Are you ready for the upcoming flu season?

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Getting a flu vaccine is best done before the flu begins spreading in the community.

A flu shot contains an agent called an antigen that elicits an immune response in your body. This antigen is incubated in fertilized hen’s eggs after they get inoculated with this year’s predicted version of the flu virus.

Your body will create its own antibodies against these strains of the virus. This is what protects you later. It takes about two weeks after your are vaccinated to create these antibodies.

Since the exact flu strains that will be going around aren’t known before hand, it is an educated guess as to which strains to be used. The success of the vaccine depends upon matching the ones that we end up getting with the ones injected into the eggs.

The CDC does recommend the flu shot for health-care workers with direct patient contact, pregnant women, caregivers of children younger than 6 months, children, and adults under 24. The ideal candidates for a flu shot are individuals that have compromised immune systems, heart disease, or diabetes.

You are also encouraged to get a vaccination, if you are 100 pounds over your ideal weight, have a BMI of 40 or more, or are experiencing obesity-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure.

You will need a flu vaccine every year. Not only do the viruses change each season, your body’s ability to fight the flu off after a vaccine can weaken over time.

There are different types of the flu vaccine, including multi-dose shots, nasal sprays, and some options that have shorter needles or jet injectors. They are not all the same in terms of effectiveness. There is one that is specifically made for high risk adults over 65 that contains four times the amount of antigen of the regular flu shot.

If you are pregnant, one shot can protect you and your newborn infant. Some physicians will advise pregnant women and infants to opt for a single dose mercury-free vaccines which comes in a pre-filled syringe.

Other individuals simply choose not to get the flu shot at all out of a concern for the use of a preservative called thimerosal. Thimerosal contains mercury. If you have a severe egg allergy, a flu shot may need to be administered with adequate monitoring.

There are many potential benefits to getting the flu shot, beside not loosing sick days at work. These typically far outweigh the risks, which are rare but can include an allergic reaction, neurological disorder, or Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Getting a shot can help you prevent spreading the flu, even if you don’t have symptoms. Some studies are showing it might spare you getting a heart attack or stroke. Inflammation that results from having the flu may cause plaque to dislodge and form a blood clot.

If you are generally healthy and want to avoid the flu vaccine, you could focus on boosting your immune system. Improving the quality of your lifestyle will help, including more pleasure, relaxation, eating fresh and nutrient-dense foods, and staying well hydrated. Limit sugar and processed foods.

Getting sick in the first place can often be avoided by taking care of the way we eat, keeping in good shape, sleeping well every night and taking a few nutritional supplements.

During the flu season, I like to lay out a solid foundation for myself every day. This starts with Vitamin D with K, a good multivitamin with at least three to four capsules, 2-4 grams of high quality fish oil, and some potent probiotics.

When I need more support, I will add in additional Vitamin A and D for a few days, and substantially increase the probiotics and Vitamin C. I will also add in zinc.

I do like some anti-viral herbs like olive leaf, Echinacea, astragalus. These are proving to be effective in many studies.

You may also want to consider the beta glucans in bakers yeast and the prebiotic Larch Arabinogalactan as immune system supporters.

I can’t end without mentioning mushrooms, such as maitake, shitake, and reishi. These have been highly effective for me when battling an infection. If you’d like to hear more, stop on by.

Scott Porter, a functional medicine pharmacist, is the director of the Center for Functional Nutrition at Sandpoint Super Drug.

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