December 2006

The flu and chiropractic?  You may not realize that chiropractic care could help strengthen your body’s immune system, which may help resist “bugs” such as the flu virus.  Let’s explore a little history, research, and logic to illustrate the connection between chiropractic care and the immune system.

The 1917-1918 flu pandemic.  This flu sickened about 25% of the US population, and killed 20 million to 100 million people worldwide1.  However, the majority of people exposed to the virus did not get sick and die.  Caregivers around scores of infected, dying people never became ill.  Why?  How can one person be exposed and die, and another be exposed, and not get a sniffle?  There was no “flu shot” back then (more on that later, and I’m not saying to go get a flu shot).  The answer can only lie with your immune system.  Your ability to resist a virus such as the flu comes down to the “strength” or “performance” of your own immune system.  This scenario plays itself out time and again in today’s workplaces.  When the “flu season” strikes, and “someone in the office” gets sick, then everyone in the office gets sick, right?  Wrong.  Yes, maybe many of your co-workers get ill, but not everyone.  Also note, some who get a flu shot still get sick, and some who do not get a flu shot do not get sick.  The flu shot is not necessarily the answer.  A healthier, stronger immune system is the answer.  Recommendations on how to strengthen your immune system are on page 2.

The immune system and the nervous system maintain extensive communication, and the brain modulates the immune system 2.  You should consider taking steps to improve the health of your nervous system, and chiropractic care is one way of doing this.  Although people do not usually flock to chiropractic offices in search of immune system strength (maybe they should), many chiropractic patients report improvements in their immunity, noticing changes such as not getting sick as frequently as they used to, shorter illness duration, and not getting sick when everyone is around them.

An important research article in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) in May of 2003 discussed how osteopathic manipulation (similar to chiropractic spinal adjusting) helped many during the flu pandemic of 1918.  The article states “The osteopathic medical community treated patients with influenza…, with various forms of manipulative treatment, rest, and hydration.  The results showed that patients treated by osteopathic physicians had a death rate of 0.5%, whereas medically treated patients had an average 6% death rate (up to 27% in Boston).  Patients with pneumonia under osteopathic care had a death rate of less than 10%, as opposed to 33% of medically treated cases.  It is apparent that osteopathic methods were highly effective in the epidemic.”

Dr. Michael Patterson, the author, stated, “the best defense against disease and infection remains health.  Optimal health is the result of the optimization of the function of each individual. Osteopathic care that includes intelligently applied manipulative treatment is an excellent preventative treatment.”

Four reprinted articles from 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1937 in the JAOA contained this information:

“…there is [no] question that osteopathic measures have proved their undoubted great value in preventing pneumonia as well as lessening severity of attack.”

“…practically none of [regular osteopathic] patients contracted these diseases [flu and pneumonia], who…had been having more or less regular osteopathic treatments.”

“We always considered that the osteopathic physicians treat the patient instead of the disease.”

“Reached the quite obvious conclusion that true epidemic influenza cannot be provoked in healthy persons by the causative bacillus.”  (This means healthy people won’t get sick, even when exposed.)

These last few statements are similar to the chiropractic paradigm in many chiropractic offices, including Fuller Chiropractic.  The focus of chiropractic is to improve the function of your nervous system, which in turn, may improve the function of your immune system.  Therefore, you will be better equipped to fight off bugs.  When your spine is lacking motion or is not in proper alignment from the front or from the side (called spinal subluxations), the health of your nervous system may be compromised.  Chiropractic adjustments help improve spinal alignment, by keeping your spine straighter from the front, and keeping the proper curves in the spine from the side.  Chiropractic adjustments also stimulate special nerve endings (mechanoreceptors) found in the tissues around the spine, which stimulate your nervous system to work better.  This is similar to increasing the power to a light, which makes it shine brighter.

