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.

The Power of Vitamin C, Taking the Correct Dose.

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Cold and flu season is upon us, and that combined with the business of everyday life can make it much more challenging than usual to stay healthy. I’m sure many of you are wondering what you can do to avoid getting a cold or the flu (or get better!) in the new year without having to slow down. One recommendation I have is to find a way to include more Vitamin C in your diet. While it has the reputation of being mainly a pirate’s cure for scurvy, Vitamin C can have a constellation of positive effects on a person’s health, helping to overcome illnesses like bronchitis, gum disease, influenza, stomach ulcers, bladder infections, to name only a few. It’s all a matter of taking it at the right time, in the right form, and in the right amount, all of which I will explain in this newsletter.

If you’re skeptical of the power of Vitamin C, you should know that its effect on the body has been thoroughly tested and understood by researchers and scientists. In a normal, healthy person, the vitamin acts as an antioxidant and helps generate the synthesis of collagen, which helps strengthen blood vessels and body muscles. Because of these regenerative properties, Vitamin C has been tested as a healing agent against many viruses. Scientists have found it to have significant therapeutic power in the face of even devastating diseases like AIDS and Polio. Today, Vitamin C is believed to play a valuable role in a person’s general health, doing everything from treating a common cold (and other viruses), boosting the immune system, and lowering hypertension, to curing cataracts, treating cancer, combating stroke, maintaining skin elasticity, and even controlling the symptoms of asthma. Vitamin C has also been found to speed up wound healing by facilitating the growth of connective tissues. The vitamin can even affect the mood of a person by assisting with the production of neurotransmitters—key for proper brain function!

Given all this scientific evidence, we can see how important it is to include Vitamin C in our diets—and there are a few different ways to do this. Vitamin C supplements come in tablets, capsules, powder, and food. Going with regular, low-cost, ascorbic-acid is my recommendation. I know there are several mineral ascorbates on the market, touting better absorbance; however, these forms of the vitamin only carry about half the antioxidant content of regular ascorbic-acid, and therefore are only about half as effective—so skip the minerals. Additionally, when you’re ingesting Vitamin in large amounts, you’ll want to stay away from most tablets and go for a capsule instead. Tablets often contain a lot of fillers, things you don’t want in high amounts. Be sure to check the ingredients of any supplement you buy; you want as few chemicals/fillers in it as possible. You’ll also want to look into liposomal Vitamin C if you plan on taking ascorbic acid in large amounts. Liposomes help the body absorb Vitamin C, so it’s a good idea to alternate between doses of regular Vitamin C and liposomal Vitamin C to get the best results out of your supplements.

Finally, The most cost effective way to take ascorbic acid is to just buy it in powder form and dissolve it in water. This approach is fine, but be sure to measure carefully and drink the water through a straw (to protect tooth enamel). Of course, you can also modify your diet a bit to include more Vitamin C rich food if supplements aren’t your thing. See the chart below for some great examples of foods by Vitamin C content:

 Do know that, whichever form of Vitamin C you choose, you’ll need to ingest it in rather large amounts in order to experience any of its therapeutic properties. Most people don’t take nearly enough Vitamin C to really be effective. If you’re currently healthy, I would suggest taking about 500-1,000mg of Vitamin C a day as a preventative measure. But if you are actively trying to fight off a cold or the flu, you need at least 8-10g (8,000-10,000mg) of vitamin C a day. My suggestion is to take 2,000mg every hour, alternating between regular ascorbic acid and liposomal Vitamin C, in order to have a chance at beating a cold or the flu.

Perhaps even more important than the amount of Vitamin C you take is the timing at which you take it. Scientists, doctors, and nutritionists alike will tell you that all the benefits of the vitamin are entirely contingent upon how you take it and when, so lets go over a few basic rules for taking Vitamin C.

The first rule to remember is to pay careful attention to the timing of when you take each dose. I cannot stress this point enough. The thing about Vitamin C is that it helps with illnesses because, when taken in large doses, not of all it can be absorbed in the blood; some stays in the gut, and can then be pulled in by the body to fight a virus. In order to achieve these sort of vitamin C reserves in the gut, you’ll want to take medium-sized doses of Vitamin C often as opposed to one large dose once a day, in order to keep a steady flow of it in the body. Remember, Two doses of 3 grams, taken twelve hours apart, are better than 6 grams taken all at once. 

The second rule is to start small. Vitamin C intake is going to be limited by your bowel tolerance, so start at about 500-1000mg and see how it affects your stomach. If you’ve exceeded bowel tolerance, you may experience gas or loose stools. At the first sign of these side effects, simply scale back your dosage a bit and let your stomach acclimate before taking more Vitamin C. However, so long as your bowel is tolerant, don’t be afraid to take it in what may seem like excessive amounts. With Vitamin C, there is a “threshold” that needs to be reached, above which the vitamin can have dramatic effects. You’ll need to take Vitamin C in very large amounts in order to reach this threshold; if the threshold isn’t reached, the Vitamin really doesn’t have much an effect at all. Again, 10,000mg is needed to fight off a cold or flu, but for more serious diseases, like Cancer for example, 60,000mg-100,000mg of Vitamin C a day is needed. This large of an amount can only be taken through IV therapy. 

