Dear Mark: Flu Shots

Flu ShotDear Mark,

I’m sure you know it’s gearing up toward flu season again, and the folks at work have started pushing for flu vaccination sign-ups.  I’m always a bit wary of Big Pharm and the “common knowledge” of what’s good for us (more so than ever since I first started reading MDA), so you’ll understand my hesitance in claiming my free shot. What’s your take on this issue?  Is it worth getting stuck, or am I better off left to my own healthy devices?

Thanks to Sarah for the timely question. You’re right that the ads and advice are everywhere this time of year. Some people rush to get their shots as soon as they’re released in early fall. Others swear them off. And then, I think, there’s a large group in the middle who waffle back and forth about the need for them.

Personally, I never get a flu shot, and neither does any member of my family. There are a number of reasons behind my decision. First, most years there is a poor match between the vaccine viruses and those that end up circulating in the general population. Secondly, there’s relatively little risk for healthy people. Though no one likes the flu, serious complications or death from it are rare. About 18,000 people die from the flu each year, and 75% of those people are 70 years of age or over. In many of the older people who succumb, it often comes down to overall health. The less healthy a person is at that age (because of lifestyle and ongoing/recent health conditions), the more likely he/she is to have a lack of “organ reserve,” not enough organ capacity remaining to handle basic metabolic needs plus those demands added by the flu (fever, etc).

Medical research on flu vaccine effectiveness shows very spotty results at best even among the two general population groups most heavily advised to receive the shot, the young and the old. This October a study in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine didn’t find a decrease in hospitalizations or outpatient flu-related visits in young children receiving the vaccine during either of two studied flu seasons. In the case of older adults, there is less concern about safety issues, but recent research bolsters ongoing skepticism about the flu shot’s effectiveness. A study published in last August’s issue of The Lancet showed that flu shots, after adjusting for existing health conditions, didn’t reduce the risk for the most common flu-related cause of death, pneumonia.

Though public service messages now urge everyone to get the shot, this was not the traditional message. If you’re a healthy individual who is committed to taking care of himself/herself, I don’t think the shot is necessary or will do much if any good. A naturally strong immune system will identify a common flu virus and handle it effectively on its own. Left to its own devices, it does its thing pretty well. Though the situation might be different for those with compromised immune systems or even health care providers who work with sick patients every day, the flu shot likely won’t offer me as a healthy person much benefit for the negatives it imposes with the toxic preservatives used in the shots like aluminum and thimerosal. Sure, there’s a preservative-free flu shot in existence, but it’s in extremely short supply and is only given – when available – to infants and pregnant women. (In many areas there isn’t enough to even offer these groups the shot.) Though a relatively new FluMist vaccine option is available that doesn’t contain these additives, it’s made with a live virus and has additional safety concerns that limit who’s advised to use it.

If you decide to forgo the shot, know that there’s a lot you can do to keep your own natural immune response in great fighting form. Number one: cut out the foods that compromise the immune system the most – sugar and grains. Sure, whole grains don’t send your insulin levels skyrocketing in a nanosecond like sugar, refined flour, etc. do, but they still incite a significant (albeit slower) rise in insulin. When you eat zero-grain and low carb, you see that your immune system easily handles almost everything. It’s when you eat sugar and grain (especially in conjunction with high stress from work or exhaustive exercise routines) that your immune system can’t handle simple everyday viruses.

Unless you’re a sun god, be sure you’re supplementing with vitamin D every day during the winter months. There’s more and more news every day about the essential importance of D for immune function. And forget the current RDA of 400 I.U. I’d recommend 800 I.U.s a day for healthy adults and more for pregnant/nursing women. If a health condition compromises your immune system or if you take medications that interfere with the absorption of vitamin D, you should talk to your doctor about an appropriate daily dose.

Other ideas for boosting your immune function during flu season? I’d recommend what I see as the basic tenets for healthy living: a nutrient-rich, Primal diet; regular (but not exhaustive) exercise; good sleep; wise supplementation; and some kind of stress management routine. Some people (and even certain Northern cultures) swear by practices like saunas and cold water immersion. Finally, skip the hand sanitizers and lotions, and don’t go too crazy washing your hands. When you do wash, use plain old regular instead of anti-bacterial soap. Our skin, as we’ve said in the past, isn’t just a dead outer shell. It has its own chemical balance that provides a layer of protection against infectious agents.

Finally, if you take your chances and end up with the flu, take care of yourself. I know so many people who fight the simple idea of giving their bodies a break for real rest and recovery. They medicate their symptoms with every concoction on the market, keep going with most of their usual routine, and then wonder why they end up sicker. Call in every support, use every trick in the book, but figure out a way to give your body the break it needs.