Flu Shots

People frequently ask my opinion regarding the flu shot.  Although I am not licensed to give advice regarding the shot, I certainly can report facts and offer opinions.  In November of 2000 I wrote an article titled “Flu Vaccines: Yes or No?”  You can find a copy of this article on www.drscottfuller.com, or at my office.  In this article I described two of my patients that became violently ill and ended up in the hospital after getting a flu shot, and they vowed never to get the shot again.  Many other people have reported similar reactions, becoming sicker from the flu shot that the flu itself.

Dr. John McDougall, MD (www.drmcdougall.com) wrote an article in November of 06 regarding the flu shot.  He used to get the shot himself, but now does not.  He has “concerns about their effectiveness and safety.”  Vaccines in one year are developed around three common viruses from the previous year, so there is no guarantee that the shot you receive will protect you from the viruses that come around this season.  Flu shots contain mercury and aluminum4,5, known toxins to your nervous system.  Other research indicates flu shot benefits are overestimated6,7.  In a recent BMJ article8, Jefferson wrote, “Little comparative evidence exists on the safety of these vaccines.”  Dr. Grandori, a pediatrician in Italy, stated,9 “[this study] is a lucid and intelligent provocation that shakes the foundations of vaccination strategy against influenza.”  In my opinion, the flu shot risks outweigh the benefits for most people.

Strengthen Your Immune System

If you decide to get a flu shot, or not, there are several natural, conservative steps you can take to strengthen your immune system.

  1. Regular wellness chiropractic care, even if you are not in pain.  Chiropractic is focused on wellness and health, not just crisis/pain intervention.
  2. Take immune supporting supplements like a good quality fish oil, antioxidants (cofactors), and possibly a multivitamin, and others.  We have these products available at the office, or call us to find out which ones to buy.
  3. Regular rest, and enough rest.  Try to go to bed and arise about the same time each day.
  4. Eat a healthy diet.  Snack foods beat up your immune system, but vegetables, fruit, and whole grains strengthen your immune system (provided you do not have food sensitivities).  For most people, dairy foods irritate your immune system.  If you have frequent colds, a runny nose, and/or asthma, try eliminating dairy products.
  5. Drink enough water.  Coffee and soda do not count as fluid intake.  Reduce or eliminate coffee and soda, especially soda.
  6. Regular exercise.  You don’t need to get a gym membership (unless you want to), nor do you have to work out 2 hours a day for health.  The key is consistency.  Aim for daily exercise, depending on your physical health.  Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program, and consult a personal trainer if needed.  And find something fun, something you want to do.  Forcing yourself to exercise will probably not work long term.
  7. Do your spinal exercises I showed you every day.
  8. Massage relieves stress and stimulates your immune system.  We have two therapists, and gift certificates.
  9. Reduce your stress.  Is it worth worrying about something that has already happened, or something that is out of your control?



1  Kolata G.  Flu.  New York: Touchstone, 1999.
2  Steinman L.  Elaborate interactions between the immune and nervous systems.  Nature Immunology 26 May 2004; 5: 575-81.
3  Michael Patterson, PhD.  Osteopathic Methods and the Great Flu Pandemic of 1917-1918.  JAOA, May 2000;100, No. 5: 309-28.
4  Joachim Mutter. Side effects of mercury containing vaccines like influenza, bmj.com, 22 Nov 2006. http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/333/7574/912#149343
5  John Stone. Side effects of mercury containing vaccines like influenza, bmj.com, 23 Nov 2006. http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/333/7574/912#149814
6  Doshi P.  Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence: policy is in the lead.  BMJ. 2006 Nov 11;333(7576):1020-1.
7  Simonsen L, Reichert TA, Viboud C, Blackwelder WC, Taylor RJ, Miller MA. Impact of influenza vaccination on seasonal mortality in the US elderly population. Arch Intern Med 2005;165:265-72.
8  Tom Jefferson.  Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence.  BMJ.  2006;333:912-915 (28 October), doi:10.1136/bmj.38995.531701.80.
9  Luisella Grandori.  A provocation that makes reflection, bmj.com, 6 Dec 2006. http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/333/7574/912#149814, 6 Dec 2006