Vaccines: The Pros and Cons

Back in 1998, a study conducted by a British Doctor linking vaccinations to autism caused many Americans to rethink the safety and effectiveness of vaccinating themselves and their children. Seventeen years later, that skepticism is proving hard to uproot. That study has since been thoroughly discredited—yet today, a record number of parents are refusing to vaccinate their children. A recent survey conducted by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) found 17,253 sets of parents in California and 3,097 in Colorado who refused vaccinations for their children due to “philosophic reasons.” The result is that there are now schools in the wealthiest parts of Los Angeles that have a lower vaccination rate than in South Sudan. It’s no wonder that the national discussion around disease prevention is once again heating up.

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That same survey showed that the national compliance rates for the chicken pox, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and DPT (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccines range from about 93.3% to 95%. This may seem reassuring—but in order to attain “herd immunity,” vaccination rates need to be at least 95%. Herd immunity is the concept that, so long as enough people are vaccinated (and thus unable to transmit a disease person-to-person), the last 5% of people who cannot be vaccinated (due to age, medical conditions, etc.) are safe from disease as well. Unfortunately, there are twenty-six states plus the District of Columbia that don’t meet the Department of Health and Human Service’s guidelines of 95% coverage for the MMR vaccine; there are another thirty-seven states that don’t even gather proper data on vaccination rates in the first place.

This is cause for concern. Vaccines have wiped out many illnesses over the decades; but these illnesses still exist in the world and could very well reappear in America. Further, there are many people in this country whose health depends on other people getting vaccinated. Are the vaccine refuses, then, merely being foolish and selfish? Or are they justified in questioning the safety of vaccines? The remainder of this newsletter details some researched, proven pros and cons of getting vaccinated to help you decide for yourself.

CONS:

-A couple studies done in the 90s suggested that vaccines had harmful effects:

One found that children die at a rate eight times greater than normal within three days after getting a DPT vaccination. Another found that 80% of children under five who were diagnosed with whooping cough had been vaccinated for whooping cough, suggesting that the vaccine is ineffective or even infected children with the virus. However, these are just a couple studies amongst many, and you should know that the vast majority of studies on vaccines have proven them to be safe.

-Some vaccine ingredients are controversial:

Many vaccines contain ingredients like thimerosal (mercury disinfectant/preservative), aluminum, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), phenol (disinfectant, dye), and other chemicals—things we typically do not want to put into our bodies. These ingredients usually only exist in minimal quantities and have been approved by several health organization as “okay” to put in our bodies for vaccination purposes.

A small population of scientists has also recently voiced concern over the animal products used in vaccine production. These include monkey kidney cells, chicken embryos, calf blood, and more. The worry is that infected animal cells may prompt the passage of certain illnesses across species lines, putting humans in danger.

The majority of the scientific community does not consider this to be an imminent threat, but you should still be informed as to how vaccines are created and produced.

-Vaccinations are largely not “proven”:

There has been no long range testing of vaccines in a controlled environment. This means that we can’t say, without a doubt, that we know vaccines are the reason we no longer see people contracting certain diseases. So while it is extremely likely that vaccines had a lot to do with eradicating Polio, this country has also seen much advancement in hygiene and health care over the years, which may well have played a role in combating disease as well.

-Some vaccines are more established than others:

Take a newer vaccine, Gardisil, for example. Gardisil is a vaccine against HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer in women. This vaccine has generated much controversy since it was made available to the public, with several people claiming permanently damaging side effects. The vaccine also prompted twice as many reports to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System) as other new vaccines. But after conducting further studies that tracked millions of patients who had received the Gardisil shots, the CDC maintained that Gardisil was a safe vaccine. The analysis looked at side effects within forty-two days of the shot.

The Flu shot is another commonplace vaccine. It has a track record of 80% effectiveness, with occasional side effects that are extremely mild (chills, runny nose, body aches, etc.). And, contrary to popular belief, you cannot contract the flu illness from either the flu shot or the nasal spray.

I bring this up to illustrate the differences amongst vaccines. The flu vaccine is benign for the most part and combats a very common illness. Gardisil, on the other hand, hasn’t had as much time to prove itself. While it does help prevent an extremely serious disease, cervical cancer is pretty rare for the most part, and getting regular pap smears is also an effective way of preventing it.


PROS:

-Vaccines prevent illness:

The chart says it all in this case. Vaccines save lives! They prevent disease epidemics and have helped transform the country’s health. While they may have some unsavory ingredients in them or occasionally produce unpleasant side effects, contracting a disease like Tetanus or Smallpox would be much worse.