If you decide to go for the flu shot, I’d suggest that extra antioxidants prior to the shot and in the days after would help your body weather (and release) the added toxins more effectively. Also, if you’re sensitive (or outright allergic) to eggs, you should know that the vaccine (both the shot and the FluMist varieties) is cultured in eggs. The risk of a major reaction would almost assuredly outweigh your risk for the flu (or at least any serious complications from it). I’ve heard from a number of people that occasionally health care providers shrug off the allergy concern and encourage the shot regardless. In these cases, I’d suggest seeking a second opinion – and probably a new provider!

Thanks as always for your questions and comments, and keep ‘em coming!

Further Reading:

Top 10 Ways to Make it Through the Flu Season

9 Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

Natural Alternatives to OTC Painkillers

10 Things You (Likely) Don’t Know About Your Immune System

theIFlife: Make Your Own Flu Shots… or Just Stay Healthy in the First Place.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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75 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Flu Shots”

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  1. Interesting that the poster says ‘the folks at work’ have been pushing for vaccination. Companies don’t want to lose man-hours, and that is a big motivation for these silly vaccinations, which are just part of our drive towards a sanitised life, along with antibacterial chopping boards and the like. Not wanting to be ill is a bit like not wanting to undergo the stress of training. In the long run it’s good for you. In the short term it may not be pleasant. We just want everything to be pleasant all the time. Life’s not like that.

  2. I am very anti-flu shot. My company gives out free flu shots every year and I can’t help but notice how many people call in sick the day after (though people will argue that there is no correlation). I maintain that the flu shot hits your immune system and makes you feel sick even though it might not give you the flu. There is also a concern with mercury content in many flu shots. I will pass. I rarely get the flu and when I do, its nothing I can’t handle.

    The SoG

  3. Every year, someone reminds me to get a flu shot and then for some reason I feel like I’ve neglected my body for forgetting to get one again (even though I haven’t had the flu in a decade). Thanks for the post, my burden of flu shot guilt has been affectively removed.

  4. I’ve never gotten one, but my dad gets one every year because he’s in his 80’s. I had bronchitis last winter and the doctor suggested I might want to get a flu shot this year, but I didn’t. We too can get them for free at work, but I figure it isn’t going to help. I mostly get sinus infections anyway! I don’t trust what’s in them or that they will help.


  5. My aunt used to take a flu shot, the next day she felt like the flu shot gave her the flu. I told her she’d be better off without it because I’ve never in my life had one nor do i need one. She doesn’t take it anymore, i taught her to eat healthy and exercise, she’s taken my advice and she’s fine in winter. I discourage flu shots, i encourage eating right and exercise. This just makes sense!

  6. Surprisingly, many people don’t realize that the flu is also known as influenza. Mark’s comment about the importance of vitamin D to immune function–especially influenza is right on the Mark 🙂 As a follow-up to that here is a link to an article was recently published in the Virology Journal, titled “On the epidemiology of influenza” I think most readers will find this an interesting read.

  7. Umm, some of the medical advice here is iffy.

    Flu shots were not being advised for everyone before because there was a restriction on supply. There is more than enough to go around now. You’re also ignoring the public heath hazards: by getting a shot you are reducing your ability to pass on the diseases if it breaks out. This is very true if you are in contact with children.

    Yes, the flu mostly kills elderly people. But it is a very serious disease. I got it in 2001 — it took me out for at least a month, and it was really 2-3 months before I fully recovered my strength. Flu isn’t a runny nose: it is a dangerous, deadly fever and eventual body shutdown. The killer 1918 flu, by the way, mostly killed young healthy people and left the elderly alone.

    The flu is a killer, and eating right isn’t going to stop it.

    I’m personally convinced people who are very sensitive to interferon suffer badly after getting the shot — both my GF and I were sick for about a week after getting the vaccine. There is zero chance the dead flu vaccine would make you sick, but the increased interferon levels you have after getting a shot can make you feel terrible. A week of feeling bad is better than a month of feeling like death.

    1. thank you sooo much for saying this!! These people who are supposedly all health conscious, somewhat baffle me. You explain this very well indeed. A week feeling bad does not compare to feeling horrible for a month. I admit i have felt a little weird after the shot, but i would much rather have the shot than be frickin quarintined in a hospital for a year!!

    2. Flu can kill, but in the case of the 1918 flu epidemic, evidence has come to light that most of the deaths in that terrible period were due to secondary infections and among people already suffering from malnutrition or other problems.

      The public health hazard is overblown. If you believe in getting a flu shot, you should get one. If you think it will protect you, don’t worry about what the rest of us do. Either it protects you and is worth the risk, or it doesn’t, so then why would you take the risk of bad reactions? There is just no way for vaccine development and production to keep up with fast-mutating viruses like influenza. All that *really* protects you is a strong immune system. I’d rather risk being down with the flu for awhile to give my immune system a workout. Meanwhile I’m working on building it up nutritionally and through a healthful lifestyle. And if someone is sick, they should stay home and not pass it around.

