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How to Protect Yourself from Super Viruses, Part 2

Up to 25% of individuals who have COVID 19 do not have any symptoms. The Center for Disease Control now recommends the use of cloth face masks as even talking can spread COVID 19. Here are more simple, effective, science-validated, and affordable ways to assist the body in this warfare and protect your health from COVID 19 or any virus! (See How to Protect Yourself from Super Viruses, Part 1 for our first article on protection from super viruses.)

The Gut-Immune Connection

To build up immunity against respiratory infections, we need to understand and take advantage of the gut-immune relationship. During health, the human gut bacterial community is diverse. Each individual harbors over 100 trillion bacteria comprised of over 2000 different known species. The gut microbiome plays an essential role in the development, instruction, and priming of the immune system.  The proper balance, composition, and healthful diversity of gut bacteria is necessary for favorable immune responses and optimal health. Imbalance that favors unfriendly bacteria over friendly germs triggers strong immune and inflammatory processes that promote chronic disease. Friendly gut bacteria have the opposite effect!

Gut Health Shapes Lung Health

The gut and the lungs are connected in an intimate and bi-directional fashion. The immune system’s anti-viral responses to a respiratory infection, such as the flu, are linked to disturbances in the composition of microflora in both the gut and the lungs. Consequently, this imbalance can lower one’s threshold to a secondary bacterial infection.1 The gut bacteria can also shape the response of the immune system to lung infections.2

Keep Your Gut Healthy

Probiotics can reduce number of respiratory tract infections, RTI episodes, the number of days patients spent with RTI symptoms, and the need for antibiotics.3  Because yogurt is high in sugar (which suppresses the immune system), it is not the best source of probiotics for super virus prevention. Diets that are high in whole plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, but low in added sugar, saturated and trans fats) stimulate the proliferation of beneficial bacteria such as those that have beneficial anti-inflammatory properties.4  In this aspect, liberal amounts of raw fruits and vegetables are particularly useful in building healthy gut microflora.5 In contrast, a poor-quality or Western diet (rich in sugar, animal products, salt, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates) is linked to more disease-causing bacteria.6,7 Eating meals at regular times, exercise, and sufficient sleep help to populate the gut with disease-fighting bacteria.8

Colorful, Whole Plant Foods Fight Viruses

Blueberry consumption for six weeks increased natural killer activity and reduced anti-inflammatory compounds.9 Bilberry, cranberry, and blackcurrant had high antiviral effects against flu viruses.10 Mangoes, apples, citrus fruits, and broccoli contain terpenes. These terpene compounds inhibit the herpes simplex and flu viruses.11

Polyphenols inhibit the ability of viruses to enter into the cells. Berries, grapes, pomegranates, beans, and nuts are loaded with polyphenols that offer virus protection. They help to improve the blood sugar and reduce diabetic complications!12,13 Good news for diabetic individuals who are prone to both viral and bacterial infections! Remember all the talk about carbs being bad for you? The polysaccharides and several phytochemicals  from whole fruits and whole grains (good carbs) inhibit viral replication and interfere with the viruses’ ability to bind to the cell receptors.14 Phytic acid from whole grains and legumes enhance the virus-destroying activity of the natural killer cells.

Use Anti-Viral Culinary Herbs

Test tube studies provide early evidence that common culinary herbs and other plants may inhibit the proliferation of viruses and may even assist in destroying them. Basil15 and rosemary16 can inhibit enteroviruses, a group of viruses that originate in the digestive system and can spread to the central nervous system and other organs.

Echinacea inhibits the herpes simplex virus, some coronaviruses, and rhinoviruses (that cause the common cold). Turmeric and garlic target specific flu viruses. Viruses mutate into different strands so that it is not one herb fits all strains of flu. For example, turmeric inhibits H1N1, H6N, where garlic inhibits the parainfluenza virus 3.17

Immune Bolstering Herbs

Raw garlic increases both natural killer cells and killer T lymphocytes. Natural killer cells are the first line of defense against any viral invaders. Lymphocytes provide tailor-made immunity.   Compounds in Echinacea activate non-specific virus-destroying natural killer (NK) cells directly and appear useful for respiratory infections.18 Extracts from whole astragalus root increase the number of circulating white blood cells, improve anti-production and lymphocyte production, and enhance the killing ability of NK cells. Powdered astragalus root in capsule form appears to be more effective than the extracts.19

Red ginseng works synergistically with vitamin C to boost NK cell activity. Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is an herb that stimulates NK cell activity.20

