Just as we were heading out of the peak cold and flu season, which typically lasts from December to February in the United States, we’re hit with a new coronavirus that has caused significant global impact.
The germ at the center of it all is a new strain of coronavirus commonly referred to as COVID-19, short for Coronavirus disease 2019.
Unlike seasonal influenza viruses, COVID-19 has disrupted economic growth and everyday life in several countries. International travel has been limited, large gatherings have been cancelled, some schools and places of business have been temporarily closed and some people are “self-quarantining” to prevent further spread of the virus.
While such precautionary measures may be warranted in disease epicenters like Wuhan, China and Northern Italy, where does the fear of greater disease spread leave the rest of us? The mad dash to stock up on sanitizing products, water, and toilet paper kind of says it all. We weren’t prepared!
We’re taught to prepare for natural disasters and roadside breakdowns. If our immune systems were better prepared, would the number of those infected by COVID-19 be as high as it is?
There is no cure for CODIV-19 and no vaccination. But you can take year round steps to enhance immune system function so it can better deal with a variety pathogenic threats. There are some amazing natural immune boosters with phenomenal antiviral potential. Here’s just a sample of ones that sadly don’t get enough credit for what they can do.
But first, what is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses fall under the category of enveloped viruses. This means the virus is surrounded by an outer lipid and protein membrane. Non-enveloped, or naked, viruses lack such membrane. The outer membrane may help to shield the virus from the host’s immune response (1).
Similar to influenza viruses, coronaviruses cause respiratory infections like the common cold, but more severe types of coronaviruses are responsible for outbreaks of SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), and COVID-19.
Natural Antiviral Substances You Should Be Taking Year Round
Viruses affect us all differently. The same virus that causes a mild health disruption in one person can send another to the emergency room. Factors including age, stress levels, diet, and underlying health issues play roles in how effectively our own immune system responds to the pathogenic threat and the severity of infection.
We’ve seen that we can’t rely solely on pharmaceutical drugs to treat or cure some viral and bacterial diseases. They too, can vary in effectiveness from person to person. And some of us have elected to abstain from pharmaceuticals all together. Does that mean we’re out of luck when it comes to staying disease free? Hardly!
When you consider there are a number of natural preventative measures available without the side effects and cost of prescription and OTC drugs, it’s a wonder why more people aren’t using them to mitigate viral diseases. We’re highlighting three lesser known substances with great antiviral properties, yet they don’t enjoy the same popularity as other immune boosters.
Monolaurin is a fatty acid derived from lauric acid.
When lauric acid is ingested, the body converts it to a monoglyceride called monolaurin. It’s this conversion that gives breastfed babies immune support while their own immune defenses are developing. Both lauric acid, a component of human breast milk, and monolaurin have great antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties (2) (3).
Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are also a great sources of lauric acid.
Science hasn’t quite figured out the conversion rate of lauric acid to monolaurin in the body, so monolaurin supplements may be a more effective source for microbial protection. You may find it listed as glycerol monolaurate or glyceryl laurate on product labels.
How does monolaurin work in the body? Some pathogenic organisms have a lipid (fatty) outer shell that shields them from harm caused by antibodies and acidic environments inside the body. Monolaurin binds to the protective coating and prevents the pathogen from attaching to and entering the host (that’s us) cells (4). Monolaurin disintegrates the protective shield causing damage and death to pathogenic cells, thus preventing replication of the disease-causing organism and further infection (5).
Research has seen the proven effects of lauric acid and monolaurin on several disease-causing organisms.
2) Beta Glucans
Beta glucans are non-caloric polysaccharides classified as immuno-modulators, meaning they enhance immune system function. They essentially make NK (natural killer) immune cells more effective.
There are certain receptor sites on the surface of immune cells that recognize microbial threats and initiate the appropriate immune response. For instance, in the case of viruses, when the presence of viral DNA is detected, immune cells initiate an antiviral response involving interferons (antiviral signaling proteins) and enhanced NK cell activity (6).
Beta glucans activate immune cell wall receptors and enhance their ability to migrate to the infection site and destroy any pathogen found there (6). This means beta glucans have the potential to help the immune system fight a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, as well as inflammatory conditions and cancers (6).
A number of studies point to the potential of beta glucans to lighten the infection load of influenza (7), Swine flu (8), hepatitis B (9), and common cold viruses (10).
The human body does not make beta glucan, so you have to get it from outside sources such as baker’s yeast, shitake mushrooms, cereal grains or supplements.
3) Humic Substances: Humic & Fulvic Acid
Humic substances, or humates, are the end points of organic (carbon-containing) degradation. They’re essentially what’s left over from microbial decomposition of organisms and dead plant matter; however, they remain highly concentrated in minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids.
Humic substances fall under three categories: humic acid, fulvic acid, and humin. Humic and fulvic acids are alkali-soluble residues whereas humin is an insoluble residue. Due to their smaller particle size over humin, humic and fulvic acids are what you’ll find being used for their health benefits.
Studies have shown that humic substances are effective against both naked and enveloped DNA viruses, including Coxsackie A9, influenza A and B, and herpes simplex type 1 and 2 viruses (11) (12).
It’s thought that humic substances may interfere with the early stages of the viral replication process by preventing attachment to host cells or by inhibiting a new generation of viruses from attaching to host cells (12).
Humic and fulvic acid supplements are becoming more widely available as their whole body benefits are finally being understood.
While we only touched on the antiviral potential of monolaurin, beta glucans, and humic substances, these compounds have a wider range of health benefits such as detox capabilities, anti-inflammatory properties, broad spectrum antimicrobial properties, and digestive support that we encourage you to explore.
Remember that there are preventative measures to practice on a daily basis, not just in the wake of the global spread of COVID-19. Reduce the spread of a variety of germs and bolster your immune system by adopting certain healthy habits all year long:
- Cover your mouth when you cough
- Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze
- Wash your hands thoroughly
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- Avoid unnecessary touching when the spread level is high
- Eat a balanced diet
- Stay hydrated
- Get some good sleep
Get the full details and more tips in our blog Cold & Flu Prevention: How Not to Get It or Spread It.
The natural health community gets a lot of flak from research and science institutions that are backed by wealthy pharmaceutical companies and government agencies who fund and promote the modern Western medicine model. The fact that naturally occurring compounds can’t be patented and sold for great profits makes them less likely to be researched and promoted by the drug companies and the greater medical community that dispense health and disease prevention information to the masses.
Natural health alternatives are available for a number of ailments and they can be quite effective under the right conditions and an open mind, despite what the naysayers proclaim.