Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gratitude: An Antidote to Life’s Hardships and a Magnifier of its Blessings

By Margie Warrell, Forbes

Gratitude expands our capacity to feel joy and infuses a deeper dimension into our living. It’s not something to practice only when fortune strikes – when we land the job, cure the illness, or win the client – but something to practice at all times. In fact a little gratitude can help us stay far more buoyant when the storm waves are high and we are struggling to stay afloat. Gratitude elevates our spirit; it gives us access to humor amidst our hardship, strength amidst our struggles, and hope when despair looms large.

Of course, like any worthwhile endeavor, practicing gratitude demands daily mindfulness and ongoing effort. It’s so easy to get caught up focusing on all that isn’t as you want it to be – what people do (or fail to do), what’s happening in your job, community, or family; the state of your health or the shape of your finances. It’s why so many spend the best years of their lives anxious and resentful, cursing the gap between their plans and reality!

Sure, life provides a constant stream of situations that we would never consciously choose for ourselves. But beneath that stream runs a deeper current of blessings that can easily be taken for granted. Gratitude takes nothing for granted. It shines a spotlight on all that is good, amplifying its presence, all while putting your ‘problems’ into perspective and emboldening you with the courage you need to respond to them more constructively, less resentfully; more graciously, less begrudgingly.

There are many whose bodies have been crippled with arthritis, who are facing an early death from an illness they didn’t deserve and cannot cure, who have lost children to wars and homes to disaster yet who, amidst their misfortune, have radiated a quiet gratitude and special brand of joy.  How could they be so happy when life has been so hard for them? Simple. They choose to live in gratitude. As holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once wrote, “For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.”

On the other hand, there are people who have problems that millions would pray to have – seemingly living a life of success and enjoying every luxury money can afford – yet who seem lost and forever looking for something more. The truth is that gratitude has nothing to do with good fortune. Unleashing its power in your daily life takes nothing more than recognizing that life itself is a gift, that it has an expiration date, and that every day—from the most pleasurable to the most anguished—is shaped by the mindset you bring to it. So as you read this now, take a moment to be grateful for even the littlest most ordinary things because one day you’ll look back to see they were the actually the big things.

Of course, living in a permanent state of gratitude is a tough task for anyone. As human beings, we all succumb to the temptation of comparing and complaining and focusing on what’s wrong over what’s right. Living in gratitude entails an ongoing exercise of accepting ourselves as the imperfect yet magnificent beings that we are. So instead of berating yourself for occasionally taking things (your kids, your home, your freedom, your friends) for granted, instead forgive yourself for being human, take a long deep grateful breath, and commit to radiating gratitude with, and for, those around you…whoever they are (and however maddening they sometimes can be!). After all, feeling gratitude without spreading it is like preparing a magnificent Thanksgiving feast without sharing it.

Gratitude is an antidote to life’s hardships and a magnifier of its blessings. We must practice it not just at Thanksgiving, or just when life is easy. We must practice it always.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Exploring the Efficacy of and the Rationale Behind the Flu Shot

Each year, the demand seemingly gets stronger.  “An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others,” the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states on its website. 

Now, more than ever before, that advice is being heavily scrutinized.  First and foremost, a very pertinent question exists as to whether or not the flu shot is really the best defense against the influenza virus.  Your immune system is designed to combat foreign invaders such as viruses, and you encounter on a daily basis a plethora of things from the environmental allergens in the air that you breathe to the bacteria that may live in the food that you eat to which your immune system must respond.  Immunity is built by these interactions and its development is one of the many automatic processes that occur in your body. 

Everyone is exposed to the many different strains of the flu virus; whether or not you start to exhibit signs that it has entered your system and proliferated in its battle against your innate defense is determined by the strength of your immune system.  Viruses like influenza are not predators; they are more like scavengers.  Rather than attack people at random, you might say that the flu seeks out hosts that will allow it to thrive; if your immune system is weak, then you are a prime candidate. 

The long-established medical mindset has been that the human body is not capable enough to build immunity on its own, but considering that you are exposed to millions of potential microorganisms that can cause infection every day yet only rarely fall ill, it would be fair to say that the exception is being treated as the rule.  Logic and a basic understanding of physiology would, therefore, dictate that a strong immune system would give you the best chance to prevent the flu and not the vaccine.

