Each flu season the dog-and-pony show starts. But this year, health departments countrywide are reporting two very interesting facts: Cases of influenza are lower than usual and fewer people are getting flu shots. Is that coincidence? Each year the Center for Disease Control falsely claims that 36,000 persons die annually in the United States from influenza. In fact, the actual number is in the hundreds, not thousands. CDC’s own data shows that only 257 people died of flu in 2001; only 753 in 2002; 1600 in 2003, viewable at heartlandhealing.com/flu. Fear sells So why does the CDC use the 36,000-a-year claim? It’s my opinion that number is bandied about for one purpose: selling flu shots. The strategy was outlined at a medical conference in 2004, the National Influenza Vaccine Summit, co-sponsored by CDC and the American Medical Association. Glen Nowak, shill for the CDC’s National Immunization Program, describes how to use the media to boost demand for the vaccine. He says increased interest in getting flu shots occurs when “medical experts and public health authorities publicly … state concern and alarm (and predict dire outcomes) — and urge influenza vaccination.” Another step entails “continued reports … that influenza is causing severe illness and/or affecting lots of people, helping foster the perception that many people are susceptible to a bad case of influenza.” Although pertinent pages have mysteriously disappeared from the CDC website, the sales scheme is laid out clearly in a British Medical Journal article viewable at http://bit.ly/i54rTY Flu shot and influenza statistics aside, the fact is that with or without vaccines people do get the flu. There are many natural ways to avoid it. Get plenty of sleep and de-stress As fellow ’70s studio rat Joe Walsh used to say to me, “Burn the candle at both ends, you get twice the light in half the time.” You also burn out your immune system. An immune system functions poorly without rest or when it’s stressed. Experts say sleep is a vital part of natural protection against the flu. Find sleep tips at heartlandhealing.com/sleep Stress weakens the immune system, too. If you haven’t already learned a stress reduction technique such as meditation or self-hypnosis, at least learn to pause several times during the day and do a mini-relaxation. Just close your eyes and breathe slowly and comfortably for 5-10 breaths. Consciously let your muscles relax, especially shoulders, abdomen and butt muscles. The core groups hold much more stress than skeletal muscles. Don’t try to convince yourself that you can’t afford the time. Foods and herbs against flu Licensed Medical Nutrition Therapist Nicholas Schnell recommends whole foods that support the immune system, describing them in the vernacular of traditional Chinese medicine. “I recommend lots of Spleen and Lung Chi tonifying foods, such as squash, yams, sweet potatoes, local raised duck and some local chicken,” he says. “One amazing herbal formula is called Yu Ping Wan, or Jade Screen. It is a basic TCM formula that has been researched to be effective at preventing bacterial and viral infections by strengthening host immunity. It combines Huang Chi (Astragalus root), Bai Zhi (Actrylodes root) and Fang Feng (Siler root). From a TCM perspective this formula tonifies Lung and Spleen Chi, which creates a ‘Jade Screen’ around you. “The [imagery of a] jade screen refers to when your chi is strong, no pathogenic influence can affect you, as if you were surrounded by a screen of jade. From a western perspective, this formula tonifies the deep immune system, strengthens weak immunity, increases white blood cell production and modulates many branches of the nonspecific immune system. You basically become more resistant to all infections, instead of just the five or six bugs they vaccinate with. It is a great formula for children and the elderly both. This formula also has a lot of anti-allergy effects. In today’s modern world, this has applications for people that work inside with indoor allergies, sick building syndrome and working in excessive indoor cooling/heating environments.” Jade Screen is one of my personal favorites as an herbal supplement. Garlic is a well-known flu fighter. Include it in winter recipes for warmth and stimulation. A powerful element in garlic is best used when raw so pesto is a great way to enjoy this member of the onion family. Several compounds contained in garlic are beneficial. It’s a known antibiotic and stimulates immune system “killer” cells to attack viruses. Vitamins and herbs Echinacea is the herbal name of the native coneflower. Echinacea root has become popular as a potent immune system booster. It can be found in dried powder form (capsules,) tablets or tincture. My own favorite brand is from the Woodbine, Iowa-based company, Energique. I’ve been to their laboratories and seen the care and expertise their scientific staff uses with their products. View an article about Energique, including exclusive photos of the laboratory, at heartlandhealing.com/Energique.pdf There is no substitute for vitamin C. Since Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling published Vitamin C and the Common Cold, the vitamin has earned its reputation as vital to health and a potent flu-fighter. Though the government says we need only about 100 mg daily, many practitioners recommend doses in grams — up to 10 daily. I am not a big fan of supplements in general, believing that a balanced diet of real food supplies needed nutrients. Still, humans are one of only three species on the entire planet that do not manufacture vitamin C in the body (guinea pigs and fruit bats must also consume foods high in vitamin C). Thus, we must take in adequate amounts to remain healthy. Common sense tells us there must be more than just one way (a shot) to strengthen against the flu. Nothing indicates the one method the CDC and Big Pharma try to sell us is the best. If your healthcare provider is a one-trick pony, ask another. Be well.