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WHAT IS A VIRUS and HOW DOES IT WORK?

 

With all the continued hype about the swine flu, we are receiving daily questions about it. So, here is more information about viruses (like the flu) and how to protect yourself.

 

Viruses have been with us since the dawn of recorded history. Archaeological artifacts dating back thousands of years suggest that viruses were no strangers to the ancient world. Smallpox, influenza, measles, mumps, herpes viruses (from the common cold to rabies) have all been a cause of human misery and death throughout history. In 1939, using an early type of electron microscope, researchers were able to "see" a virus for the first time. Like other microorganisms, viruses typically gain entry to the body through surfaces; usually the skin, mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, digestive tract, the genital tract, or the eyes. If a virus manages to make it through these physical barriers, it encounters a second line of defenses.

 

These second line defenders are the white blood cells, which engage anything the body recognizes as foreign. Their job is to engulf, ingest and eliminate foreign particles, bacteria, fungi, and viruses before they can infect any of the body's cells. Nearly a billion strong, they constantly patrol the body in the blood and lymph systems.

The key differences between viruses and bacteria are size and structure. Viruses are the smallest known form of life, ten to 100 times smaller than the average bacteria. Bacteria are big enough to carry their own ‘homes’ and machinery, and thus can live and reproduce independently of a host cell. Viruses, on the other hand, are essentially little intracellular parasites - that is, they can replicate only inside a host cell. Viruses carry their genetic information either as RNA or as DNA,
but bacteria use only DNA.

The structure of a virus is an exercise in simplicity. The most basic viruses have just two components: a core of genetic material and a protein shell called a “capsid”. In addition to these two components, some viruses have an extra outer envelope, consisting of a combination of lipids (fats), proteins or carbohydrates (sugars). Viruses with such envelopes are termed “enveloped” and those with no envelope are termed “naked”.

 

Genetic material of all living cells is contained within chemical structures known as nucleic acids. In human cells, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is used to store genetic information. DNA is organized into segments called genes, each of which contains "instructions" for manufacturing a particular protein, which in turn helps determine cell structure and function. DNA is like an “Assembly Guide” for building a machine. Human cells also contain another nucleic acid, ribonucleic acid (RNA), which helps carry out the instructions encoded in the DNA. So, RNA is like the Owner’s Manual of how to run the machine, once you’ve put it together.

 

In contrast to human cells, the viral genome can be written in either RNA or DNA, so it has complete information in one place. A virus can have either RNA or DNA, but never both. This nucleic acid of a virus can be single or double-stranded. Scientists classify viruses according to the type of nucleic acid and the number of strands in a virus’s RNA or DNA. A virus’s nucleic acids are recognized by the body’s mechanisms that are involved in RNA and DNA functions. Thus, the viral genome is able to "hi-jack" the host cell's replication process. This is the very heart of how a virus infects its hosts. It sneaks right in using RNA or DNA as a really good “fake id”.

In “enveloped” viruses, like those in the herpes family, the capsid is surrounded by the extra shell, which is similar in fat structure to the cell membranes of the host cell in which the virus was replicated. It essentially acts like a chameleon, taking on the appearance of the host cell and making it difficult for the body to recognize it as a foreign invader. Thus, allowing the herpes virus to quietly lurk in the shadows, waiting until the body becomes weakened in some way so it can take over again. Shingles is a prime example. It’s the chicken pox virus reactivating at a later date.


The envelopes of other viruses may be covered by protein-carbohydrate spikes that protrude from the surface of the envelope. This gives the virus an appearance something like a medieval mace. These spikes contribute to the infectious properties of the virus. The more spikes, the more easily it can travel in air and/or water and attach to host cells. Or, it can cause red blood cells to clump together making a nice virus ‘island’ for itself.


So, how can a body protect itself from something that sneaks in using this material that makes it look like it belongs?  Enter the third line of defense… enzymes! “Proteases” are a group of enzymes which act upon protein molecules and assist by catalyzing protein reactions. These reactions help to change the molecular structure, or breakdown the protein coat on a virus. Based on clinical studies, we know that proteases are able to liquefy almost all proteins, as long as they are not components of our own living cells.


Healthy normal living cells are protected against our own metabolic proteases by something called “the inhibitor mechanism” where the cells secrete compounds that “denature” (render inactive) enzymes that pose harm to the cell. Parasites, fungal forms, and bacteria are protein coated. Viruses in particular are cell parasites with a protein film.  Oral protease enzymes have the ability to act upon the protein coating of viruses, bacteria, etc. Enzymes can also break down undigested food protein, cellular debris, and toxins in the blood, sparing the immune system this task. Once the protein shell is gone, the immune system can then recognize the attacker and concentrate its full action on the bacterial or viral invasion.

 

Good food sources of proteases are pineapple, papaya, apples, sprouted seeds (like sprouted quinoa, sunflower seeds, etc), and apple cider vinegar with the mother.  The cultures in yogurt also help to produce enzymes needed for a healthy immune system.  When the need arises, we also can use oral enzymes (like CDX and PRX), to help a body fight a virus.

 

Heating and processing foods kills the enzymes (and much of the vital nutrients, like Vitamin C), placing high demands on the body's emergency resources. Processed foods like meats, flours, breads, pasta, etc. do not have enzymes and deplete the body’s enzyme resources. MANY studies over the last 40 years have shown that a high processed food diet leads to a weak immune system and a host of problems like allergies, arthritis and cancer.  So, eat raw or VERY lightly steamed fruits, seeds, sprouts and vegetables whenever possible to keep your immune system strong. 

 

The easiest way to make sure you are getting enough raw foods?  Break your plate into four equal parts. 2 parts should be raw foods (veggies, salad, etc). 1 part can be steamed foods (or you can choose to do 3 parts raw) and the last part can be cooked food.. meat, rice, pasta, lentils, etc.

 

 

Our pets are also susceptible to ills that come with a diet high in processed foods, especially allergies and parasites.  

More about your pet and their foods.

 

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