Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Fighting off the chik-V

Published:Tuesday | September 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
In this undated file photo, an Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which spreads chikungunya, is shown on human skin.
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MANKIND HAS not yet conquered the common viral infections like the cold, the flu or herpes, and there is a continuing trend of the regular appearance of new and more troublesome super bugs. When these new and more dangerous viruses emerge, whole societies panic. The usual strategy to fight against these problems is to raise the public awareness of the danger and to institute public health strategies for reporting of cases, mosquito control, etc. All well and good. This is much like our response to any natural disaster like a flood or impending hurricane. This is what we are now doing with the chikungunya virus outbreak.

If there was a vaccine available, I am sure the medical authorities would be encouraging widespread immunisation with 'chik-v shots'. But is that the solution? For over a decade, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has monitored the effectiveness of the highly promoted influenza vaccine to prevent influenza-associated illness. Recent data from the CDC's surveillance programme showed that the estimated vaccine effectiveness was only 62 per cent. Perhaps there is another approach.

Each year, after spells of rains and damp conditions, one can expect to see more people coming down with viral infections like the common cold and the flu caused by a wide variety of viruses. Although we are all constantly exposed to these viruses, we do not have colds all the time because our immune system is protecting us. Frequent infections would suggest a weak immune system.

Similarly, not everyone bitten by an infected mosquito comes down with the chik-v infection and among those who do get sick, some have a mild attack and some get extremely ill. What makes the difference? I would argue that it depends on the state of your immune system at the time of the exposure to the virus. Maintaining a healthy immune system is the primary way to protect oneself against attacks from unfriendly viruses. It is also a critical part of your treatment if you do come down with an infection. But very little is being said to emphasise this and to empower individuals to take greater responsibility for their health.

What can you do to protect yourself in addition to avoiding mosquito bites? With a healthy functioning immune system you stack the odds in your favour to avoid an infection.

Rest

The value of adequate sleep and rest as an immune system booster cannot be overstated. At the first sign of an infection, decrease your activities and rest as much as possible. Learn to listen to your body and avoid excessive stress and strain. Overwork, lack of restful sleep and prolonged emotional trauma may devastate your immune function. During deep sleep, the body releases powerful immune-enhancing substances that increases your healing capacity. Regular relaxation and deep breathing exercises are very useful for immune support.

Increase your fluid intake

Drink lots of liquids. When the membranes and tissues are dehydrated, viruses have an ideal environment to multiply in. A well-hydrated body decreases your risk of these viral infections.

The choice of liquid is vital. Research has shown that very sweet drinks reduce the ability of the white blood cells to kill germs because of their sugar content. Elevated levels of sugar in your blood inhibit the activity of the white blood cells of your immune system. Even fruit juices should be greatly diluted and no sugar should be added. Water, vegetable juices, herbal teas, coconut water and vegetable broths are ideal choices.

Take Vitamin C

Vitamin C in a dosage of six grams or more daily has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of many viral infections. The most practical way to do this is to use vitamin C powder (ascorbic acid crystals) that can be mixed into fruit juice. It should be taken several times daily in divided dosages. To determine how much your body needs, gradually increase the total daily dose at the point where you begin to have loose bowel movements. This is an indication that you have exceeded your optimal dosage. Simply reduce the dosage to a level where bowel activity returns to normal. The more severe an infection one has, the higher the quantity of vitamin C the body needs. High dosages of the antioxidant minerals selenium and zinc also assist our resistance to viral infections.

Use Vitamin D

Vitamin D is critically important to proper immune function. Medical research has demonstrated the potential of vitamin D to thwart many viral infections. A 2009 study found that low vitamin D blood levels were associated with a 36 per cent higher risk of a person coming down with a viral infection, and an even bigger risk of complications developing. Some experts recommend taking 30,000 to 50,000 units of vitamin D daily for three to five days at the first sign of an infection. This will often abruptly stop the disease from developing.

Apply herbs

The Chinese herb schisandra and the local herb rosemary are particularly useful in helping the immune system to fight off the cold virus. They are available as tablets and should be taken in high dosages at the first sign of a cold.

The herb echinacea is famous as a herbal antibiotic and antiviral agent. Taking 900 milligrams of echinacea root daily significantly reduces the symptoms of viral infections. In 1994, German doctors handed out 2.5 millions prescriptions for echinacea tablets, tinctures and tea for viral infections like flus and colds.

Other antiviral herbs and foods identified include green tea, garlic, guinea hen weed, ginger, olive leaf, Reishi and Shiitake mushrooms, astragalus, licorice, cats claw, onion, St John's Wort and lemon balm.

You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at tonyvendryes@gmail.com or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book 'An Ounce of Prevention, Especially for Women' is available locally and on the Internet.