      1. I don’t think you realize what the flu vaccine actually is. It doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu virus and “giving your immune system a workout”. It IS the flu virus and it preps your immune system to kill it on site instead of giving it time to multiply inside your body before realizing it is a threat. So if anything, getting the flu vaccine is increasing the strength of your body’s immune system.

        Also, the reason some people seem to get sick after the shot is, again, because the vaccine is the actual virus so the body does launch an attack on it which is going to mimic the same symptoms as a full blown case of the flu. The difference is that the duration will be much shorter.

        As far as public health goes, the more people who have the vaccine, the less likely it is for the virus to spread to the most vulnerable parts of the population. Simply hoping people will stay home when they get sick will not work. Even if everyone did stay home when they got sick, there is still a window of opportunity for the virus to be passed around when symptoms are not obvious. In addition to that, the entire household would need to stay in quarantine since the virus can hitch a ride on the hands of the healthy family members. Some people can also have the flu without realizing it because they don’t show symptoms although that is a bit rare.

        In short, getting the vaccine is like putting your immune system through training exercises while getting the full-blown flu is like sending your immune system to war (except that it is a defensive war since your body is being invaded). Training exercises strengthen, war weakens and you must recover from it. And remember that in this kind of war, you cannot gain territory and exploit those resources to grow stronger (which is the only way in which wars can make a nation stronger); you can only reclaim your own territory, your own body. If you recover from the flu (because you won’t necessarily recover), you will be stronger in the sense that your body can now recognize that strain of virus and defend against it; which is exactly the same result as getting the vaccine in the first place.

      2. The secondary infections were fatal because they were preceded by the flu. That makes flu the primary cause. If my body is beaten up by flu, I survive, am still weak and malnourished from the severity of the 1918 strain, and I get some usually minor infection that carries me off, the flu is still the guilty party.

  8. I’ve had the flu once, during my first year at university, and it was the most miserable experience of my life. And I STILL have never taken the flu shot, before or since. Even as a teen, long before I knew there was any controversy over vaccines, I didn’t get the point of some of them even though I didn’t think they were unsafe(don’t get me started on the chicken pox one! Seriously, WTF?) Just middle school/hs basic biology–fevers, sneezing, etc. are our immune systems’ way of fighting infection, so why interfere with that? Sure it sucks being sick, but unless we’re talking about small pox or polio and the like why not let our bodies deal with it?

    And thank you for mentioning the antibacterial stuff…yet another thing I just never understood. (I just have no tolerance for germ-phobes, I guess.) I’ve worked in various clinical and research labs, dealing with all kinds of pathogens, and I’ve never seen antibacterial soap in those places, just plain soap and the alcohol-based sanitizers, so why in the world would anyone need it for their homes?

  9. While i’m not a proponent of the flu shot, I do understand why some specific places encourage people to get them. For instance, at colleges/universities – most students are away from home for the first time, have no idea how to take care of themselves, and viruses/getting sick spreads like wildfire through dorms and classrooms. There is no “going home and keeping the virus contained to one space” – its all shared bathrooms, shared cafeterias, shared common rooms. That’s one instance I can see why they are encouraged.

  10. Great article mark and answers a great question. My family have been very pro the flu shot for a while now but I never succumbed to one and I have been more than OK thanks to eating Primal. I forwarded this to loads of friends and family and they seem to have loved it as well as your site, Thanks again!

  11. I work in a hospital/university, and we are also encouraged to get the flu shot. I got one this year for the first time. It did make me achy for a couple of days, but then I felt fine. And then, 3 weeks later I actually got a flu.

    I had influenza as a sophomore in high school, so I know how much it sucks. I also know why it’s pushed at hospitals & universities – the reasons mentioned above. BUT, since I rarely come into contact with patients and even more rarely with children, I think I’ll be skipping it next year.

  12. Thanks for confirming my belief that the flu shot isn’t for everyone. I’ve never had one (despite people telling me how vital they are) because I figured it would be pointless to vaccinate against a virus that mutates constantly. A strong immune system is really the key, and there’s no shot out there that can give you that. Yet another case of people looking to everything but themselves for the answer to their ills.

  13. The flu is only dangerous to people with unhealthy or low immunity. We can also see that one of the best ways to help increase resistance is to be exposed to small stressors to the body. Everyone’s immunity is different….not everyone needs a bandaid in today’s world. I’ve never ever had a flu shot and never will. If I get sick it’s because I did something to lower my own immunity (like lack of sleep or too little calories and too much exercise stress). To each his own, but just another way to help take away any personal responsibility for one’s health and wellbeing in my book (as we need the govt to take care of us even more…yeah right)… you never catch a cold, it just takes over when your immune system can’t handle it anymore.

    1. you are soo wrong..Cant even believe you said such nonsense. Sopme of you people absolute baffle the #%^%$#@ out of me.

  14. Thankfully I’ve never had the flu and I’ve never had a flu shot either. However, I trust that my improved eating habits over the past year or so will keep my immune system strong over Christmas and protect me against this disease.