Though you have no conscious control over the actions of the immune system, you still have the ability to consciously make choices that will heavily influence the strength of your system.  Your brain is directly linked to your immune system via your nerves, your spinal cord, and ultimately your brainstem.  Like the general of any defense system, the brain must be able to properly communicate with the cells that it deploys to fight your body’s battles.  How well that communication system is functioning (see Upper Cervical Care) is, therefore, very important.  The cells are replenished regularly, produced by glands that get the materials necessary to build new cells by the food that we eat, so nutritional decisions also govern your ability to create a strong and efficient immune system. 

Of the five essential categories to healthy living, normal function and nutrition are the core elements that control immunity but, stress being like a vice-grip on your body, your ability to manage stress plays a key role too.  Your basic internal reaction to stress is to prioritize the systems of the body necessary for acute, in-the-moment action; the immune system does not make that list and is weakened accordingly when high levels of stress go unmanaged.  So, if you manage your stress, your body is functioning properly, and you eat well, your system should be strong enough to fight off the vast majority of pathogens, influenza included. 

As to the pressure exerted on the public by those in favor of mass flu vaccination who champion it as our collective best chance to prevent the flu, it is reasonable to expect a strong body of evidence in support of their position.  So, does the flu shot’s efficacy establish well enough the widespread suggestion of its necessity?

In an interview with Dr. Thomas Jefferson, coordinator for the Cochrane Vaccine Field in Rome, Italy, he stated that, in a thorough review of 217 published studies on flu vaccines, he found only 5% reliable.  In other words, 95% of published flu vaccine studies were considered flawed in his professional opinion and that their conclusions should be dismissed.  In 2013, Dr. Peter Doshi of MIT and Johns Hopkins University published a devastating report in the British Medical Journal discrediting the official fear tactics about flu season.  "The vaccine may be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza seems to be overstated," he said.

If you simply evaluate the data offered by the CDC over the past 12 years, the claimed-effectiveness of the flu shot has averaged out at less than 50%, bottoming out at a low of 10% and last year professing to be only around 20%.  Even in a year when the effective-percentage has topped 50% overall, the effectiveness for the more likely to be immunocompromised elderly population has been as low as 8%.  Some studies have suggested 20% as the standard instead of the exception.

All such effectiveness studies, as pointed out above, have their issues and biases, meaning that even the ones that champion 65% effectiveness may not actually be that effective.  It is not a simple thing to study, especially when you take into account that flu vaccines do not protect you against the common strains of influenza to which you would generally be exposed today because they contain the common strains of influenza from several months to a year ago; viruses adapt, so the strains you face now are rarely the same as the ones in the vaccine.  If you do not get the flu and did not have the vaccine, the answer as to why is simple: your immune system was strong; if you do not get the flu and did have the vaccine, the answer as to why is not as simple – statistically, it most likely was because your immune system was strong in the first place rather than from getting the flu shot.

Next for your consideration is that the flu shot ingredient list includes a wide variety of things that can actually suppress the immune system’s normal response, such as known carcinogens, allergens, and neuro-toxins, to which everyone reacts differently.  It has been said that the flu is unpredictable; just as unpredictable are chemical concoctions put into the body, hence the frequency of adverse reactions not just to vaccines, but pharmaceuticals in general. 

Admitted side effects of the vaccine range from low fever and chills to swelling where the shot was injected to headaches and Migraines to extreme fatigue to joint and muscle pain; yet it has also been known to cause major digestive issues, narcolepsy, intense vertigo, paralysis, and even death.  If your exception to not getting the flu shot is getting the flu, then that is one thing; but if your exception to getting the flu shot is an adverse reaction causing paralysis or death, that is entirely another.

The supporting research is incredibly weak, the effectiveness is scientifically unverified, and it presents with considerable risks.  Far more cons than pros exist for getting the vaccine.  Meanwhile, a healthy lifestyle allows you to build a naturally strong immunity; and, make no mistake, the burden of proof is not on the non-vaccinated to prove that they can build immunity without a flu shot; it is on the proponents of the vaccination to prove you need a flu shot to build immunity.   

Thinking good things for you,

Dr. Chad