Please note, vegetarians:  A deficiency in vitamin B12 displayed a significant decrease in the activity of natural killer (NK) cells in the spleen. Low or marginal levels of vitamin A also compromises the effectiveness of NK cells. Vitamin E improves the efficiency of natural killer cells. The elderly are susceptible to vitamin E deficiency.21

The Up and Down Side of Licorice

Glycyrrhizin in licorice tea inhibits replication of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-associated virus.22 However, individuals who have high blood pressure, eating disorders, diabetes, heart and kidney conditions, and low potassium should avoid taking licorice. Because sugar is an immune suppressant, avoid licorice candy. Consuming licorice for more than a couple of weeks can cause the potassium level to drop low enough to cause dangerous problems even in healthy adults. Licorice can produce sodium and water retention.

Broad-Spectrum Anti-Viral Phytochemicals:

Apigenin to the Rescue

Apigenin is an anti-inflammatory phytochemical that exerts broad anti-viral activities against African swine fever virus, influenza A virus, H5N1 flu virus in epithelial cells in the lungs, enterovirus-71, foot and mouth disease, and hepatitis C virus.23 Where do you find apigenin? Parsley, celery, onions, oranges, chamomile tea, and wheat sprouts.

Helpful Quercetin

Quercetin is a phytochemical abundant in leafy vegetables, broccoli, red onions, pepper, red apples, berries, cherries, and grapes. The antioxidant quercetin diminishes the replication of many viruses: influenza A viruses, rhinovirus (common cold), dengue virus type-2, hepatitis C virus, and Epstein-Barr virus.24 Additionally, it reduces inflammation. Since quercetin is concentrated in the peel of a fruit or the outer layer of a vegetable, juicing may not be the best option for getting this valuable phytochemical. Phytosomes or nanoparticle formulations also make it more absorbable.

Glutathione

Glutathione is an amino acid complex of glutamic acid, cysteine, and glyceine. Additionally, glutathione is an important antioxidant that scavenges free radicals, bolsters immunity, enhances natural killer cell activity, and protects the liver.

Stress, obesity, toxins or drugs, alcohol, excess dietary fat, and severe exercise deplete the liver of glutathione. Lemon contains a special flavonoid that counters this depletion and reduces oxidative stress occurring in the liver. The trace mineral, selenium, is necessary for glutathione to do its work.

Avocadoes, asparagus, potatoes, raw tomatoes, grapefruit, strawberries, and watermelon are all good sources of glutathione. As foods are processed, they lose some of their glutathione content. Sublingual and liposomal oral glutathione supplements are better absorbed than plain oral glutathione.  Liposomal glutathione increases the killing power of NK cells and proliferation of lymphocytes. Individuals who have autoimmune conditions or are at risk for lymphomas should not use supplements of glutathione, but rather get it from their foods.25

NAC

N-acetyl cysteine also replenishes glutathione and enhances its effectiveness. It has proven useful in serious lung infections. A meta-analysis published in 2017 of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, found that treatment with NAC led to shorter duration in the intensive care unit (ICU) compared to the control group.26 Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a type of respiratory failure characterized by rapid onset of widespread inflammation in the lungs.

Regularity Counts

Not only do circadian rhythms impact gut microflora, they also affect the immune system. Most immune cells have circadian rhythms. Consequently, circadian rhythms help to shape immune responses. Disturbed biorhythms upset the immune system making a person more vulnerable to viruses and generating more pro-inflammatory compounds.27,28 Viruses can highjack cellular metabolism and have the potential to change body clocks.29

Boost Melatonin

The hormone melatonin, a powerful regulator of the circadian rhythm, exhibits wide-ranging anti-viral activity.30 Exercise in bright morning sunlight is the best way to boost melatonin. Shutting off blue light devices in the evening also increases melatonin and improves the body’s metabolism. If this is not possible, use blue light filters on your devices in the evening. Adequate vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), and folic acid are also important in the synthesis of serotonin and consequently melatonin.

Central nervous system stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, stress, certain NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), calcium channel blockers, and bright lights at night (including moonlight) reduce the levels of melatonin. Ironically, many sleep medications shut down the body’s natural production of melatonin causing dependency and eventually, addiction to the sleep aids.

Most commercial supplements of melatonin raise your level up one to twenty times the amount that your body actually needs. For this reason, it is better to use lifestyle changes to nudge your melatonin upward. Individuals who have confusion, depression, diabetes, hypertension, or seizures should not take melatonin as it may aggravate these problems. Melatonin has the potential to react with medicine. Therefore, counsel with your doctor before using it. Melatonin can produce drowsiness! Take it near bedtime. Unless contraindicated, 0.5 to 3 milligrams is usually safe for a few weeks.