  15. Mark Cooper, great follow-up article.

    Charlie, I may have to do a post soon on “herd medicine” which seems to be the hue and cry of health policy decision-makers. By that I mean the concept of mandatory innoculation of whole large healthy populations so that the very few who might otherwise get sick don’t. Measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis and flu shots come to mind. Statins for everyone is another. Don’t even get me started on HPV (Gardasil).

  16. Just another datapoint here. I got a flu shot for the first time this year. I got them free through work and figured it couldn’t hurt.

    I spent several hours that evening with a migraine, complete with halos, nausea and light sensitivity. The odd part is that I’m normally NOT susceptable to them, and can only recall getting one a few times in my life.

    Some web searching didn’t reveal this as a common side effect of flu shots, and it could be completely completely unrelated.

    It does make me wonder though, it seems like an awfully unlikely coincidence.

  17. My feeling is that we’ve grown wimpy and paranoid with “healthism,” to the point of having antibacterial wipes for everything. If you never get sick properly, your body will never be able to fight anything off. Right now everone has an aweful cold and sinus infection, including me. Of course I was given the standard antibiotic, some prednisone, and some cough syrup with codeine (just in case I cough at night). I’ve never known a sinus infection to go away on it’s own, to be truthful, so that’s why I’m taking the antibiotics. To be honest, I think the prednisone is doing more to get rid of the problem since it was mostly congestion and inflammation.

    The times I’ve had the flu it seems to clear up with some serious adequate rest and staying in bed to get over it. It’s silly to vaccinate against something with so many strains. Yes I agree that some people have compromised immune systems and that maybe the vaccine is for them. But somehow it’s turned into a “blanket cure” that people are getting every year. Isn’t there also a “pneumonia” vaccine?


  18. Chris,

    You’re not the only one who’s had a bizarre reaction to the shot. I got my first and only flu shot 11 years ago and within an hour began feeling like I’d been shot with a tranquilizer gun (Will Ferrell in Old School comes to mind). The room was spinning and rocking, and I felt like I was moving through quicksand. My boss at the time took me home. I blacked out (not fell asleep as some nurse years later tried to convince me–I *know* the difference!) for over 6 hours. I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a train.

    I was in my mid-twenties then and was beginning to develop what would later become a clear egg sensitivity. Every year since I’ve had to explain to doctors and nurses why I’m not getting my flu shot (including through 2 pregnancies!). I’m absolutely astounded by how many practitioners encourage me to get the shot even though I tell them about the mild egg allergy.

    Trust your instincts. You know what your own body went through. Sheer coincidence, as you suggest, seems rather unbelievable.

  19. The best thing, in my opinion, to avoid the flu is to avoid anybody who has it! If you have it, do others a favor, and just suffer it out without exposing them.

    1. How do you avoid somebody who’s presymptomatic but still infectious? How do you avoid the infectious, fully symptomatic person who still goes to work/school? Sneezing, coughing people disseminate millions of virus bodies per day. Avoidance is impossible.

      In the years that I resisted the flu shot, I got flu frequently. I got chronic bronchitis from the flu. The second time I got pneumonia from the flu, I quit fighting the vaccine. In the last 15 years, I’ve once had flu – the year I didn’t get the shot.

      1. Hi, SuzU

        last year anti-vaccine paleo people they scared me off flu shot. it was the 1st year i didn’t not have flu shot in the last 10 years.

        guess what? i got 2 colds/flu for almost 7 weeks back to back (right before Thanksgiving through the 1st week of January)

        so this winter i got a flu shot right away when it was offered @ the local clinic. (it has no preservative.)

        those people who suggest to just get sick for a little while you’d recover & get stronger, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

        for me, each cold/flu takes ONE f*cking MONTH to recover (cause sometimes residual minor cough & sinus congestion takes 2- 3 weeks to recover).

        i used to get 3 colds or flus year, now i’m healthier after switching diet. so i get cold or flu ONLY once or twice/year.

        (C & garlic have never done anything good for me, neither echanasea. you think a person like me who gets cold all the time all the life have not tried them?)


  20. Mark, go to third world for a bit and see what the world looks like without vaccination. It isn’t pretty. Modern medicine is arrogant and tends to assume a lot — but that is partly because of the success we have had in the last 60 years of ridding the world of a lot of horrors. Yes, it needs correction. But sometimes it gets things right.

    Flu is very different, because you can’t compare it to the third world. Yes, you’re being treated like a herd animal. But the reason is the potential consequences are so high. This is a highly infectious disease and it will spread to healthy people. You can remove yourself your the sources of infection, but if you are exposed you are likely to come down with it.

    For all the people who are suffering when you have the vaccine, that is probably an indicator you are very sensitive to interferon. When you actually get the flu, you are going to feel it even worse since a real infection is going to push those interferon levels through the roof, and you are going to feel weak and terrible for months.

