Pandemic Influenza (and other viral diseases): An Ounce Of Prevention

Pandemic Influenza (and other viral diseases): An Ounce Of Prevention

"You cannot stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair!"

When Lord Palmerston, Premier of England, was petitioned by the Scotch clergy to appoint a day of fasting and prayer to avert the cholera, he replied, in effect, “Cleanse and disinfect your streets and houses, promote cleanliness and health among the poor, and see that they are plentifully supplied with good food and raiment, and employ right sanitary measures generally, and you will have no occasion to fast and pray. Nor will the Lord hear your prayers, while these, his preventives, remain unheeded.”

How it is spread? Airborne droplets that reach the eyes, nose or mouth primarily spread influenza virus. It can also spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one’s face. The more viruses you are exposed to the higher your risk of contracting the flu. Environmental precautions and personal protective equipment are designed to reduce the number of viruses to which you are exposed.1

Rupert Blue, MD, surgeon general during 1918 flu suggested: avoid needless crowding; smother you coughs and sneezes; your nose not your mouth was made to breath through; remember the 3 Cs, clean mouth, clean skin, and clean clothes; food will win the war, help by choosing and chewing your food well, wash your hands before eating, don’t let the waste products of digestion accumulate; avoid tight clothing, tight shoes, tight gloves; seek to make nature your ally not your prisoner, and when the air is pure, breathe all of it you can—breathe deeply.2

Will a mask protect me? For health care workers exposed to infected patients, N95 respirators are recommended. For infected patients surgical masks are recommended to help reduce viral spread.3

Once a pandemic has begun quarantine is not likely to be effective, efforts may focus on “social distancing.” Social distancing includes measures to increase distance between individuals (6ft), staying home when ill unless seeking medical care, avoiding large gatherings, telecommuting, and closing schools.4

Once a pandemic influenza virus has been identified, it will likely take 4-6 months to develop, test, and begin producing a vaccine. The supply of pandemic vaccine will be limited, particularly in the early stages of a pandemic. And while vaccines may be helpful, vaccine is not a substitute for a good immune system.5

Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza may help prevent infection in people at risk and shorten the duration of symptoms in those infected with pandemic influenza. Reports from China indicate that current antivirals are not as effective as once hoped.6 In the absence of vaccines and effective medications for influenza, what are we going to do?

“Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power—these are the true remedies.”7 It is in practicing these health virtues that a strong immune system is developed and disease is averted.

To start with we need to look at how the body fights off an influenza exposure. When the influenza virus reaches the lungs there is an initial exponential growth in number of viruses. Natural killer cells are the first line of defense. When they go to war, as evidenced by a rise in interferon, the viral numbers drop off exponentially, but not to extinction.

Before the infection is completely licked and the patient is out of the woods, B-cells must act their part, which is to produce viral specific IgA. If the immune system is strong and the parts are all working as they should, the infection can be overcome. It should be our study then to determine what lifestyle factors influence the immune system.8

Fresh Air

The negative air ions found in fresh air activate natural killer cells and significantly reduce the number of disease causing microbes in the air.9

It has been said “…there is health in the fragrance of the pine, the cedar, and the fir. And there are several other kinds of trees that have medicinal properties that are health promoting.”10 It is of interest to note that pine cone extracts have been shown to suppress the growth of influenza virus in cells.11 Some people even use pine as essence oil.

Citrus has been shown to inhibit influenza A viruses.12 Citrus essence oil has been recommended by some to reduce viruses in the air.

Air quality can have an effect on your susceptibility to disease. Influenza and pneumonia are significantly increased in people who live in cities with high levels of ozone or sulfur dioxide pollution.13 In one study, office workers showed significant declines in number and function of natural killer cells after there office was remodeled exposing them to formaldehyde, phenol and organic chlorohydrocarbons.14 What’s more, mold exposure in water-damaged buildings reduces natural killer cells and initiates lung damaging inflammatory processes. Living in a home with mold problems increases the risk of respiratory symptoms and infections.15


