Viral Infections: A Prevention Plan by author Zoltan Rona, MD, MSc
If you’ve watched TV or read the newspaper lately, you’ve probably noticed headlines about viral infections such as the flu, West Nile virus, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). According to Health Canada statistics, influenza alone kills more than 8,000 people each year in Canada, while AIDS accounts for at least 600 deaths. Not surprisingly, people are terrified and feel they must resort to potentially toxic drugs and unproven vaccines. Fortunately, natural medicine can offer us protection against viral invaders.
Since there are as yet no acceptable cures for any viral disease, most scientists argue that the safest and most effective thing to do is increase our immune power.
What is a Virus?
A virus is simply a fragment of DNA wrapped in a protective coat called a capsid. Viruses are hundreds of times smaller than any bacteria and can only be seen by an electron microscope. Unlike bacteria, viruses are not really alive. When a virus comes in contact with a living cell, it attaches itself to the cell wall and injects its DNA into the cell. The DNA then uses materials inside the living cell to reproduce new virus particles, eventually causing the cell to die and burst. New viral particles then go on to other cells that in turn become factories for reproducing the virus. Viruses cannot survive without a host or group of host cells; they can, however, lie dormant within any host or environment until they are provided with the proper conditions for their activity (e.g., weak immune system, drugs, stress, poor diet). Hand washing is the single most important and most basic prevention against the spread of both viral and bacterial infections. Plain soap and water should be sufficient for protection. Since there are as yet no acceptable cures for any viral disease, most scientists argue that the safest and most effective thing to do is increase our immune power. People most likely to be affected by viruses and other microbes are infants, children and the elderly, and populations with immature or weakened immune systems. A weakened immune system can be caused by stress, nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, an excess of toxins in the body (e.g., heavy metals, chemicals, antibiotics, steroids and other drugs), hereditary conditions and a long list of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Eating for Immunity
Making some simple changes to the diet can boost immunity against viruses. First, eliminate immune suppressors such as sugar, refined carbohydrates (white flour and white rice products), red meats and processed foods. Eating foodslaced with chemicals or those that are deficient in vitamins and minerals (empty calorie junk foods) increases the likelihood of catching viruses of any kind. Supplementing the diet with a “green food” drink containing chlorella, wheatgrass and other superfoods helps reduce deficiency risks and provides the body with essential nutrients. Strong, healthy cells resist infections of any kind, including viruses. Unsuspected food allergies can weaken this resistance. The body’s immunosuppressive reaction to these foods can occur up to five days after consumption and are thus not always apparent to the victim. Allergic foods are often those favourite (most craved) or frequently eaten foods, usually consumed in large amounts. The most common allergenic foods are wheat, milk, yeast, eggs, citrus fruits and soy. If you suspect this may be an issue for you, medical professionals can conduct appropriate food allergy tests. Ultimately, the elimination of food allergens usually helps prevent recurrent viral infections and can make a big difference to the overall health of the immune system.
When people consider using natural remedies to strengthen their immune systems, what typically comes to mind first are antioxidant vitamins and minerals. These include, in daily doses, vitamins A (10,000 IU), C (1,000 milligrams) and E (400 IU), beta-carotene (10,000 IU), glutathione (500 mg), selenium (200 micrograms) and zinc (30 mg). Other popular choices are herbs such as echinacea (500 mg or more daily) and red panax ginseng (500 mg or more), whey protein concentrate (30 grams), probiotics (one tsp or 3,500 mg) and bovine colostrums (two to four capsules twice daily). Proven natural antiviral remedies include oil of oregano (two drops under the tongue twice daily), mild silver protein (one tsp twice daily), thymus gland extracts (500 mg daily) and medical ozone or hydrogen peroxide (intravenous, rectal insufflations or as an ozone steam bath coordinated with a medical professional). A homeopathic practitioner will be able to properly prescribe remedies such asBryonia, Calendula, Sulphur, Ferrum phos, Hepar sulph, Silica and Calcarea, all of which can also be effective immune modulating substances. There are also numerous antiviral herbal remedies. Different remedies work for different people. It’s all a matter of what suits your biochemistry best, as well as trial and error with various remedies or combinations. So before buying into the current hype and fear over viral invasions, work with a natural health-care provider to create an immune-strengthening diet and supplement program personalized just for you.
PDF Table of Common Anti-Viral Remedies
Over-Stimulating the Immune System? Not a Chance! I am often asked whether there are any dangers in stimulating the immune system for too long or excessively with herbs such as echinacea, astragalus and reishi. The answer is an unqualified no. Most herbs, vitamins and minerals tend to modulate, as opposed to stimulate, the immune system. For example, many people have
heard that echinacea should not be taken for longer than a few weeks since this would somehow be detrimental. This is an unproven myth because studies show the opposite is true. The same goes for the use of immune-stimulating herbs in autoimmune diseases, where, supposedly, the immune system is overactive.
Theoretically, one can conclude that immune-stimulating herbs would be harmful, but the exact opposite is true. Further, there is not a shred of evidence that proves that immune-stimulating herbs are a problem in cases of autoimmunity.
Dr. Zoltan Rona is the best-selling author of several books, including Return to The Joy of Health (alive Books, 1995) and Natural Alternatives to Vaccinations (alive Books, 2000).
Source: alive #251, September 2003