    If you’re dying of the flu, it is not because you are weak. It is because your immune system has gone crazy trying to fix things. The only way to survive is go into an iron lung machine. You basically drown in your own lung fluid. Not a nice way to go.

    You’re absolutely right that the strains in the vaccine may not match up against what is disease that year. There is some science which suggests the vaccine may still provide some help,but it is pretty sketchy.

    Some extra Vitamin D and OJ is not going to stop the flu — that is basically magical thinking. You can avoid it if you avoid vectors of infection (other people) but that is not easy. Wiping you hands doesn’t really work since the vaccine is airborne. There have been few problems with the flu vaccine (except for the egg allergy) and while the side effects are painful they can be a marker for people who are very sensitive to the flu virus in any case.

  21. I’m also “anti flu shot”.
    I have been using garlic as a preventative remedy for many years.

  22. I am anti-flu shot..for all the above stated reasons… as well as because of the high amounts of neurotoxins that are also in flushots (ie. mercury)

  23. I’m anti-flu shot. Never had it, never will unless some science comes out to convince me. Most people I know get the flu shot, get the side effects and then get sick later in the season. My wife has a friend of the family who was partially paralyzed by the flu shot.

    I have not been sick in at least 7 years and more half this time I drank hard. No colds, no flu, etc. Maybe some hangovers and lack of sleep some days. Everyone of my close friends would be sick and I would share their drinks and foods. They would warn me that they were sick and I would catch it, never happened. What happened at this time was that I switched to low-carb. No sugar or grains (except special occasions) and no vegetable oils (PUFA’s), which I believe hasn’t been mentioned yet. A couple years later I also added in a vitamin regimen, including D3 and trying to get in the sun with no sunscreen.

    I got my wife to eat this way also. She used to get sick every year during tax season. Since she’s met me, she hasn’t. I think it also has to do a lot with keep the stress low.


  24. I have to get one every year (military required) and I can tell you this year for sure I am very glad I’ve gotten it. Save me a ton of hassle when a lot of people were getting the flu, I got nothing.

    I would rather see people get the vaccine and prevent something that can kill (especially those at high risk) then rely on home remedies that won’t work against a virus period. The thinking that food will stop a virus is absurd. You think that eating correctly will stop AIDS? No way. Viruses don’t work that way. You may be stopping the symptoms but you have the virus whether you like it or not. All out immunity to a virus without being vaccinated is rare.

    I agree with Charlie above 100%.

  25. Flu shots are never free….my tax dollars are padding some Pharma company stockholders pocket. If you want a flu shot fine, just make people pay for it….as why should I?

  26. Dear Mark,

    Please get started on Gardasil!

    I have daughters that are being “ordered” (pediatrician) to get the shot. Please point me in the right direction where I can get some quality information. I need to convince an ex wife that they do NOT need this stuff!
    Thank you!!!


  27. When they were about to give me my flu shot at work, I asked “what’s in it?” and the guy said “it’s egg-based”. I thought to myself, “Eggs? I eat plenty of those already, I don’t need a shot of it!!!” Hahahaha, but yeah, low and behold I got sick soon after. Way to go flu shot!

    Thanks for the article!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

  28. Influenza can be a nasty disease to acquire. As it can progress to pneumonia- especially in those people who are high risk, such as suffering already from a chronic disease. In fact, anyone who may have an immune system lacking strength is at risk, I understand.

    Influenza is caused by a RNA virus that penetrates both birds and mammals. Also,the virus can mutate to be transferred between the two.

    Symptoms of this viral infection ususally appear about 36 hours after one acquires the virus through air or body fluids, and usually, the infection last about 2 weeks.

    Unlike coryza, the flu amplifies the symptoms of the common cold, as well as the extends the duration of the illness, although both have a viral etiology, often unspecified.

    Pandemics occur when new dominant viral strains appear, and the World Health Organization predicts what particular strain may be present during the next winter season. Afterwards, the vaccination manufaturer formulates the vaccine according to these recommendations, and this process in itself takes about a half a year. The flu shot contains three viral strains in hopes that this will prevent the speculated viral strain that ususally infects others in the Winter season.

    Dan Abshear

  29. Great topic Mark!! The science showing the effectiveness of the flu shot is very weak at best & the possibility of negative side effects looms large. For example: All vaccines have components like formaldehyde, aluminum, mercury or ethylene glycol, which are called helpers. Formaldehyde is a carcinogenic embalming fluid (PDR), Aluminum is a potent neurotoxin linked to Alzheimer’s and Mercury/Thimerosal can cause permanent nerve damage and autoimmune disorders. The active part of vaccines according to the 2007 PDR: Lung cells of aborted human fetus, human blood, diphtheria cultures, kidneys of African green monkeys, infected human cells and infected animal cells from a monkey, pig, calf, canary, rabbit, chicken & guinea pig. Sound like something you want in your bloodstream??

