Alternatives to traditional medical approaches, like vaccinations, for the prevention and treatment of the flu are available to Rim Country consumers.
"As a doctor of alternative medicine, we always take the minority viewpoint here, in that we don't agree with mainstream medicine on virtually anything," Dr. Garry F. Gordon said.
Gordon holds an M.D. in California, a D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) in Nevada, and in Arizona, he is a homeopathic M.D.
"That means integrative homeopathy and complementary medicine," he said.
He owns the Gordon Research Institute, and locally operates the supplement company Longevity Plus.
"The benefit/risk ratio is what we always have to look at (with any vaccination) ... If I am the government and I've got 10 million people out there and I'm going to look at numbers, I'm going to say there is somewhat of a benefit and I'm going to bury the risk or I'm not going to admit the risk at all," Gordon said.
The U.S. established a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in 1986. According to an Oct. 27, 2005 article by the International Medical Veritas Association, the program had settled $1.2 billion in claims through 2004.
Gordon said there is documentation that things like vitamin C and magnesium really work, citing an Oct. 26, 2005 article by the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service.
"Is there somebody that's getting a benefit from a flu shot? The way I put it is this, there's a large number of people who are really going to continue to live at McDonald's, live on Coca-Cola and when they get sick they are going to see a doctor and they want a prescription. For that group of people, it probably isn't a bad deal, because they're not ever going to be able to accept the idea that they have to take their own money and go and buy their own bottle of vitamin C, or buy their own bottle of garlic, or learn more about vitamin A, or the simple things that I have done for 20 to 30 years that have allowed me to treat even pneumonia without having to prescribe an antibiotic because I know my business."
He said vitamin C will work better with a huge dose of garlic, particularly liquid garlic, and a huge dose of vitamin A for a few days. Then take the immune support products, like echinacea, Gordon said.
He said C is a vitamin that needs to be taken in continual doses, because it only stays in the blood stream for four to six hours.
When a person is exposed to an illness at school, for instance, and the virus is in the body, they can tolerate a higher dose of vitamin C because the body is using it to fight the virus.
Irritable bowels can be an unpleasant side effect to high doses of vitamin C, he cautioned.
Gordon recommends reducing the amount, rather than stopping, or taking "Beyond C," a product he has modified to go into the cell rapidly, and which reduces, if not eliminates, irritable bowel side effects.
Garlic is an herb in which there is no contraindication to use, said Gordon. "But your mate might tell you that you stink," he added and laughed.
There is a difference between liquid garlic and eating organic garlic.
"The liquid garlic that is available in health food stores has gone through a natural aging process to get rid of the toxic factor that is in excessive levels of raw garlic. You can cook garlic and get rid of most of that. If you cook it, you can handle quite a bit. But there is a factor in it that will cause nausea and vomiting when you go to high levels, but it doesn't have that when they age it naturally like they do wine."
Gordon defends vitamin A against the cautions issued by traditional medical research.
"People have been brainwashed about how dangerous vitamin A is," Gordon said. "They've been told, ‘It will stop your children's bone growth.' They'd have to take it for months."
Vitamin A gives a body the ability to handle acute infections.
He estimated that 90 percent of livers today have no stores of vitamin A.
"I like to have patients take a large dose, 50-100 thousand milligrams, for three or four days," he said.
"If vitamin A has a side effect, it will increase intracranial pressure, and one out of 10 will have a little headache, which is no big deal compared to being sick for the next five days (or more) and unable to go back to work."
For himself, to prevent illness, Gordon takes low doses of immune system supportive vitamins and herbs, and then ups the dose when he is around someone who is visibly ill.
Preventing colds, flu easier than treatment
Prevention is best, agreed Sharon Bowers, owner of The Herb Stop.
She recommends herbal immune system builders astragalus root and eleuthero root (Siberian ginseng) for prevention of colds and flu. But she cautioned, astragalus is not meant to be taken when you are already sick because even though it makes the body produce T-cells, it makes it work hard to do it.
"If I give my children daily doses of these the last six to eight weeks before school starts, they don't even come home with a sniffle," Bowers said.
Immune boost tea with red clover, chamomile and almonds is another helpful product.
When a person first feels ill, she recommends liquid angustifolia (Echinacea). The liquid form is of higher quality than capsules and enters the bloodstream faster. Bowers also has a list for contraindications by specific herbs in her store.
The shelf life of herbs, vitamins and other supplements varies, said Cali Cole, owner of Back to Basics. Some are good for up to five years when properly stored, and storage is generally in a cool, dry place. But some need to be refrigerated, Cole said. She recommends simply asking when you purchase.
Exercise reduces stress, according to personal trainer Nina Ray of Payson Athletic Club.
"A stressed body is more susceptible to colds and flu," Ray said. "I know a lot of people who work out at the gym and don't get sick. I really think it is due in part to exercise."
But she cautions, "When you are in a gym environment, you have to make sure that you wash your hands after using the equipment because (germs) are easy to catch."