In one study, exposure to natural sunlight one hour a day for 12 days, significantly increased circulating immune cells. The effect lasted for up to two weeks after the end of the experiment.16 It has also been found that influenza viruses can suppress interferon production. Sunlight helps disable the influenza viruses’ ability to suppress the production of interferon.17 Sunlight’s ultraviolet light is known to kill pathogens and it also kills influenza viruses.18


Abstemiousness or temperance involves the avoidance of things harmful and the moderate use of things that are considered good. Smokers are at 1-1/2 times the risk of catching the flu and are 70% more likely to have to miss work because of the flu.19 Chronic alcohol consumption has been shown to suppress the activity of natural killer cells.20 What’s more, alcohol or tobacco, when combined even in small amounts, significantly suppress natural killer cell activity.21

Intemperance can involve both the amount and quality of food we eat. Obesity and over eating impair natural killer cells activity. Caloric restriction—eating less—has been shown to restore immune responsiveness in overweight individuals.22

Dietary restriction to 60% of usual increases natural killer numbers fourfold and their activity twofold.23 Increasing age is also associated with a predictable decline in immune function. Caloric restriction while still maintaining nutrition restores natural killer activity to that found in younger individuals.24


Studies reveal that people who sleep well have significantly better immune function than people with insomnia.25 To illustrate the effects of missing your sleep, one study showed mice who got the flu vaccine but were sleep deprived contracted the flu as though they had never been immunized.26

Rest and relaxation also encompass mental and spiritual rejuvenation. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin, meditation improves the immune response to Influenza vaccination.27 Among those who observe the weekly rest according to the Bible, Seventh-day Adventists had higher plasma levels of the immune stimulating antioxidants. Among Seventh-day Adventists, consumption of a vegetarian diet was associated with an even higher increase in immune stimulating


As individuals age, their immune systems decline. Being physically fit helps attenuate this decline. Natural killer cells respond positively to moderate exercise in both number and function. Over fatigue increases the risk of upper respiratory tract infection, while regular moderate physical activity reduces the risk.29 In one study moderate exercise was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of upper respiratory tract infection.30

If one is to exercise in cold weather, proper clothing is essential. Sufficiently protecting the arms and legs from cold helps prevent inflammation and congestion of lungs and brain thus helping prevent influenza.313233 The clothing should fit comfortably without obstructing the circulation of the blood or natural respiration of the lungs. Clad in this way, we can take exercise in the open air, even in the dew of morning or evening, or after a fall of rain or snow, without fear of taking cold.3435

Proper Diet

God gave us wonderful immune systems, one of our first considerations will be to avoid any food that could compromise this first line of defense.

In a study of dietary fat, eating the usual American dietary fat was associated with a 50% reduction in natural killer cell activity, a high fat diet reduced natural killer activity by 79%, and a low fat diet showed no reduction in natural killer cell activity.36 Not all fats were created equal. For instance, a high cholesterol diet depresses natural killer cells to 1⁄4 their usual activity.37 Fish oil has been observed to impair immune function and delays the clearance of viruses from the lungs.38

Milk, the baby food of cows, has drawbacks for the prevention of influenza. Increased milk drinking results in decreased natural killer cell activity. What’s more, tripling your milk protein intake can triple your risk of contracting cancer.39

Many people complain of a “sweet tooth”. This may not be the trait of an influenza survivor. Mice fed a diet containing sucrose (table sugar) had significantly lower immune cell responsiveness.40 Sugar consumption weakens the ability of immune system to destroy pathogens. If a person eats no refined sugar for 12 hours, each white blood cell can destroy 14 bacteria. When 24 teaspoons of sugar are consumed, the white blood cells are so compromised that they can only destroy one bacterium each.41

High protein diets have also been shown to compromise the immune system. A diet comprised of 25% protein hampered natural killer cell function whereas a diet with only 5% of the calories coming from protein enhanced natural killer activity.42

Soybeans are an excellent source of protein. Soy has strong antioxidant properties and is a potent immune stimulant that has shown benefits not only for influenza, but also for cancer.43

