Squamish Integrated Health

Health and Wellness

Keeping Viruses at Bay
By: Sal Meli, Naturopathic Doctor at Squamish Integrated Health

It’s now mid-winter and viral infections are at their peak so now is the time to focus on prevention! Our immune system has been continually fighting off infections over the course of our lives and over an evolutionary span there has been constant battle to get the upper hand.

By outlining the various ways that the influenza virus can cause infection, I hope to provide a comprehensive approach to strengthening the immune system and thereby keeping viruses at bay this winter season.

The flu virus is typically inhaled into the lungs and binds to the cell wall. In order to pass thru the cell wall the virus releases an enzyme, which makes the wall more porous. Blocking this enzyme helps prevent entry into the cell. The drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) works this way, as do the herbs Elderberry, Licorice, Rhodiola, Ginger and Chinese skullcap.

Once inside our cells the immune system responds by releasing a chain of inflammation-producing compounds (called cytokines) to fight off the virus. This process is effective at killing off the virus, but also is the cause of much of the discomfort we experience while infected. The herb Licorice stimulates an increased release of the particular cytokine that kills the virus while diminishing the severity of the symptoms. Supplemental Zinc is also beneficial for this process.

The lymph glands are the site where immune cells multiply to overtake the growing number of viruses. During a severe infection these glands get too full, swell up and become tender. Supporting movement out of these glands and toward the site of infection speeds recovery and reduces symptoms. The best herbs for this purpose are Red Root and Pleurisy Root.

To diminish the overall inflammation (and discomfort) that occurs with viral infections, herbs such as Boneset, Cordyceps, Ginger, Astragulus and Chinese skullcap are the top choices.

Other nutrients worth considering over the winter season are Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and N-Acetyl Cysteine, though caution is needed and supervision is recommended, especially in pregnant or breastfeeding women.

For a custom blended herbal tincture, make an appointment with Dr. Sal Meli and stay healthy over the winter season.

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