    I’ll argue that there is no such thing as a Flu Season. There are times of the year when stress levels are higher than others which creates lowered resistance to illness. You can only get the Flu if your immune system is weakened by physical, mental or chemical stress (or a combination of all three). The Flu virus will take advantage of sickness not create it. So by adding more foreign chemicals to our bodies via the Flu Shot, are we creating higher or lower overall stress levels??

  30. I just read all of the posts and agree with everyone. That said, I always get the flu shot. The doctor assured me that it was free of the additives mentioned above. One year, I did not get the shot and was sooo sick!! I don’t miss getting it now and have not had the flu as long as I get the shot. Also, might mention that I have never had any side effects from it. All I can say is that we are all different. I am 66 years young.

  31. Hi Mark, I like what you said about Vitamin D3, however: I think most people(especially those of us who live in Northern climates(Illinois)) should be getting at least 2000iu.of it daily. I have been doing quite a bit of research on this. I also think taking a good Beta Glucan daily would be a tremendous help against getting the flu. I take NSC100 daily and I love it! Thanks, Terrilee

  32. One more thing: If you do get the flu, take North American Herb and Spice products like: Oregamax or Oregresp. They are terrific. Read some of Cass Ingram’s books for more info. Thanks

  33. I am 60 years old and to my memory, I have never even had a cold. (I will leave out my time from birth until about 4 years old, because I don’t remember). Maybe I am a little paranoid about the flu shot because I am never sick and I am now in that age group they call the elderly. I do not “wash” my hands at any sign of dirt, I get as close to sick people as I can, and if appropriate even kiss them. My immune system is either very strong because I don’t protect it, therefore it has to protect itself, or I just don’t get sick. Everyday that I have ever missed from work was a mental health day, (got tired of being there), although I had to call off with a lie and say I was sick with a cold, the flu, etc. I wasn’t. I once called off and they made me fill out a sick leave paper and give my diagnosis, and since I had not seen a doctor, I put down cancer. They asked me who told me I had cancer? I said, I did. They said we need a professional diagnosis. I said, ok, so if I said I had the flu you would not ask for a professional diagnosis, even though I know nothing about the flu or cancer? They said yes…I filed a grievance and won. Because once the employer admitted they would take my self diagnosis, the diagnosis was no longer relavent. So, no, I will not get a flu shot. Ok, a lot of crap just to say that huh? Robert

  34. As far as the “folks at work,” I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’m in the military and we were MADE to get our flu vaccinations or face penalty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Nice, right? I’ve never had an adverse reaction to the vaccination, though after reading about some of the startling ingredients in this stuff, I believe next year I’ll be standing in front of the “Old Man,” stating my position. Good post!

  35. You people are crazy. I cannot believe what i am reading here. I MAKE myself get one every year because it works. And everyone is prone to the flu, does not matter how healthy you are and all that nonsense. Shoppong carts, doors knobs, tables at restaurants,etc. I have been a bartender for around 12 years now, and it has saved me every year. Would not go without it!! I have to touch dirty glasses form the top of the glass almost every nite, and i have been the ONLY one who has NOT been sick where i work, Because of this ridicilous myth that “it gets me sick”. If i hear this one more time i am going to scream.

    1. Questioning the wisdom of flu vaccines doesn’t make one crazy. In fact lots of very educated people who have looked into the issue choose not to get flu shots. I have had one that I remember, but don’t plan to do it again. If you are happy with your choice to get shots, that’s great. What one eats does, however, have a bearing on the discussion. Having a strong immune system is irreplaceable, and nutrition is a huge determinant of that. Actually allowing your immune system to grapple with disease is in fact important to keeping it functioning. (I am not against all vaccines under all circumstances, but flu is a fast-changing virus and scientists have to guess each year which virus will predominate and make their vaccines to match they one they hope will be dominant.) Beyond nutrition and a healthful lifestyle (rest, exercise, sunlight), common sense hygiene and cleanliness also help prevent the spread of disease. Touching dirty glasses isn’t really a risk unless you then stick your fingers in your eyes, mouth or nose.

  36. This is for Terrilee. How do i eat every nite? What kind of moronic response is that? Come on. This is not you tube for christs sake!! I USUALLY put whatever i happen to be eating at the time,on a fork, or some sort of eating apparatus, and use that. Does that answer your idiot question?

  37. Augustin, I think Terrilee was inquiring about your diet, i.e. *how* you eat. Probably because this is a blog devoted to primal nutrition & health, and we take an interest things like diet’s relation to immunity, and modern medicine pushing “cures” on people that they may not need.

    Glad the flu vaccine has been working for you though. It’s too bad they don’t make a vaccine for having a bad attitude. =(

  38. If i made that comment wrong by second guessing, i do apologize. Thought she was being a wiseguy. I am not a person with a bad attitude.So…..I eat rather poorly, but i do get my exercise and walking done.I do not like veggies, or fruit, that much.But i drink alot of milk, and v8 juice, to get my proper stuff.I dont drink or smoke by the way. Very happy about that. Very. Once again, my apologies to all.