-There is A LOT of evidence supporting vaccines:

Vaccines have been shown time and again to be safe and effective. Decades of research from medical professionals and both government and non-profit organizations around the world support this conclusion. Vaccine production is also highly regulated by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and more. The process usually takes around 10-15 years of research, development, and testing before a vaccine can be approved by the FDA for public use. Those who claim that vaccines are produced with toxic ingredients or in toxic environments are certainly making an ambitious argument in the face of such stringent control by multiple respected health organizations.

-Under-vaccination can be harmful:

Without sufficient vaccination rates, we lose herd immunity and may see a resurfacing of some of the illnesses vaccines have helped wipe out. For example, in 2010 there was an outbreak of pertussis in California, which caused 9,120 illnesses and ten deaths. The outbreak was traced back to under-vaccination.

-Picture a world without vaccinations:

It looks something like West Africa today, where 1,000 people are being infected with Ebola each week. You can imagine what some of them would do for the opportunity to be vaccinated—an opportunity which, over on the other side of the globe, more and more Americans seem to be taking for granted.

 

The bottom line is that vaccinations have both pros and cons. The choice between getting vaccinated or not will ultimately be a subjective one, dependent upon factors like your personal health, the vaccine in question, etc.. ALL medical procedures—including life-saving ones—have a risk of side effects. Like every other procedure, some side effects may be worse or more/less likely for you than others. The key to avoiding complications in every situation is to be INFORMED and not make your choice based on fear, or because of one thing you read on the Internet somewhere. With this information about vaccines, you are that much closer to being an informed patient and making the choice that is right for you when it comes time for your next scheduled vaccination.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

How to Raise Healthy Families: What Parents Must Know about Immune System Barriers

Raising a child is one of the most challenging and rewarding life experiences. However, as the technological age allows us access to boundless information, making healthful decisions for our families seems to become increasingly difficult. Particularly confusing and complex are decisions about diet and lifestyle. We understand more about the biochemical effects of food to a greater degree than ever before, yet Americans are increasingly challenged by preventable chronic disease. How can we help our children, and our selves, to navigate the competing arguments about what we should eat for dinner?
 
Since 1998, there has been a 265% increase in hospitalizations related to food allergies among children under 18, according to a 2008 CDC report. With an 18% increase in food allergies between 1997 and 2007, an unbelievable 3 million children now have food allergies. Food allergies, which complicate and often compromise the digestive process, are instrumental in poor nutrient absorption, leading to health problems throughout the body. More and more studies point to our digestive system and emotional distress in the development of skin and respiratory issues, not to mention autoimmune disorders. This month’s newsletter is about the gut-brain-skin-lung axis, and how understanding the relationship between these not-so-separate parts of our body contributes to our emotional and physical well-being.
 
History of Chronic Skin Conditions and Mental Health Disorders
The connection between chronic skin conditions and mental health disorders has long been recognized. The 70-year-old gut-brain-skin unifying theory was first discussed by western medical practitioners in 1930 by the dermatologists John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury, in The effect on the skin of emotional and nervous states: theoretical and practical consideration of a gastrointestinal mechanism. The authors recommended bacterial remedies such as Bacillus acidophilus and cod liver oil. These and other bacterial substances are now referred to as probiotics.
 
History of Chronic Respiratory Conditions and Mental Health Disorders
When we are stressed our breath becomes faster and shallower. Conversely, if we breathe rapidly our level of anxiety increases. The correlation between respiration and mood is apparent in our fight-or-flight response to a stressful event. However, scientists and medical practitioners increasingly point to stress as a major contributing factor to the onset of respiratory disease. Psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe examined the medical records of over 5,000 patients as a way to determine whether stress had influenced their illnesses. Their results were published as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), or the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a scale that found a positive correlation between stressful life events and physiological ailments. More recent studies, such as those conducted by Isenberg et. al (2009) have correlated bronchial constriction and stress in cases of asthma.
 
(1) Skin-Gut, (2) Lung-Gut, (3) Brain-Gut Connection
 In 1967, psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe inspired health practitioners everywhere to consider stress as a major factor in the onset of any physiological disorder. As technology improved over the years a new generation of scientists has demonstrated the correlation between 1) skin and gastrointestinal distress and 2) the lungs, or respiratory system, and gastrointestinal distress, and 3) emotional and gastrointestinal distress. Since 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract, it is unsurprising that our bodies are affected by what we eat and absorb.
 
1) Skin and gastrointestinal distress: 
Acne. One study by Zhang et. al published in the Journal of Dermatology in 2008 involving over 13,000 adolescents showed that those with acne more often experienced gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, halitosis, and gastric reflux. In the same study, abdominal bloating was 37% more likely to be associated with acne, eczema and other skin diseases.
Psoriasis. John Pagano writes in Healing Psoriasis: The Natural Alternative (2008) that “psoriasis is the external manifestation of the body's attempt to “throw off” internal toxins. In other words...the skin is doing what the bowels and the kidneys should be doing.”
Eczema. Though there are a variety of causes, one of the main contributors to chronic eczema is an allergy to dairy. This is especially true in children.
 
