Christmas is a time for getting together with loved ones and not-so-loved ones. But it is also the season for colds, flu and other respiratory viral infections which naturally peak in the cold winter months. So this holiday season is the most important time of the year for us to keep our immune systems in tip-top shape.
Humans and microbes (such as bacteria and viruses) have lived together since the dawn of our species. Microbes are highly adaptable and reproduce very quickly, so our immune systems have had to adapt equally quickly to maintain our health and integrity. Occasionally, the microbes get the upper hand and a pandemic ensues, but such pandemics are always brought back into check when natural immunity finally works out how to get back the upper hand. We have survived over the millennia precisely because our natural immunity is so successful.
Recently, novel types of respiratory viral infections have emerged, giving our immune systems new challenges to overcome, and overcome it they no doubt will, perhaps with a little help from modern medicine. What is concerning about these recent infections is that their severity is being measured by test outcome rate - cases - rather than by actual symptom rate as has always happened before. As case numbers are many times higher than actual symptomatic infection numbers, the presentation by the mass media of novel infectious agents by case numbers is naturally terrifying and gives governments the justification they need to justify lock downs.
While actual risk rates are questionable, what is not questionable is how unpleasant and even deadly respiratory infections can be for those who catch them, especially if they are elderly.
Here are some of the common symptoms of these respiratory viral infections that are so endemic at the moment:
- Fever - This is one of the most common symptoms and involves a rise in temperature in the body. This is associated with a quickening of the pulse and sweating. This is a defensive reaction by the body to stimulate immune function in the face of respiratory viruses which are able to down-regulate the immune system. This heating up of the body (our chest and back will feel hot) is therefore a common but beneficial symptom of viral infection. In fact, a high fever has been associated with a better survival and shortening the length of the infection! This is why hyperthermia treatments (which includes hot baths) are often used in recovery protocols.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing - This is the one that worries people the most as we find it difficult to take deep breaths and get enough air into our lungs.
- Cough - This is usually experienced as episodic coughs that can repeat multiple times in 24 hours. If one usually has a cough at this time of year, then this will be experienced more intensely.
- Headache - Another very common symptom is a headache, affecting the majority of people. The headaches experienced can be a lot more intense and painful than usual.
- Loss of taste or smell - This can be a complete or partial loss of smell and/taste, or a distortion of these senses, much like that sometimes associated with the common cold.
- Fatigue - Over 80% of people with the novel flu reported this symptom along with others. This is a deep fatigue that can take weeks or longer to overcome.
- Sore throat - Around 1 in 10 people report a sore throat as their only symptom and it seems to more common in children and adults, but less so in the elderly. This can last for longer than up to five days, may is more likely associated with bacterial infection.
- Muscle or body aches - This is another common symptoms reported and is often located in the shoulders or legs.
- Congestion or runny nose - Similar to the common cold, congestion and/or a runny nose can be associated with the novel flu infections.
- Nausea or vomiting - Although respiratory symptoms obviously predominate some will also suffer nausea/vomiting. This can make it difficult to keep food down.
- Diarrhea - This is a less known symptom, even though it seems to be affecting a reasonable proportion of people during their illness. It seem to be more commonly reported in children.
- Brain Fog - Another common symptom of modern viral respiratory infections is brain fog, an increasing inability to think clearly
The above are just 11 of the more common symptoms associated with novel respiratory infections. What is always astonishing is the range and variance of symptoms experienced, although there is of course a subset of symptoms that are present in most people suffering from these infections.
As a nutritionist here at The Really Healthy Company, I recently got one of these novel flu alternatives and wanted to share with you some of the techniques I did to naturally allay the symptoms and get back wholeness. This might be helpful to you or your loved ones, although if the symptoms are severe I do recommend you speak to a doctor.
- Headache - This was my first symptom and it was more painful than the average headache. It had intensity and purpose; it did not want to go away till day 3. I managed to resist taking painkillers, as I did not want to lower my fever.
- Fire your Fever - I had a very high temperature the first night after testing positive. In light of the rationale that taking hot baths could be beneficial, for two days I was having one every couple of hours to drive my fever higher. But beware, this probably drove my heating and water bills higher too! And please note that anyone with underlying heart-related conditions - such as heart disease, ischemia, arrhythmia, hypo-tension, or congestive heart failure - should consult a health practitioner before trying these sorts of home heat remedies.
- Cough - This was not a constant symptom for me, and it only came on, almost like an after thought, at the end of our convalescing. Strangely, I have experienced a dry, constant cough in the morning since my recovery. It took a good six weeks from my infection to subside.
