KNOW THY ENEMY: WHAT IS A VIRUS?Before understanding how we can prevent a virus, or at least minimize the effects it can have on our health, it’s important to understand what a virus is… and also what it is not. A virus is NOT a living thing. You read that right: it is not made of cells, and it does not grow or make energy. It’s like an undead form of not-quite-life looking for a host that will allow it to replicate, propagate, and decimate. In my head, I picture it as a cross between a zombie and a parasite. That means that a virus cannot be killed by antibiotics like bacteria. It also means that it cannot be killed by antibacterial gels or sprays because, again, it is not a bacterium. The way we get rid of it is either through our immune system (as we say, a virus has to run its course) or with the help of anti-viral drugs, which are developed for severe viral infections. A virus IS an infectious agent that replicates in the cells of a living host. Or as the National Center for Biotechnology Information(NCBI) puts it: “A virus is a small parasite that cannot reproduce by itself. Once it infects a susceptible cell, however, a virus can direct the cell machinery to produce more viruses.” Pretty much like a xerox machine. But if it’s not made of cells, then what is it made of? A virus is made of genetic material (RNA or DNA), protein and lipids (fats). A virus can mutate and evolve, which is why we keep encountering different strains and have to adjust vaccines and therapies to be able to counter new viral diseases. On the upside, our immune system is blessed with good memory; sometimes, after contracting and eliminating a specific virus, we become immune to it. Other times, the virus goes into remission and becomes dormant in our cells, like the infamous EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus) for example. In the latter case, the virus can be re-activated by certain triggers (especially stress) at any given time.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM A VIRUS?Now we know a few things about our enemy and can strategize against its ability to invade, multiply, and thrive inside our bodies. Ideally, we can avoid viruses altogether, especially novel ones like Coronavirus. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has released thorough guidelines to help us stay clear of this dangerous virus. Those guidelines include:
- Washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. An alcohol-based sanitizer can work in the absence of soap and water. However, nothing beats soap and water because a virus is this mass of genetic material, protein, and lipids (fats). When soap and water break through the fatty membrane, the virus falls apart and becomes inactive.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- If you have any symptoms, stay home.
- Cough into your elbow or shoulder. Sneeze into a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
5 NATURAL WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM A VIRUS
- Strengthen your Immune System.You probably know that your gut controls 70% of your immune system. As your gut bacteria communicate to your immune system what’s happening in your body to fight off pathogens and infections, it’s important to support a good balance in your microbiome. How do you do that? The simplest way is to eliminate all processed foods, eliminate all refined sugar and carbs, eat loads of leafy greens, fresh fruits in moderation, and increase your daily water intake to 2-3 liters. Make sure you have enough acidity in your stomach before meals by adding some lemon juice and apple cider vinegar to your water (read this post for more information on the benefits of lemon and ACV). Acidity helps eliminate pathogens and keep your immune system strong. Add some good quality probiotics or, even better, fermented foods, and you’re golden! (I don’t need to tell you that alcohol is not gut-friendly. Right?)
- Get some Vitamins.If you could just take 2 vitamins, I strongly recommend Vitamin D and Vitamin C. According to the NCBI, “L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is one of the well-known anti-viral agents, especially to the influenza virus.” As for vitamin D, it is more than just a vitamin; it’s also a modulator of the immune system, which means it helps regulate it. Of course, you could get Vitamin D from the sun, by exposing enough skin (face, arms, and legs) to the midday sunlight for 10-30 minutes a few times a week without wearing any sunscreen. However, if the sun can’t be your primary source of vitamin D, due to location, weather, or risk of skin cancer, take a supplement in the form of Vitamin D 3 (it’s the same as the kind our body makes through sun exposure). Unfortunately, it’s very hard to absorb enough vitamin D through foods, such as eggs and fatty fish.
- Stock up on Antiviral Herbs & Supplements.Nature is a very resourceful pharmacy. Among the most potent and natural anti-viral remedies, we find: COLLOIDAL SILVER Colloidal silver is a suspension of pure silver in water. It works by interfering with the enzymes that allow a virus to utilize oxygen. Basically, it suffocates the virus. ELDERBERRY Very effective against flu symptoms and duration. The way the extract of this herb works is by binding to the tiny spikes on a virus, which are used to pierce and invade our healthy cells, thus rendering the virus incapable of replicating and propagating. ECHINACEA A very powerful ally of the immune system, especially against colds and viral bronchitis. GARLIC A humble powerhouse, garlic is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Most effective against viruses if chewed raw, and it’s also effective for keeping people at a safe distance to avoid contagion (LOL… but seriously). GREEN TEA Among its many virtues, green tea contains catechins, which are flavonoids that inhibit viral infections by blocking the enzymes that allow a virus to reproduce. LICORICE EXTRACT Licorice contains a substance called glycyrrhizin that reduces the replication of viruses and inhibits their ability to penetrate and replicate inside healthy cells. OLIVE LEAF EXTRACT I’m from the olive grove land of Puglia in southern Italy, and I’ve always known these ancient trees are filled with healing magic. Olives are delicious and nutrient-dense, but the leaves of olive trees contain oleic acid and calcium oleate, which have powerful anti-viral properties, including against the flu, herpes, polio and coxsackie viruses. These substances block the production of enzymes that allow viruses to replicate. PAU D’ARCO Pau d’Arco extract comes from the bark of an Amazon tree. It’s effective against cold, flu, and herpes thanks to the quinoids, which stop the virus from replicating.
- Get your Zzzz’s.The quality and duration of your sleep are crucial to your overall health and immune system. Aim for a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night. Help yourself with a cup of chamomile or lavender tea, try to go to bed earlier, turn off all your devices, wear a sleep mask to block off all light, and relax.
- Get rid of stress.I know you’re shaking your head because this is the number one trigger for most diseases, especially viral ones, but it’s also the hardest element to control. A few things you could do to distress a little every day include: exercise (especially yoga and stretching), guided meditation, breathing exercises, valerian root or magnesium citrate before bedtime (I use this formula and love it), decrease caffeine, spend time in nature, do something you love every day (no matter how small).
PREVENTION IS THE BEST CUREViruses have been around forever, and they are not going anywhere soon. They will keep occurring, mutating, evolving and do whatever it takes to outsmart our technology. Nature dictates it, so the best weapon against a virus is prevention. We need to make ourselves stronger and inhospitable. Basically, you have to be a bad host and let those suckers know they are not welcome in the temple that is your body. Sabotage and trip them up until they’re either flushed out of your system or frustrated into remission. Keep up the good fight and be well! Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It must never be considered a substitute for the advice provided by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with questions you may have regarding your health or medical condition. Absolutely Flavorful is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. Should you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. Thank you for your support, and enjoy the experience!
Thanks for all the useful information. Really helpful and easy to follow, in the mist of so much going on it is good to have this sensible guidance
Thank you so much, Ana!
I’m happy to share any information that might help stay strong at this difficult time.
Be safe and be well!