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Antiviral Supplements

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About Antiviral Supplements

Viruses are commonly encountered during regular daily life. While most of us don't even realise that we have been exposed, when the immune system is not strong symptomatic illness can occur. Viruses need to be looked at in terms of not only exposure, but also host resistance. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and viral infections and the potential illness that they can cause are no different.


For susceptible individuals, prevention of exposure to viruses through careful planning and good personal hygiene is crucial. Such a population may be the elderly, immunocompromised, asthmatics, those receiving chemotherapeutics, anyone who is inactive or obese, those who are acutely "run down" (due to overwork, stress, lack of sleep and a poor diet) and anyone with a low vitamin D status. Once immune system defences are low, this allows any viruse you have been exposed to the chance to replicate faster than the immune system can clear them, leading to illness.


At this point, anything we can do to reduce the immune system's burden is helpful. There are many herbal medicines and nutrients that are required for immune cell synthesis (in the bone marrow) as well as the activity of those cells. There are even some compounds that target viruses directly, helping to slow replication. 


There are many herbal extracts that are effective in supporting immune function, such as Andrographis, Cat's Claw and Echinacea. Andrographis, also known as The King of Bitters, was reported in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2013 as an powerful immune system supportive herb with anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial activity. This is a herb better taken in capsule or tablet form, for obvious reasons. However, it is one of the many that can be useful in supporting the functioning of the body’s natural defences, and also acts directly against some viruses, hence its status as an anti-viral. 


Nutrients such as Zinc, Quercetin, Vitamin C and Vitamin D are essential to proper protection against viral infection, as well as management once unwell. Zinc plays an important role in not only supporting the production and activity of white blood (immune) cells, but also has direct anti-viral effects. In order to facilitate the cellular uptake of zinc from serum, it is best supplemented with an ionophore, such as quercetin, EGCG (standardised Green Tea) or Curcumin (standardised turmeric root). Quercetin itself is a natural anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine and antioxidant nutrient.


Another group of powerful natural compounds to support a robust immune response are the medicinal mushrooms. These are quite different from the common field variety, and have been used in traditional medicines like Chinese medicine for a long time, and also in Naturopathy which draws upon both traditional and scientific approaches. Some common medicinal mushrooms are Shiitake, Reishi and Cordyceps. Just the Shiitake mushroom itself has been shown to increase the proliferation of Natural Killer T Cells, according to research published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2015. This suggests an improvement in human immunity and our ability to fight infections, such as viruses.


It is important to remember the basics assist when it comes to preventing illness due to a viral infection. This means keeping the body healthy and the immune system strong, at all times. For this to happen, there needs to be adequate clean water and electrolytes, a quality diet (including plenty of protein and fresh produce), stress management, adequate sleep, regular exercise, no smoking or heavy drinking and adequate sunlight or a vitamin D supplement.


It is of paramount importance to avoid dehydration when suffering from an infection with fever. This is simply because fluid loss is high, via sweat, as your body heats up in order to reduce viral replication and assist the fighting of the infection. And with sweat loss goes a group of minerals called electrolytes. These are sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium and calcium. Supplementing with at least the former four minerals is important for maintaining blood volume and hydration (calcium losses through sweat are minimal).


There is simply no way around the fact that looking after your health needs to be thorugh a 24/7 approach with a decent helping of common sense. Years of health neglect can't be undone quickly, though they can be resolved in time and with effort. As with all areas of health, no part of the body can be separated from the other, each interfacing and interacting in a holistic manner. This clearly indicates that the best approach to immune wellness and a robust virus fighting capability is a healthy and active lifestyle, along with carefully selected supplementation tailored to your needs.