I had a friend in high school that put himself on a fresh fruit and vegetable diet. I talked to him not long ago and asked him about his diet. He said that in the last 25 years since being on this diet he has not had a cold or flu once. Science has born this out; fresh fruit and vegetables have been shown to be antibiotic, antiallergic, tumor-protective, anti-inflammatory and stimulating to the immune system.44 What’s more, people on plant based diets have been shown to have significantly higher intakes of antioxidants than omnivores: 305% of vitamin C, 247% of vitamin A, 313% of vitamin E, 120% of copper.45 Compared with the omnivores, people on a plant based diet have significantly higher blood concentrations of: Beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E and vegetarian’s natural killer cell activity has been found to be twice that of omnivores.46

Remember the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Five or more apples per week actually improves lung function47 and apples contain phytochemicals which inhibit influenza viruses.48 One of these phytochemicals is quercetin. Quercetin has been shown to protect the lungs from damage by the influenza. Quercetin is also found in, onions, green leafy vegetables and beans.49

Garlic has long been recognized as a potent immune stimulator. In one study garlic reduced respiratory tract infections by 63%.50 It is reported that during the 1918 flu epidemic, 20 people in one area ate raw garlic daily with their meals. None of the 20 contracted the flu.51 It has been suggested that 3 to 5 cloves be eaten per day.

Grapes possess a phytochemical (resveratrol) that strongly inhibits the replication of influenza virus within cells and significantly improved survival of influenza infected mice.52

A deficient diet with only 50% of the USRDA of vitamins has been shown to significantly depress natural killer activity.53

Vitamin A deficiency reduces natural killer cell number and function especially in older adults.54 Vitamin A deficiency also results in a loss of IgA producing cells.55 Remember that IgA is critical for the eradication of influenza from the lungs.

Vitamin A pills have not proven as helpful as just eating good food. Foods high in vitamin A are paprika, cayenne, sweet potato, carrots, kale, spinach, winter squash, cantaloupe and broccoli.

Vitamin E is effective in helping the body reduce the number of influenza viruses in the lungs. It also helps prevent the loss of appetite and weight loss associated with being sick with the flu. What’s more, vitamin E helps lower the damaging inflammation in the lungs caused by tumor necrosis factor alpha.56 It is usually the inflammation that starts the downward spiral that ends in death for some influenza sufferers. Vitamin E pills have not proven as helpful as just eating good food.

Foods high in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, flaxseed oil, wheat germ, olive oil, pine nuts, peanut butter, and ground cloves, just to name a few.

Vitamin C, popularized by Linus Pauline, is also helpful in influenza prevention. Vitamin C actually increases lung macrophage function and helps reduce the number of viruses running around in the lungs.57 Taken before or after the appearance of cold and flu symptoms it can relieve or even prevent them.58 Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant that helps reduce damage in infected lungs preserving vital lung tissue.59 Vitamin C is also best taken in the form of food. Foods high in vitamin C include strawberries, bell peppers, chives, red cabbage, broccoli, pineapple, oranges, lemons, kale, cauliflower, and peas. I like to juice half a lemon into my first morning glass of water, this should give me about 500mg of vitamin C.

Severe Folate deficiency is associated with a 60% reduction in lymphocyte counts
and significantly impaired natural killer function in one study.60

Dietary changes or supplementation, but not both could reverse this effect.61 If a person was already on a Folate sufficient diet, taking Folate pills only decreased their immune systems function. Foods high in Folate include arrowroot, wheat germ, peanuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, lentils, pinto beans, and parsley.

Selenium increases natural killer activity by 70% while protecting the lung tissues from inflammation.62 Selenium is very important for recovery from the flu—infected lung tissues recover more quickly if you aren’t deficient in this element.63

Foods high in selenium include brazil nuts, mixed nuts, sesame seeds, wheat, sunflower seeds, and
wheat germ.

Another nutrient necessary for both natural killer cell numbers and function is zinc.64 Foods high in zinc include wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, wheat bran, pine nuts, maple sugar, wild rice, and cashews.

Any one have a penny? Antibody titers and natural killer-cell cytotoxicity were markedly suppressed in animals fed a copper deficient diet.65 Copper is best obtained from Spirulina, seaweed, sesame seeds, soybeans, cashews, sunflower seeds and mixed nuts, but not pennies.

