10.07.2015

I Got a Flu Shot This Morning and You Won't Believe What Happened Next!

Working in a hospital has its perks. When it comes to flu shots, they have their sh!t down and it flows like a well oiled machine.

Today's flu shot clinic was on the first floor of my building, so when I had a lull in work this morning, I strolled down for a walk in only appointment. I had to fill out a real quick form and I was in and out of the room in probably under two minutes. It was free of charge, as all preventive medicines should be (and maybe even must be by law, under Obamacare).

And then nothing happened. I felt exactly the same after the shot as before. The nurse who gave me the shot didn't hit any nerves in my upper arm, so I didn't even feel any pain or a lingering ache.

That's the goal, I guess. Preventive medicine's result should be NOTHING. If all goes well, I won't get the flu this winter, or at least only a mild case of it. I should note at this point that notwithstanding last year's flu shot, I still got a horrible cold in the early spring. But that might not have been flu, just a bad cold and maybe allergies too.

I actually think nutritional supplements and some herbal medicines are effective in prevention. It is harder to study such things scientifically, because what do you look for? The desired result is NO CHANGE in your health, and if something doesn't change in an experiment, modern science says it has NO EFFECT. But the effect is health maintenance (no change in good health). That's why herbal and nutritional supplement manufacturers cannot make health claims about their products treating or curing diseases and conditions, but the FDA does let them say things like: "Echinacea supports immune health." If you take Echinacea and don't get a cold, was the Echinacea responsible? To test such questions you need a lot of data from a lot of people, some of whom took Echinacea and some who didn't. You also need to control for when they took it. It might only work to prevent or attenuate cold symptoms. But if you take it when you are already sick, maybe that's too late.

Anyway you get the jist.

I used to take a supplement called Rhodiola that is an adaptogen, an herbal supplement that helps decrease the negative effects of stress. I am certain it worked, giving me more energy and focus throughout the day, and I handled stress better. Maybe it was placebo effect, but so what? It worked for me. I used to describe it as feeling "more healthy than healthy," or sometimes as "working on 12% of brain cells instead of 10%." But how can science measure "more healthy than healthy." Scientific studies use metrics like blood pressure and cholesterol and blood tests to measure health. There is usually a range of measurements within which you are "normal" for that measure. So how do you measure "more normal?" You really have to come at it from a different paradigm. Maybe with Rhodiola, you could look at various psychological stress tests and see if 10 people on Rhodiola do better than 10 people not on it, after controlling for other confounding variables (for example, supplement takers in general tend to be more health conscious and might handle stress better because they eat less sugar).

As you can see, studying preventive medicine can be complicated. But there must be something to it because companies often incentivize preventive health in their employees to save money on health costs and increase productivity. One of my old health insurance companies used to rebate $100 off a community supported agriculture (CSA) share, which indicates they believe customers eating more fruits and vegetables improve their bottom line by at least $100. So that is sort of a real world metric of the health benefits of good diet, I suppose. You know a company isn't going to throw money at something if there is not a good return on investment. You don't need a scientific study to prove that.

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