Hydrotherapy for Viruses

A properly prescribed and skillfully given hydrotherapy treatment can be a powerful weapon against infections. During the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, individuals who developed this flu had a much better survival rate if they had hydrotherapy treatments.

If a person is healthy and without medical conditions, a contrast shower or a hot footbath may energize the immune system to prevent a viral infection. However, every hydrotherapy treatment has its indications and contraindications. A patient’s overall medical history needs careful consideration. Unfortunately, one type of treatment does not work for every type of virus.

Fever is generally beneficial for the host (the sick person), triggering multiple events that lead to the strengthening of immunological defenses. Artificially raising the fever via a hot bath, or sauna, or steam bath also increases virus-fighting killer T lymphocytes and natural killer cells.31 In addition, a regulated fever also intensifies the killing activity of the natural killer cells. Saunas, as preventive measures, have the potential to mobilize some of the immune defenses and reduce inflammation. Unfortunately, hyperthermia can inhibit some viruses and promote the proliferation of others. 32

Hyperthermia is contraindicated in cases of low blood pressure, very high blood pressure, anemia, acute infections (lung, liver, kidneys, and other), congestive heart failure,  existing or impending thrombosis and blood vessel disorders (to name just a few complications). Yes, hyperthermia by sauna, hot water or steam baths may be useful in the prevention of viral infections and  treating a few diseases, but it can prove dangerous for many who have certain medical conditions.

In cases of serious illness, a patient’s medical history to be considered carefully before administering hydrotherapy. The trend of progress (or lack thereof), and the often rapid changes in a patient’s current status must also be weighed. These three factors (medical history, progress, and current status) help in determining the type of treatment to prescribe. (Of course, proper disinfecting of all surfaces and equipment is essential.)

Hydrotherapy and COVID 19

Since individuals, who are elderly or have chronic diseases (lung diseases, immune disorders, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, or heart problems) have a significantly greater risk for pneumonia, pulmonary edema, sepsis, and abnormal clotting from COVID 19. A hydrotherapy treatment not properly prescribed and tailor-made to the individual patient could trigger one of these complications (ie. non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema) in the case of COVID-19. On the other hand, a rightly prescribed hydro treatment with medical interventions could help to save lives. The authors think it is ill advised to recommend a specific hydrotherapy for treatment without a thorough medical history, a physical exam, lab work, and constant monitoring of a seriously ill patient or a patient with a complicated medical history.

Humidity and Flu Viruses

The effect of humidity needs evaluating when considering which kind of treatment to use. There is evidence to suggest that cold, dry, unventilated air may play an important role in the transmission of influenza viruses. When cold air from outside is warmed inside, the humidity drops 20 points. This change can enable airborne virus to travel more easily. A drop from 50% humidity to 10% humidity impairs the ability of the lungs to clear influenza viruses. Dry air also impairs the immune system and the ability of the epithelial cells in the lungs to recover after an infection. On the other hand, too much humidity can also support the spread of viruses and enable the viruses to survive longer! A 40 to 60% humidity may be ideal for thwarting the transmission of viruses.33

Humidity & Hydrotherapy:

A drop or elevation in humidity and a low or high humidity can increase the transmission of viruses.  Using a humidifier in the winter when heat dries the air in our homes appears to give some protection from influenza.  A regular vaporizer is not the best  for humidifying the air.  Heating water in plastic is probably not safe as it causes the plastic to release harmful chemicals to the water. Cool mist humidifiers are safer for humidifying in most cases.

The steam bath provides 100% humidity. In contrast, the sauna has only 10% humidity. However, a sanarium (a type of sauna) offers 40 to 55% humidity. It might be judicious to be inside the house for a couple hours before taking a sauna or steam bath for their immune-bolstering, preventive actions. In this way you avoid sudden changes in humidity. Staying inside after a treatment for an hour is important too. A sanarium treatment is safer than either a sauna or steam bath.

Disinfect a sauna or steam bath’s air after a treatment. Eucalyptus oil contains both anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and is useful for that purpose. For the sick patient, a carefully prescribed and more focused hydrotherapy treatment  using fomentations and other modalities than steam or sauna is a safer option for combating viral illness.

Conclusions:

Frequent hand washing, appropriate social distancing, and face masks help to protect us significantly and reduce the risk of transmission of super viruses.  Improving gut health, adequate sleep and exercise, a nutrient- dense diet, regularity, adjusting inside humidity, and rightly prescribed preventive hydrotherapy and botanical agents provide added protection.

 

© 2020, Wildwood Sanitarium. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.

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