  39. Thank you for the apology, Augustin. Sorry for the snarky comment I made, I can be a little defensive about this blog as it’s one of my very favorites. No hard feelings. =)

  40. I never understood what all the hype was about the flu shot, I am 48 and the last time I can even recall having a flu was probably around 13 or 14 years old and I never get the shot. I suppose if your older or very young it may be wise. This year because they were so adement about EVERYONE getting a shot my children got it for the first time….and guess what? All three of my children caught something…I,m not sure if it was the flu or just a viral thing going around as it only lasted 3-5 days but there was vomiting, high fever, chills and a nasty dry cough and very sore throat.I am still fine, as is my husband. I also know of two other people that have children that were inocculated and they all ended up sick…so I just don,t know what to say about these shots anymore!

  41. I think the other side of this is that if everyone who is healthy gets vaccinated, they won’t get the flu and still be healthy enough despite it to walk around spreading and it and creating epidemics and giving it to people who have chronic illnesses that make the flu more severe and/or disqualify them from being able to receive the vaccine. It’s kind of a public service thing mentality, i guess. That said, I’ve never actually gotten one. Nor have I ever gotten influenza, that i know of.

  42. Dear Mark, I must put in my 2cents about Flu Shots. Last year I was convinced (by GP) because of my age, I needed a shot. One week exactly to the day I had body aches, chills & figured it was a Flu reaction. Wrong!! It was the Shingles. As far as I am concerned, I am putting the two together. Someday, they will figure it out. Flu shots, I think your advice of strengthening the immune is far superior. Thankyou Mark for everything you do & say.

  43. I probably should knock on wood as they say because of what I am about too say. I am 61 years old and I have never even had a cold, much less the flu..I have never had a flu shot, as a matter of fact…I have never had a vaccination other than that the state forced my parents too get me before I was of age..I don’t remember most of them due too the young age…I only know about 10-12 people that have gotten the current types of flu shots, and every one of them 100 percent have gotten ill withing 24 hours…on guy got ill for two weeks after getting the vaccination and then two weeks later he got the flu..hell, I don’t know, but there seems too be a correlation here someplace.

  44. For all you people you say you got the flu shot and something bad happened, here is one of the main concepts of epidemiology:

    “Association does not imply causation”.

    Just because something happened after the flu shot doesn’t mean the flu shot caused it. You don’t know if it wouldn’t happened anyway. This is why there are controlled studies.

    The other day, I had a salad for lunch and went to the gym after work. The next day I had a back strain. By your logic, the salad could have caused the sore back just because I did it before the injury.

    I’m not saying everyone should get a flu shot or that Big Pharma is God. I’m just issuing an appeal to logic over knee-jerk reactions against Conventional Wisdom

    1. Thanks, J. I spend a lot of time trying to explain the difference between statistical evidence and anecdotal evidence. I wish our schools would do a better job on this. Someone will say, “My mother smoked and we all turned out fine.” and I want to bang my head on the desk. Low-birth-weight in the babies of mothers who smoke is not 100%. However, the incidence of low-birth-weight babies is DOUBLE in women who smoke vs. women who do not smoke during pregnancy. Vis a vis flu shots: no offense, folks, but your headache or rash is meaningless when discussing the best health practices for a nation of over 300 million souls! Epidemiology isn’t about you as an individual, it’s about gathering statistical evidence on a large population.

  45. I will say it one more time, as I did last year. I took my doctors suggestion that the Flu shot was beneficial. Exactly one week to the day, I came down with the Shingles. NO ONE can definitely say, one had nothing to do with the other. Love you Mark & all the good you do. Now it is up to us to follow.

  46. I do get the flu shot most years, as I am diabetic and I know this impacts my immune system. I think a lot of anecdotal testimonies about reactions to the flu shot are just that – anecdotal. If you look at past pandemics (Google the flu pandemic of 1918) you quickly discover that a STRONG immune system can also be a danger in a flu pandemic. That is, strapping young and healthy folks often drowned in their own body’s immune response (pneumonia or bodily fluids in the lungs.) In many diaries and letters from that time, medical witnesses (nurses, army doctors) described someone young and healthy (e.g. a soldier in his early 20’s, a high school football star, a healthy young policeman) dying of pneumonia within 48 hours of flu symptoms. They drowned, basically. I am willing to do my part to prevent being a vector for the flu within the population, and to keep myself healthy enough to help others when the time comes. It’s not all about me, eh?

  47. I work as a nurse in a hospital. I have had the flu twice in the last 20 years. I have had the flu shot twice in the last twenty years. The same two years. This seems statistically improbable to be only a coincidence. I am definitely afraid to get vaccinated again but it’s being pushed upon us. Soon it will probably be mandatory. I don’t agree with this.