Lastly, to ensure that large doses of Vitamin C have a positive impact on your health, you’ll want to create optimal conditions in your body so that it can use the vitamin effectively. I advise you cut back on carbs/sugar and smoking, both of which mute the vitamin’s effects. Further, if you’re worried about kidney stones (which are truthfully a very small risk of taking large amounts of Vitamin C), you can add magnesium citrate to your supplement regimen. If you have kidney-disease, iron overload disease, or glucose-6-phosphatase deficiency, however, you shouldn’t take Vitamin C in high doses at all.

I hope you will all consider adding more Vitamin C into your health care regime, either as a complement to existing flu/cold medications or even as a non-drug alternative—you really can never be too safe at this time of year.

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.

Winter's Controversy: Flu Season and Vaccinations

It’s that time again. Flu season is upon us, and everywhere we turn we are reminded to get our flu shot.
It couldn’t be easier: You can get an influenza vaccine at your favorite neighborhood pharmacy, right along with your toothpaste and shampoo, or at a makeshift stand at the grocery store. At more and more businesses, employees can get one just down the hall from their desks.
 
Rising Flu Shot Use: 2010-2011
-        50% of American children received flu shots
-        41% of all American adults received flu shots
 
Are Flu Shots Effective?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the annual flu vaccine,” says Joseph Bresee, MD, chief of the Epidemiology Prevention Branch at the CDC’s Influenza Division. Not all experts agree with this advice, though. An increasing number of researchers, academics and doctors are questioning the scientific basis. Some point out that the influenza virus isn’t the cause of most flu-like illness. Others argue that flu shots don’t work well for the most vulnerable among us, including the elderly, because their immune systems are too weak to respond. The most vocal critics even point to studies showing the influenza vaccine is no better than a placebo.
 
Influenza Strains Mutating Constantly
The problem with flu epidemics in the past and present is that there are always several variations of influenza strains circulating the globe, says medical historian George Dehner, PhD, author of Influenza: A Century of Science and Public Health Response (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012). The variants of those strains mutate constantly, and it is difficult for vaccines to keep the pace. With the advent of new DNA sequencing technologies, scientists have become faster at isolating influenza strains and updating vaccines. But it is still an inherently inexact science, unable to keep up with morphing viruses.
 
Fewer Cases of Influenza that We Think
Only 7% of those with flu symptoms actually have influenza, suggests epidemiologist Tom Jefferson, MD, author for the independent Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group. Jefferson believes flu cases are confused with flu-like illness. Jefferson's studies show that, on average, only about 7 percent of those with influenza-like illness actually have influenza.
 
No Official Body Count
How can we prove people die of the flu? Peter Doshi, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in comparative effectiveness research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, says “there is no actual body count here, as we have with death by car accident or cancer.” The CDC put the death toll at 36,000 in 2003, though it has recently backed off the claim. The numbers are broad estimates, “but since there is no guarantee that what they call influenza is actually influenza,” says Doshi, the whole model is unreliable.
 
Money in Manufacturers Pockets
Many scientists point out that advisers on government vaccine committees vested with product approval have suspect ties to the manufacturers. With many of pharma’s most profitable drugs coming off patent in recent years, new vaccines, including influenza vaccines, have taken on an added luster. Experts predict that the seasonal influenza-vaccine market will grow to a $4 billion a year industry by 2015. Despite this, medical practitioners believe that concern for the public’s well-being is what motivates most health officials. Likely the truth is somewhere in the middle.
 
Toxins and Food Allergies in Flu Shots
Many influenza vaccinations contain toxins such as thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury that was removed from most (but not all) children’s vaccines more than a decade ago. The flu vaccine is also prepared in hen eggs — so if you are allergic to eggs, you could have a reaction.
 
Toxins in Flu Shots?: Ask your Doctor
Here are some of the potentially harmful toxins still found in various influenza vaccines:
·      Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative removed from other vaccines used in children in 2001.
·      Polysorbate 80 is linked to infertility.
·      Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by the Department of Health and Human Services.
·      Octoxinol-10 is commonly used as a vaginal spermicide.
 
How are the Vaccines Produced?
Pharmaceutical companies manufacture many varieties of influenza vaccine, and formulations change from year to year, along with the targeted strains. To make the vaccine, about six months prior to the next influenza season, scientists identify the strains they believe will be circulating most widely in the next year and inject them into fertilized hen eggs. After the virus multiplies in the eggs, it is harvested, and then weakened for use in live viruses, or inactivated with a chemical such as formaldehyde for injectable killed-virus vaccines.
 
