You Can Be Holistic and Advocate for Vaccines

My guiding principle is a simple one. I believe that both the wellness industry and the American medical industry stand in the way of our optimal selves.

In particular, the wellness industry tends to take a very anti-vaccine position.

Being “pro-vaccination” (though I argue that is NOT a dichotomy we should subscribe to) brings about one of my favorite “Neal Stinks” criticisms: “HoW cAn YOU SAy yOu’Re hOliStic anD prOmoTe vACCineS?”

They read the next word in my unofficial title (holistic pharmacist) and jump into the tropes. “Of COURSE a pharmacist would promote BIG PHARMA…” as they accuse me of cashing those big phat pharma checks that I guess are sent to anybody saying something positive about modern medicine.

Yes, my friends, this pharmacist IS holistic and this HOLISTIC pharmacist promotes vaccines.

I’m not simply promoting COVID vaccines as a mechanism to, you know, HELP END THIS FRIGGIN’ PANDEMIC. I’m promoting vaccines, in general, as a big part of a holistic care program.

::Audible gasps::

Today, we explore this notion that seems to fly in the face of everything “holistic” stands for. Or at least what we PERCEIVE holistic to stand for.

Redefining Holistic

I have a core belief that almost no one uses the word holistic correctly. I’m not just a complainer, so there are two more components to that belief that should be explained:

  1. It’s not our fault we’re perceiving holistic wrong; ill-meaning folks have intentionally misappropriated it to “sell you” on their mindset, have you buy their stuff, or to have you pay attention to them
  2. I deeply understand what people REALLY want when they say holistic, and I want to help them achieve their goals.

The official definition of holistic is “characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.”

A holistic mindset would be one where we make the best decisions for our situation, based on the best science, considering all factors that may contribute to disease or our health, and try to address them all.

Someone who is holistically minded would want the best, most appropriate care. If that’s cutting out cookies, jogging more, or even using a medication, then so be it. 

Holistic doesn’t mean anti-medicine. 

We’ve been trained, via decades of propaganda, that medicine is bad and “natural” options are good. The problem, as we highlight in our Middle Path of Wellness article, is that neither of those things is true. Supplements are FAR from natural, yet they still can be hugely beneficial. Yeah, Big Pharma sucks, but it doesn’t mean that a medicine isn’t necessary.

What we should strive for is the appropriate use of all “medicines”—supplements OR medications. Appropriate means the lowest effective dose of the right things at the right time. 

It’s not appropriate to take the equivalent of 4 multivitamins each day, or 40 herbs that could potentially interact, or a high dose of a sleeping drug every night when a lower dose or even some meditation could help. But we don’t worry about it because some blogger said they’re “safe.”  

Being a holistic pharmacist means that I’m a licensed medical professional with a strong clinical background, a deep understanding of medications, and how we can use science-backed lifestyle modifications and supplement strategies to treat or prevent disease. 

I want people to be the healthiest they can be while using fewer drugs AND supplements, and I want people to make healthier decisions.

Boosting Your Immune System? Of Course Vaccines!

There’s a lot of smack talking in the wellness industry. Lots of undelivered promises and false hope. Vaccines actually cash those checks the wellness industry’s mouth writes.

The biggie is the idea of “Boosting Your Immune System“.

Immune boosting is a commonly uttered phrase, yet most people who promote the concept aren’t even qualified to talk about it. If they were, they’d realize that the only way to REALLY boost your immune system is to either get exposed to new bugs and survive, or get vaccinated.

Vitamin C, zinc, standing on your head while you eat Cheerios… all of the things we “know” to do to boost our immunity isn’t doing that. These things, with few exceptions, are simply ensuring that our immune system isn’t weaker than it should be.

We think we’re upgrading our computer’s operating system by “boosting our immune system” as so many preach, but in reality, we’re just doing regular maintenance and keeping it clean.

Why do we think the strategy of healthy eating, using appropriate supplements, and being optimally healthy in general is incompatible with vaccines? Why not both?

For the people in the back: It is impossible to derive the benefit of vaccines from using supplements or healthy lifestyle choices. PERIOD.

On the other hand, when we are exposed to a pathogen (think virus or bacteria, etc) AND SURVIVE, our body’s immune system is naturally upgraded to fight it easier in the future.

Vaccines can give us the advantage of exposure to a pathogen in a controlled manner with far fewer risks. By getting exposed to a pathogen without getting sick (and dealing with the disease complications), our immune system gets upgraded and we have an easier time fighting the infection.

This means, it does all the things a boosted immune system would grant us:

  1. Getting sick less often
  2. If you get sick, making it less severe
  3. If you get infected and start to feel sick, stop it in its tracks

Check out my immune health articles linked above for a deeper understanding of the “boosting myth” and which interventions WILL help you stay healthy.

Want to Live Your Best Life? Of Course Vaccines!

Imagine working your whole life eating the healthiest diet, spending big bucks on supplements, spending hours of your day being disciplined in your approach, and then dying from a preventable disease like COVID-19.

The biggest reason for hesitancy in some of the most diligently healthy folks I know is because they feel that “pharmaceuticals” are some toxic chemicals. 

While, yes, medications can sometimes have adverse events and yes, some medicines can really wreak havoc on us if we don’t respect them (like hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin, coincidentally enough), don’t think of medicine as you think of ingesting bleach. 

In fact, don’t think of ingesting bleach at all.

It makes the most sense for ME, in particular, to be a vaccine advocate because of the role that misinformation plays in shaping people’s vaccine hesitancy or straight-up anti-vaxx mindsets.

Remember, supplement quality is a mess

A number of folks with great intentions are gobbling down products that have contaminants like heavy metals or solvents, adulterants like foreign pharmaceuticals, and generally unhealthy ingredients that your body will not “just pee out” as we all believe.

For any ingredient in a vaccine someone could experience a problem with, for every time someone is concerned with the “long term effects” of vaccines, I can point to more than one example of a regular habit most patients have that are not as healthy as they think, a supplement they take that is actually a problem or a lifestyle decision that leads to far more real long term negative effects.

Vaccine Advocacy IS Holistic

Conventional medicines, including vaccines, are not mutually exclusive from healthy lifestyle choices.

It’s time for us to redefine how we use the term holistic and actually start being holistic. That involves us calling out anyone who is standing in the way of us living our healthiest lives. We need to blaze a new path without these charlatans who only care about profit, and set a new holistic standard.

We’re taught this false dichotomy of natural vs pharmaceutical. In reality, 14 Mega Corporations own most supplement brands – and most of them ARE pharmaceutical companies. Supplements are FAR from natural… and medicines are sometimes needed.

There is no “battle” of natural vs conventional. If anything, the battle is good medicine vs bad medicine. 

Healthy lifestyle choices, smart, simple, strategic supplement use, and appropriate medicines and vaccines are good medicine. Unhealthy lifestyle choices, excessive, duplicate, or dangerous supplements, and anti-medical and anti-vaxx misinformation is bad medicine.

Just trying to keep it real…

Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth

Dr. Neal Smoller, Holistic Pharmacist

About Neal Smoller

Dr. Neal Smoller, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist: and owner of Village Apothecary, an independent pharmacy in the most famous small town in America—Woodstock, NY. He’s also the host of the popular wellness podcast, The Big Mouth Pharmacist.”

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