you get it.
And I’ll also show you where you can get an excellent herbal formula that has these herbs in it.
Ban lan gen (Isatis indigtica root): Ban lan gen has broad spectrum anti-bacterial effects and has shown to be effective against influenza viruses.
Ye ju hua (Chrysanthemum indicum flower): Has both anti-viral and antibacterial properties. In one study, 501 patients were treated with good results.
Jin yin hua (Honeysuckle flowers): Very effective in treating colds and influenza. Broad spectrum antibiotic effects. In one study involving 393 children an herbal formula made with an herbal inhalant showed marked preventative effects.
Gang mei gen (Ilex asperella root): An effective herb for treating cough and lung issues.
There is an excellent herbal formula that I take whenever I travel or am around sick people and which I prescribe to my patients called Gan Mao Ling.
This formulation has all these herbs and a couple of others in it and it is available at this website: Click here to check it out!
Take 6-8 tablets prior to being around people who may be sick and 3-6 tablets 3-4 times a day if you feel like you are coming down with the flu.
Often this is preceded by a scratchy throat and congestion.
Essential Oil Inhalers:
Another way to protect yourself is to use an inhaler that has essential oils with anti-viral properties.
This is excellent for children and for traveling, as you can carry it with you and just take a quick inhale when you need it or fear that you may have had some exposure.
The influenza virus is air borne, so you can attack it where it lives.
Ravensarra is an excellent oil that is known for it’s broad spectrum anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It is also great for asthma because it is anti-spasmodic and it’s an expectorant (helps clear out phlegm).
Mentha piperita or peppermint is also an excellent oil which is anti-microbial, analgesic, anti-infectious, it has broad spectrum anti-bacterial properties, and it’s great for clearing out mucous. It’s also very beneficial for your brain.
Eucalyptus oil is a great decongestant, aids breathing by opening up your airways.
Picea mariana or black spruce is anti-spasmodic, helps clear out mucous and is broad spectrum anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. and it’s a great anti-inflammatory!
Here’s a wonderful inhaler that has all these oils in it: Click here to check it out!
It’s great as a preventative and for clearing your sinuses when you have a cold or flu. I love using these when I travel, especially on a plane where you bound to get exposed to something.
You can take this as often as you need to. It’s pretty potent, a little goes a long way!
Those are 2 excellent solutions to the flu and they are quite effective.
The key is to take them before you have been exposed or as early as possible when you feel it coming on.
Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmaclogy, John and Tina Chen, 2001
The Aromatherapy Practitioner reference Manual, Sylla Sheppard-Hanger 1994