When you get a bacterial infection, conventional doctors typically give you antibiotics. But when you get a virus, like the common cold, they might still give you antibiotics (even though they won't help). Or they will tell you to rest, drink fluids, and wait it out. There's usually not much they can offer. They tell you to just wait until your immune system takes over. This might cost you a few days of missed work, but usually it's not a big deal — unless the virus is serious. When it is, there still isn't much conventional doctors can do, other than support your immune system in its battle.
But there’s a very simple treatment that you can do at home without the help of your doctor. This simple treatment can wipe out a viral infection and get you back on your feet quickly.
I’ll tell you about this treatment in a moment. Unfortunately, some conventional researchers make fighting viruses all too difficult.
For example, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine working with mice discovered a way to both increase their immune system and attack a protein that helps viruses replicate. While this one-two punch helped the mice fight off a serious virus, it’s really not this difficult.
In their study, published in Nature Immunology, the researchers figured out a way to strengthen the body's interferon signaling system, which plays a major role in the immune system's ability to fight off viruses. Senior author Michael J. Holtzman, MD, a Selma and Herman Seldin Professor of Medicine, explained, "We've discovered a new component of the interferon system. It does something that other components don't do, and it works on both sides of the fence: It dials up the body's internal genes that fight viruses, and it attacks viral proteins directly."
When they genetically engineered mice to have improved interferon signals, the mice fared far better when exposed to the encephalomycodarditis virus. This virus isn't just your common cold. It causes major damage to the brain and heart. Not one of the control mice survived infection. But a whopping 97% of the engineered mice did!
The researchers tried making the virus 100 times more concentrated. Still, 82% of the engineered mice survived. They tried decreasing the concentration 100-fold. More of the control group made it through alive – about 25 to 28%. But every single one of the engineered mice survived.
Holtzman noted that other groups that have worked with the interferon system have not only had more modest results, they also experienced an increase in autoimmune problems and a chronically activated immune response. None of the mice had this problem, which Holtzman believes may be because rather than increasing the amount of interferon in the system, the researchers instead focused on increasing the amounts of the protein STAT1. This may have given the system more power without confusing its ability to turn off and on.
The researchers also found that the genetic alteration activated molecules that not only fight viruses, but also destroy a viral protein called 3C protease. Many viruses need this protein in order to replicate themselves and continue attacking the body. This has given the researchers good guidance on how they may want to structure a drug designed to fight viruses.
While they're still a ways off from developing a cure for the common cold, this research is promising, as viruses can be a major health hazard when they're severe. As I've said in the past, drugs may play a role in fighting extremely serious viruses. But for most cases of the common cold, you really don’t need this complicated science. It’s really much, much easier to fight a virus.
Treating a Virus Naturally
Viruses are pieces of genetic code that invade your cells, and use the DNA in your cells to replicate themselves. That’s how they cause infections. Of course, an intact immune system will eventually stop this replication process. When that happens, the infection is over.
The good news is you can take an inexpensive, safe, and easily obtained vitamin that can stop viral replication faster. And when you stop viral replication, you get better much faster.
Researchers in the Department of Infectious Diseases at McGill University in Montreal recently proved that vitamin A stops the viral replication process. And they found that it will work for any virus, not just the cold and flu.
One of the most basic ways that your immune system stops viral replication is through the action of special molecules called cytokines. Your immune cells make a variety of cytokines. They are the key to an optimally functioning immune system. Perhaps the most important cytokine in respect to viral infections is interferon. And it turns out that vitamin A stops infections by stimulating interferon – just like the fancy research I mentioned earlier.
Here’s How the Researchers Made the Discovery
They took a culture of cells treated with vitamin A and exposed them to the measles virus. As expected, the virus was unable to infect the cells because the virus was unable to replicate.
Then they did the experiment again, only this time they exposed the cells beforehand to antibodies that prevented the cells from making interferon. They found that these cells became infected and that the immune-enhancing effects of vitamin A were wiped out. Their conclusion was that vitamin A prevents the measles virus from replicating by stimulating the production of interferon.
But it doesn’t stop with the measles. Large doses of vitamin A work in all viral infections. This is because the replication for all viruses is inhibited by interferon. This includes flu viruses, cold viruses, herpes viruses, and even hepatitis viruses. All of them.
As a result, I recommend that you take vitamin A every day. I take 25,000 units per day. Children should take less, about 5,000 units per day. Just doing this simple thing will reduce your chances of getting the viruses that are always going around. But I have to tell you two warnings about vitamin A.
The first is that some people are very sensitive to vitamin A even in these doses. It is uncommon, but it does happen. If you are taking this dose of vitamin A and several weeks or months later you start getting headaches, nausea, bone aches, or a rash, you may be one of those people. I have seen it happen twice in my career, so I know it can happen, but it is very uncommon at a dose of 25,000 units.
Here’s Some More Comforting Information
Chronic vitamin A toxicity is not lethal, and is completely reversible 100% of the time. All you have to do is to reduce the dose. So as long as you feel good while taking it, there is no reason for concern. Additionally, while I am on the topic of vitamin A, let me also mention beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is a vitamin A precursor. That means that it can be converted into vitamin A after you eat it. But even though it can be converted into vitamin A, it cannot cause vitamin A toxicity. That is because the body will stop converting it to vitamin A once the levels start to get high. The only thing that excessive beta-carotene can do is to temporarily turn the skin a mild orange color. This will revert to normal once the dose is decreased.
One last thing. Pregnant or nursing women should not take more than 5,000 units per day. Doses higher than 8,000 units have been associated with birth defects. This association has not been seen with beta-carotene.
And, finally, people with liver or kidney disease should take no more than 5,000-10,000 units.
Also, it’s still possible that you may get a viral infection even if you’re taking preventive doses of vitamin A. If you do, the next thing you need to do is to immediately start taking very large doses. I recommend 100,000 units, three times a day for 7-10 days, or until the infection is over. Although this is a very large dose of vitamin A, it is entirely safe because you will be taking it only until the infection is gone. And studies show that the acute toxic dose of vitamin A is over five times greater than this dose. I have been successfully using this strategy for over 30 years with no problems (other than the aforementioned sensitivities).
And now thanks to the folks at McGill University, I know why it works so well.
Trottier, C., M. Colombo, et al. “Retinoids inhibit measles virus through a type-I IFN-dependent bystander effect.” FASEB J. 2009 September;23(9):3203-12. Epub 2009 May 15.
Mohsen, S., M.S. Eledrisi, K. McKinney, and M.S. Shanti. “Vitamin A Toxicity.” http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/126104-overview