Finally, the product is purified to elicit an immune response without making the patient sick, and shipped to medical centers and other facilities where patients can receive the vaccine. Killed-virus vaccines are delivered via an injection, which may come from multidose vials — which often contain thimerosal, a toxic preservative — or in single-dose syringes that have far less thimerosal, or none at all. Other times, patients (particularly the very young) inhale live-but-weakened versions of influenza organisms in the form of a mist. These do not contain thimerosal.
 
An Informed Choice
There are certainly plenty of experts who still endorse the influenza vaccine. One is immunologist Mary Ruebush, PhD, best known for her book, Why Dirt Is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends (Kaplan Publishing, 2009). “Getting the flu vaccine is like taking your immune system to the gym,” Ruebush says. “Your immune system is activated when it responds to the vaccine, keeping it primed for response when the actual virus hits.”
 
Still, even in healthy populations, vaccines typically protect against just three or four strains, not the multiple strains that are constantly mutating in the wild. So, even if a vaccine boosts immunity, it can never protect against the full range of a constantly shifting illness.
 
After weighing the benefits of this marginal level of coverage, you might well decide to skip this year’s trip to the clinic. Then again, you may decide something is better than nothing, and elect to follow the advice of mainstream medicine and the CDC. This debate will likely rage for years. So for now, each of us is left to make up our own mind about whether to get that shot or not. If you decide against it, here are some easy steps to keeping you and your family healthy.
 
Simple Ways to Prevent the Flu
·      Avoid close contact with sick people whenever possible.
·      Stay home when ill. Urge your friends, family and coworkers to do the same.
·      Wash your hands frequently to protect yourself and others from germs.
·      Cover your cough. 
·      Keep your hands away from your face. Germs routinely spread when a person touches something contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
·      Stick to a nutrient-dense, toxin-free diet, and avoid foods that tend to weaken the immune system, such as sugar, refined grains, industrial vegetable oils, and processed and refined foods.
·      Sleep and avoid chronic stress. Constant anxiety at work or in your relationships suppresses the immune system, opening the door to flu.
·      Sunshine and supplemental vitamin D. High levels of vitamin D have long been linked to lower rates of flu.
·      20 minutes of exercise a day to prime the immune system.
·      Avoid antibiotics and antibacterial cleansers and sanitizers whenever you can. They can weaken your natural defenses and entice your “immunity muscles” to atrophy. By steering clear of chemical antibacterial agents as much as practical, you’ll encourage your body’s immune system to get smarter and harder-working overtime. As a result, it will stand a better chance of effectively vanquishing infections and diseases of all kinds, including influenza.
 
Helping your family stay healthy can be complicated. Fortunately, there are many other ways besides flu shots which can strengthen the body’s immune system. Supporting our digestive system is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to stay flu-free during the winter season.
 
Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation.

At Digestive Health Ann Arbor 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.

Fibromyalgia: 3 Things You Must Know

Susan feels exhausted all the time. She experiences musculoskeletal pain, non-restorative sleep, stiffness, and multiple tender points throughout her entire body. A woman who loves swimming and playing with her children, Susan struggles to get out of bed every morning. A doctor's visit reveals nothing out of the ordinary. She is prescribed a pain reliever for comfort and instructed to return in a few weeks. Susan returns to her doctor after those few weeks pass, feeling the same. The medication is almost out, so the doctor prescribes something stronger- antibiotics. The doctor hopes that Susan has something like a virus or the flu. Susan visits other doctors who prescribe anti-depressants such as Prozac, which give her insomnia. Some doctors give her stronger pain medications like Ultram and Celebrex, which leave her head cloudy. Months pass and Susan is still in pain. What is causing her undiagnosed pain?

1. Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is one of the most common rheumatic conditions. The pain tends to occur in the ligaments, tendons and muscles of the body. Pain often radiates from places on the body where the sufferer is touched. Imagine feeling pain at the touch of a loved one! Other symptoms are unrestful sleep and general stiffness.

2. Food Allergies, Trauma and Fibromyalgia

Food allergies and food intolerances are often implicated in cases of fibromyalgia either as direct causes or factors that “turn up” the pain volume. Other factors include physical, mental or emotional traumas. If you are experiencing the above symptoms, the best course of action is an ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) panel and blood test.

3. Susan Improves her Health- And So Can You!

After reading about the correlation between food allergies and fibromyalgia, Susan completes the ELISA food allergy panel and blood test. She discovers extreme food allergies to gluten, and also speaks to her new health practitioner about the untimely death of her father in a car accident. Susan removes gluten from her diet, and begins regular visits with a grief counselor. In a matter of weeks, Susan's pain disappears. She is back to swimming daily and can finally enjoy her children's hugs again.