- Fatigue - This without a doubt was the symptom that affect me the most. When the fever & headache had subsided in the first few days, it was the lack of energy that persisted. It kept me from my unending to-do list and was hard to handle. Watching and reading the Harry Potter series with my son (who incidentally was infected too but who recovered more quickly) was my life saver. There are characters in the book called “dementors” which are soulless creatures that gradually deprive human minds of happiness and intelligence. I dramatically likened the fatigue to a visit from the dementors to my family.
- Viral Skin Rash - This was possibly my most annoying symptom. I developed the rash on seventh day after testing positive, when I was feeling better in all other respects. It lasted for three days and was incredibly itchy, boarding on the unbearable. Apparently, this characteristic skin rash is now being considered a viable diagnostic sign of novel respiratory infections, affecting 8.8% of cases. What causes it? According to Dr Veronica Bataille, consultant dermatologist at St Thomas' Hospital and King's College London, viral infections can affect the skin, so it's not surprising that we are seeing these rashes over [the past couple of years]…”
MY SUPPLEMENT LINEUP
As I am a nutritional therapist, I took a number of supplements to aid my recovery. I wanted to focus on supplements that would boost immunity, reduce inflammation and lift my fatigue. Here are the ones I took:
- Biobran MGN-3 - This food supplement, called Biobran, is made by breaking down rice bran with Shiitake mushroom enzymes. Biobran helps the body maintain a healthy, functioning immune system. Its effectiveness is backed by over 60 peer-reviewed papers. I was taking 1000 mg, three times a day as soon as I felt my symptoms coming on. Anecdotally, the weeks after my recovering, I did not suffer my normal bout of cold sores which usually ensues after I have flu or a cold.
- Curcumin - I was taking Curcumin 500mg with bromelain and Quercetin to help with the my constant headache in the first three days. This combination is effective at reducing inflammation in the body, and it seemed to take the harshness of the bang out of my headache. Research has indicated this is due to curcumin neuroprotective effects through its modulation of inflammation and oxidative stress, and can cross the blood-brain barrier.
- Vitamin D3 - Our levels of this important vitamin naturally drop during winter months as we generate it from the action of sunlight on our skin. A recent SHADE study on Vitamin D gave subjects 50,000 units of this vitamin a day for seven days, before dropping back to a regular dose of 4000-5000 units. The study concluded that Vitamin D had help clear flu symptoms and reduce inflammatory markers. I took a high dose vitamin D for 5 days and then dropped down to 4000Iu per day.
- Vitamin C - High doses of this vitamin are believed by Chinese doctors to improve lung function, however, as of yet, there is no evidence to support its use orally for for respiratory infections. Supplemental dose of 1-2 grams of Vitamin C per day has been reported to shorten the severity and length of infection of colds caused by other viruses by 8% in adults and 14% in children on average. I was taking 1900mg per day for 10 days.
- NAC (N-Acetyl cysteine) - I took 600 mg of this amino acid twice daily as soon as my dry cough started. I did this because there is good research that shows it helps regenerate the damage cells in the bronchi that can occur in respiratory disease. It may also be beneficial, as it's an antioxidant that could help with the oxidative stress theory. NAC shouldn't be taken constantly but it was shown to be beneficial in the winter season. NAC should be taken with selenium to help absorption if possible.
- Ashwagandha (withania somnifera) - This herb has immune-boosting, anti-viral and adaptogenic properties. It has an active ingredient withanolide, a steroidal lactone which recent studies have shown can reduce viral entry and replication. Studies are also showing its efficacy at decreasing fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, poor sleep quality and improving energy levels. I took 600mg for 10 weeks as this dose was used in a recent and successful UK-based trial.
- COQ10/ ubiquinol and NADH ( nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) - As these novel respiratory infections show striking similarities to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) such as fatigue, unrefreshed sleep, brain fog and post-exertion malaise, I wanted to take supplements that helped with mitochondrial dysfunction and disturbance in cell redox pathways. So I took 20mg of NADH and 100-200mg of Ubiiquinol CoQ-10 for upo to 12 weeks.
- EPA/ DHA- Low Omega 3 is linked to an array of inflammatory conditions. Supplementation can shift prostaglandins & leukotrienes away from the pro-inflammatory profile seen in Covid. I therefore took 5g of EPA/DHA to increase my omega index to 8%- 11%.. I was also avoiding processed foods with high Omega 6 content (which can be pro-inflammatory). To this I added 400mg of Boswella (Indian frankincense) for three days, as research shows Boswellic acid can be helpful as it prevents the formation of Leukotrienes molecules that cause inflammation. My rash and the itch subsided in two days after taking the Boswella (frankincense).
So that was my experience and the treatment program I devised for myself, and outlining it here may be helpful for those looking to allay their symptoms. For me, I felt this nutritional protocol definitely shortened my infection and helped me return to normal (well, as normal as I can be ;-)
Please note, if you are unwell, we do advise that you get a tailored treatment program from your healthcare practitioner.
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