Magnesium-deficient animals exhibit dramatic elevations of inflammatory mediators that are responsible for the cytokine storm and hemorrhagic pneumonia from which people with the bird flu die.66 You can obtain your magnesium from rice bran, wheat bran, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, flaxseed, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds and cashews.

Turmeric is widely used in India for the treatment of inflammation. It inhibits several cytokines responsible for lung damage in viral pneumonia.67 It is also an antioxidant through modulation of glutathione levels in alveolar lung cells and it is a potent oxygen radical scavenger.68 It is also a good source of vitamin C.

Echinacea purpurea, a plant originally used by Native Americans to treat respiratory infections, has been shown to increase natural killer cytotoxicity by nearly 100%.69

Let’s summarize the foods you may want to eat in preparation for the bird flu pandemic. Important vegetables to eat would include garlic, onions, carrots, kale, spinach, and Broccoli. Fruits I would concentrate on are: apples, strawberries, grapes, and citrus. Mixed nuts are very valuable; also make sure you get some Brazil and pine nuts. Seeds are also indispensable, have on had some sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds. Nuts and seeds are best eaten raw rather than roasted and salted. Other foods to concentrate on include soybeans, wheat germ and even turmeric.

Now just think, what have we been describing? The Bible diet! “Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” “and you will eat the plants of the field.” Genesis 1:29; 3:18 (NIV). God has said, “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.” Exodus 15:26.

The Use Of Water

You cannot underestimate the value of proper hydration. Consequences of dehydration include constipation, urinary tract and respiratory infections, delirium, renal failure, electrolyte imbalance, hyperthermia, and longer time for wound healing just to name a few.70

Other uses of water include bathing as well as hot and cold treatments. “Most persons would receive benefit from a cool or tepid bath every day, morning or evening. Instead of increasing the liability to take cold, a bath, properly taken, fortifies against cold.”71 Taking a cool bath (64°F) before going out in cold weather stimulates the immune system. It augments white blood cell response to cold exposure and increases natural killer cell activity.72 The way I practice this particular bit of scientific information is to do alternating hot and cold treatments. If I feel the onset of a cold or flu, I head for the shower. I set the faucet as hot as I can stand and shower until I feel my internal temperature rise. I learned to detect this rise by actually testing my temperature a couple of times till I could correlate the temperature with what I was feeling. When the desired small rise in body temperature is achieved, I then switch to cold, as cold as possible, for one minute. I then repeat the process one or two more times and then jump in bed for about one half hour. This is usually sufficient to stop dead in its tracks any intruder from the virus family—cold or flu. Ending every bath or shower with cold is an excellent preventative measure and is stimulating to the immune system.

Just an aside, another good measure at the very onset of a cold is the use of charcoal. Charcoal binds viruses.73 Drink one to two tablespoons of activated charcoal powder in one glass of water. Sip it slowly and let it coat you throat. This can be repeat this every two to four hours as symptoms persist.

Trust In Divine Power

The relation between health and spirituality has only recently come to light. Religiosity or spirituality has been shown to increase the function of the immune system.74

Trusting in Divine power leads to better mental health that helps boost the immune system. Depression is reliably associated with reduction of natural killer activity and a suppression of lymphocyte proliferation75 both of which could spell trouble in an influenza pandemic. Loneliness is also associated with poorer immune responses. People with high levels of loneliness and a small social network have the lowest immune activity. Loneliness is also associated with elevations in cortisol, an immunosuppressant hormone.76 Depression is a bad enough suppressor of the immune system by itself, add to that alcoholism and the two suppress natural killer function even further.77

One of the benefits of trusting God is that the problems of living that usually are the source of stress are now His problems. Increases in stress hormones result in decreased natural killer cell activity and IgA levels,78 consequently the number of respiratory infections increases with increasing psychological stress.79 Stress that we hang on to ourselves usually drives us to exasperation and anger. A single five-minute experience of anger can significantly reduce IgA levels for up to five hours.80 A lack of a sense of humor, worrying about daily problems and experience negative emotions can also significantly decrease IgA levels.81


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