How To Tame Viruses

To prevent infections

How To Pet Viruses, Health, Lon Jones, Healthy Living Magazine

How To Pet Viruses, Health, Lon Jones, Healthy Living Magazine

Why is washing your nose with xylitol saline solution as important as washing your hands during cold and flu season? To answer this question, we might want to understand how humans domesticated wolves. By understanding this process, we can also learn how to live peacefully with our enemies just as humans brought wolves into the fold.

Vulnerable Defenses

In order to do this we need to know a little about how these differing organisms get into the body as well as the defenses we all have to prevent this from happening.

Bacteria invade us by entering the body through its normal openings — the mouth, nose, and genitourinary tract—but must then find a place to hold on. Once they are established they begin multiplying. It is usually at this point that the immune system recognizes a problem and mounts a response. If the bacteria can avoid detection and continue growing they will soon get to the point when some of them begin building the biofilm that becomes their home and hideout. The problem is that by the time bacteria have attached themselves to the moist mucosal linings, mounting a defense is too late to prevent the onset of the flu or cold.

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Viral Hitchhikers

It’s different with viruses. They not only have to hold on, they have to get inside a cell in order to multiply. They use the genetic machinery in our own cells to reproduce and destroy the cell in the process. Understanding this process I have to wonder how the viruses that are supposed to cause 20% of ear infections or are linked with cold and flu get to the middle ear, or for that matter deep into the respiratory tissues. In the case of middle ear infections this connection is not in the main channel of the respiratory tract; it’s essentially upstream at the end of a branch of that tract we have named the eustachian canal. It’s a long way on a viral scale and these viruses don’t often get into the bloodstream that would make movement throughout the body easier. The most reasonable answer to this transportation problem is the close association that viruses and bacteria have. When sampling middle ear fluid in children with infections, the most common finding is both viruses and bacteria. Viruses open the doors for many bacteria to more easily infect us and it is just as likely that bacteria operate as taxicabs for viruses when it comes to the cold and flu. So you can see that simply trying to fight the viruses linked with colds and flu is not enough to prevent the illness. We also must address the bacterial invaders.

Self Protection

Washing hands often hampers transmission from person to person.

Keeping hands away from your face prevents the virus, if it does get to your hands, from getting into your body.

Small particle masks can help prevent these particles from getting into your airway. Viruses are too small to be filtered out by the masks, but most viruses hitch rides on other particles, like bacteria, water droplets, or other ‘taxis’ to get around, and these are large enough to be stopped.

Wash your nose every time you wash your hands. Carry your bottle of xylitol wash. If the virus does get into your nose from riding on particles in the air, you want your nasal defenses in [optimal] condition to prevent the virus from getting to the cells lining your airway. That’s the job of the mucus and it is optimal if it is wettest, so drink plenty of fluids as well. Xylitol is like soap for the nose, and a soap that can be used regularly and easily. The frequent use of soap and water on the hands is accepted as the easiest and best way to stop the spread communicable diseases. Easier, better, and more effective is washing your nose as often with a spray containing an adequate amount of xylitol. The bacteria and viruses don’t get into our bodies through our hands but we introduce them ourselves when we rub our eyes or nose. It makes more sense to wash the nose.

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Domesticated Virus

Different viruses attach to and enter cells. Others pick on different organs like the liver or brain. All of them, along with all other infecting organisms, appear to follow Dr Ewald’s concept of evolving toward living with the host in a peaceful symbiotic relationship if they are sufficiently isolated or, in transportation parlance, if we handicap the taxis. He points out that even the virulent strains of HIV Japanese men pick up in Indonesia are tamed when they go back to Japan where condom use is prevalent and accepted. The 1919 flu pandemic was likely as deadly as it was in part because the crowded conditions in the hospital tents allowed for the easy transmission of the virus to another host, which enabled it to mutate in a more virulent direction.

The direction of the medical community has been to encourage the use of drugs that fight the viruses; that avenue has been our traditional and relied upon means of dealing with all infectious diseases. But, as Dr Ewald points out, that approach just perpetuates the war. We should be remembering what we have learned from our prior mistakes in putting sick people together and enabling the infecting agents to focus on getting more powerful. Blocking their ability to get around pushes infecting agents in the other direction.

So now I come back to xylitol, a five carbon sugar that is unlike the glucose, sucrose, fructose and other sugars with six carbons. Bacteria can’t digest or use xylitol as a food as they do with the six carbon sugars. It tricks them. They think it is a six carbon sugar but it isn’t.

Nathan Sharon, the Israeli biochemist who discovered how bacteria use carbohydrates and certain binding compounds called lectins to adhere to cells, and his colleagues have been arguing for at least 20 years that sugars can be effectively used to prevent infectious disease. Bacteria attach to specific sugar complexes on the cell surfaces in our bodies and if they can’t attach to these sugars or they are starved they are washed out and don’t cause infection.

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Feeding the proper sugars to the bacteria leaves them with no means of attaching; it decreases their adherence to the cells in our bodies. Regular use of such sugars also isolates the infectious agents in Ewald’s sense, and selects for bacteria that cause fewer problems as we saw with E. coli and urinary infections. The sugars in cranberries select for bacteria that don’t cause urinary tract infections. Xylitol decreases the adherence of problemcausing bacteria in the nose. Bacteria that live in the nose without causing problems cause sinus, ear and bronchial infections when they move out of the nose and into these neighboring areas. But if bacteria can’t sustain overpopulation due to lack of the right foods then their numbers will decrease in the nose. Putting these sugars into the appropriate bacterial environment doesn’t kill or threaten bacteria; it just fills up their hungry hands and bellies, gives them something to feed on and hold onto besides us. Sharon thinks that these sugars may be a part of the bacterial communication system; and what they seem to say to the bacteria is essentially to keep their numbers low and “shape up or ship out.” When they are used regularly that is what happens as the sugars compete at the binding sites so the bacteria can’t hold on and are then easily washed out of our bodies.

Xylitol saline solution is available as an inhaler to cleanse the sinuses, respiratory tissues and nose for allergies as well as cold and flu prevention. I tell patients to cleanse their nose when they wash their hands. The use of the inhaler is an easy and convenient habit during cold and flu season that allows us to live peacefully with enemies.

These bacterial adaptations give us examples of how all animals adapt—including humans. If we change their environment in ways that attack the agent, pressure is applied for them to adapt defensively to cope with the threat—they become stronger and more determined enemies. If we change the environment in ways that are not threatening, they are more likely to adapt toward living with the host—toward domestication; Joseph Nye calls it “soft power.” And that’s what humans did when they fed wolves. Who would have thought that we would be making docile pets of once predaceous bacterial strains?

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