2) Respiratory and gastrointestinal distress
It has been proven that food allergies cause such respiratory disorders as rhinorrhea and sneezing, nasal congestion, wheezing, coughing, stridor, dyspnea and asthma.
Asthma. Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by airway spasm and inflammation. It is often triggered by environmental factors, infections, food allergies, exercise, temperature changes and other potential irritants. Discovering and removing food allergens can ameliorate digestive issues contributing to mild to severe cases of asthma.
General congestion and symptoms of a cold. According to the University of Maryland, congestion is a result of inflammation in the sinus cavity which leads to irritated and swollen sinuses. Discovering and removing the offending food can clear up cold-like symptoms.
Dyspnea. Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is often caused by an undiagnosed food allergy.
 
3) Emotional and gastrointestinal distress: 
Stress severely alters intestinal functionality.Studies, such as those by Wang et al in World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2005, have shown that psychological distress stalls normal intestinal transit time, spurs an overgrowth of unhealthful bacteria, and compromises the intestinal barrier.
Increased gut permeability found in those with depression.New findings by Maes, Kubera and Leunis in Neuro Endocrinology Letters (2008) correlate a leaky gut and intestinal distress with emotional disorders.
 
Why and Where Do These Gut-Brain-Skin-Lung Axis Breakdowns Occur?
We have evidence that supports the gut-brain-skin-lung axis, but why do these breakdowns in this normally healthy alliance occur? Investigations point to nutrition and lifestyle choices that are easily changed with proper analysis and diagnosis.
 
1) Unbalanced intestinal microflora. Though very few English-language health journals touch on this subject, much has been written in Europe. One Russian investigation by Volkova, Khalif and Kabanova in 2001 reported that 54% of acne patients have drastically altered intestinal microflora - they lack healthful microbes.
2) Unhealthful foods that are sugary, fried, calorie-rich and low in nutrients. Again, few studies in the United States deal with this subject matter. But many international scientists are increasingly convinced that consumption of sweet, fried, dense and nutrient- absent foods are major contributors to skin conditions.
3)Consumption of unfermented dairy products, especially processed or homogenized varieties. Many studies, such as the work by Melnik and Schmitz (2009), also find correlations between dairy from cows that were administered unnatural hormones to be particularly detrimental to our digestive tract, emotional well-being, skin organ, and respiratory system. It is interesting to note that there have been no notable studies linking fermented milk products (i.e. yogurt) with similar health issues.
4) Food allergies. Consumption of foods that trigger latent allergic reactions are responsible for a wide variety of systemic reactions including, but not limited to, eczema, psoriasis, acne, and asthma. Even autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or neurological disorders such as ADD/ADHD can be caused by consumption of an allergen.
 
Childhood: A Critical Time 
It's important to teach our children not only to eat their vegetables, but also to listen to the messages their bodies send. If they feel depressed, anxious, or have a case of eczema, acne, or asthma, their body is telling them that something is wrong. With proper dietary and lifestyle changes, physical and emotional well-being can be improved. Our children will not be children for much longer. As parents, we have the responsibility to counsel and support our children through hardships to prepare them to do it alone in the future. Give your child as many tools as possible so they more gracefully navigate their coming-of-age years and avoid chronic emotional and physical conditions.
 
The Gut-Brain-Skin-Lung Axis: Not Just for Kids
The gut-brain-skin axis applies to adults, as well. Acne, psoriasis, eczema, asthma and dyspnea are just a few examples of many possible manifestations of disruptions in our bodies or emotions. Other possible manifestations include:
 
1. Neurological disorders such as Parkinson's, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, numbness, tingly extremities.
2. Stomach bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence.
3. GI disorders including, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis & IBS
4. Tiredness, drowsiness, no energy.
5. Frequent headache or migraines.
 
Help your Child Grow into a Healthy Adult
The best way to help our families and ourselves is to undergo food allergy testing, eat natural and organic foods, and avoid environmental toxins – both emotional and physical. The ALCAT (antigen leukocyte cellular antibody test) is a simple and cost-effect food allergy test which can quickly determine which offending foods may be causing behavioral, mental and physical issues in your body. The test identifies physiological reactions to over 350 foods, chemicals and other potential inflammation triggers. This food allergy test is available at Ann Arbor Holistic Health and Digestive Health Ann Arbor.
 
Raising a child can be challenging, but it can also be an opportunity for personal growth. Take your family's health seriously and pay attention to the body's messages - your children will thank you.
 
Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation.  
 
People know that we provide professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide you towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.