  48. I’ve had the flu twice in my life, once when I was about 9 years old, and the other about 2 days ago!

    It amazes me how some people here have said that 1 week of discomfort from the flu shot is better than being sick with the flu for a month!… Seriously! I’ve been in bed for 2 days with the heater on and a hot water bottle in my bed, keeping warm and healthy is the key, I’ve found that sweating in bed seems to accelerate the killing the bug!

    I’ve been in bed now for 2 days and now it’s just my throat that’s sore, the dizziness, sore head/eyes/nasal passages, and cold shivvers are all gone!

    What have I done to kill off the flu so quickly??? Every 3 hours drink 250mL of Orange juice (vitamin C), I have Vitamin B in the morning and fish oil tablets 3 times a day. Not forgetting by increasing your bodies temperature (sleeping in your bed even when you’re uncomfortably hot)!

    Tomorrow will be day 3 and I expect to be ready to go outside again! Depending on how I feel!

    By fighting the flu myself, I protect my body by building my own immunity and it’s only been a few days (not a month!). And to answer the question, no I have not had the flu shot! 🙂

  49. I’m finding this post very useful, as I am about to begin a new hospital job. I won’t even be working with physically sick patients directly, but they still have a laundry list of REQUIRED vaccinations. I don’t know what to do! I’ve read that it can be very difficult now to get out of taking them. I don’t want to jeopardize my new job, but is it more important than my health?? I imagine a simple “I decline. I’m allergic.” isn’t enough. Any suggestions about avoiding vaccinations/immunizations and the possible long term risks?

  50. As some of the commentors have already mentioned, mercury is an issue in these shots (also other unhealthy substances like formaldehyde).

    Getting 5000iu of vitamin D a day is the best way to prevent the flu

  51. I had never had the flu until one year my mom had me get the flu shot (I was 11 I think) and guess what, I got the flu! I never got another flu shot after that and I am now 17 and haven’t had the flu since then. So no flu shots for me!

  52. Hi Mark: I keep hearing dire warnings about how bad the flu will be this year, and everyone from my husband to my boss is encouraging me to “get the shot”. You’ve posted in the past about getting a flu shot–any updates??

  53. Mark,

    this a little late. but can you revisit this topic?

    cause H1N1 is really something else.
    it’s really something else — most victims are YOUNG.

    if you win, i.e., survive, you still loose cause lungs are permanently damaged.

  54. The pros and cons of vaccination are completely debatable. As a registered nurse I am an advocate for most vaccines, including the flu shot (not the h1n1 shot, gardisil, and certain others not mentioned). However the comments made by people are based on superficial knowledge about the issue. There is a big different between the type of viral load clients recieve in the flu shot compared to a live virus vaccine, such as the MMR. People who claim they have gotten the flu from the vaccine are either referring to a different illness or became sick soon before or after the shot. To the person who says you are getting a dose of the virus, thats not true. Your immune system is in a nutshell conditioning itself for a response to identifying markers on the ‘envelope’, or membrane of the deactivated virus. So the body createsimmunity without having to fight an infection. My personal experience witht he flu shot specifically: I have given at least 500 seasonal influenza injections to clients and have on rare occasions encountered mild side effects, never have I experienced severe side effects with a deactivated virus vaccine in any of my clients. I advocate for people to make their own choices when it comes to medical interventions, but they should have done their homework.

    1. i have had flu shots on & off for the last 10 years.

      otherwise i would be sick every time i get a flu or cold for ONE MONTH. & i get 2 – 3 /years. —> almost THREE MONTHS/year being sick.

      due to all the vaccine scare in the paleosphere, i stopped having flu shots, + i don’t get sick as often after changing diet + i became a bit smug in my own immune system.

      guess what, last winter i got sick TWICE BACK TO BACK

  55. sorry it was accidentaly sent.

    2 back to back flu + cold took me out for from Thanksgiving through New Year. SIX WEEKS; i had to cancell all plans for holidays. i had no holidays. (i got pretty pissed for being talked into not having a flu shot + big cold sores break out afterwards that just went on for another 2 weeks) so total of TWO MONTHs not feeling well.

    so right after i got well, i went for a flu shot @ a local clinic which used preservative free vaccines.

    i would really like to say that the paleo/primal diet solve all my health problems. it does help my health but sadly it has not help everything

    (vitamin C does not help at all, neither is echansea & it tastes nasty)

    sorry just had to rant,


  56. This year marks the first ever flu shot I’ve gotten since adulthood as I am currently on chemotherapy and am immuno-compromised.

    During the two years I ate low-carb (do I ever wish I had not fallen off THAT wagon!) “that thing going around” typically had everyone feeling miserable (but still coming to work anyway) for weeks at a time. “That thing” usually passed by me entirely, or I may have been sick for a day or two, usually far less sick than everybody else as well.

    Eating well DOES work, just that you do need to go against the Conventional Wisdom definition of “eating well”.