Please describe your background and experience in medical and natural health.
In 1987, I qualified as a Medical doctor from London University in the UK. I then worked as a hospital doctor in the UK for 4 years in various specialities, including medicine, surgery, obstetrics, gynaecology, psychiatry, endocrinology, paediatrics and emergency medicine. Later, I attended Oxford University where I gained a PhD in Clinical Biochemistry. I then continued my research, publishing an academic paper, that many prominent scientists acknowledge to have created an entirely new field of medicine. The paper exposed the link between the toxic chemicals in our food and environment and the increasing global problem of obesity.
I have also published two books; The Detox Diet (Penguin UK 2002) and Toxic Overload (Penguin Putnam NY 2005). These publications showed the links between the toxic chemicals people are exposed to in everyday life and the main health issues of modern day life, such as cancer, lung and heart issues and a weakened immune system. The books also outline ways to make food safer and to improve health naturally, using foods, natural herbs and spices.
For many years I advised the Soil Association (the main body dealing with Organic Certification of foods in the UK) sitting on their food processing standards committee. I am currently a Visiting Fellow in Occupational and Environmental Health at Stirling University and for over 20 years I have been conducting research into how to improve health naturally.
As a trained medical doctor, please share your opinion on the importance of natural health from a doctor’s perspective to increase resistance against the recent Covid-19 Coronavirus infection.
Media coverage of the recent Covid-19, Coronavirus has incited fear amongst many. While this latest Coronavirus manifestation is an urgent and potentially life-threatening concern for all involved, the risk it poses can be better understood if put in perspective with problems arising from other viruses.
Many will now know that the latest Covid-19 is part of the same family of viruses (the Coronaviruses) as the viruses underlying the previous SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreaks. Indeed, 15-30% of the viruses underlying the common cold are also types of Coronaviruses. Although they all have slightly different individual characteristics, by sharing the same family group all these viruses tend to have similar properties in common.
Whilst current numbers of those infected and dying from the latest Covid-19 outbreak seem high, some international experts have previously said they would be much more worried about outbreaks of other viruses such as Influenza or Ebola, than infections caused by Coronaviruses. These views were held by top scientists such as Dr Klaus Stohr, the former head of the Influenza program at the World Health Organisation (WHO). He previously led the agency’s fight against SARS. Dr Stohr was reported in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “compared with the devastation of a flu pandemic… SARS will be something to smile about.”
This view was echoed by Albert Osterhaus, a Dutch scientist involved in pandemic preparedness in Europe who in the same Wall Street article reportedly said, “I am far more scared of a flu pandemic than I am of SARS.”
So why is it these people share this different view towards the Coronavirus?
This appears to stem from the fact that while some viruses like Ebola can readily cause death in healthy people, viruses like the Coronavirus only effect vulnerable people with a weakened immune system. According to the WHO, up to 90% of those infected with Ebola can die. Conversely, the Coronavirus tends to only cause death in certain groups, such as the very old, the very young and those with existing health problems. This is also reflected in the current estimates of those who have been affected by the recent Covid-19 outbreak, with the number of infections being reported at a much higher level than the number of deaths. The approximate death rate of the current outbreak of the Coronavirus stands at only 2%.
Indeed, during the previous SARS outbreak, many people who were exposed to the virus never actually became ill. The key factor behind whether or not someone becomes infected or ill, after exposure, is thought by many to be linked to the strength of the body’s natural immune (defence) system. Those with strong immune systems are less likely to become infected at all and even if they did, they tend to have milder symptoms. Whereas those with weak immune systems tend to fare much worse.
What advice would you give for us to share with our clients, as well as to use personally in order to protect naturally against infection from Coronavirus?
The good news here is that by knowing what weakens the immune system, this gives us the power to work on improving things in order to turn this situation around.
- Reducing stress
- Practicing meditation
- Getting plenty of rest and sleep
- Eating foods which feed and strengthen your immune system
- Daily moderate exercise
- Avoidance of drugs and toxic chemicals whenever possible
Actually, this knowledge has been used for centuries by practitioners of Naturopathy, Herbalists, Traditional Chinese Medicine and many more natural health practitioners who specialise in giving the body what it needs and protecting it from harm, in order to optimise and enhance its natural health and the strength of the immune system. The body can defend itself naturally against viral infections, such as Coronaviruses, given the right support and approach.
We are very fortunate as many foods are now known to be highly effective at strengthening the immune system. To ensure the body’s natural defence systems are on top form, studies have shown a benefit in eating plenty of virus fighting, nutrient rich foods, such as the following:
- Foods such as lemons and other citrus fruit, rhubarb, dates, kiwi fruit, strawberries pomegranate plus salad vegetables like bell peppers and cabbage, as they contain good amounts of immune system enhancing antioxidants.
- Sea and freshwater fish containing omega 3 fatty acids, which are often missing in the diet but essential in enabling the immune system to prevent and supress virus infections including the Coronavirus. Hemp oil or walnuts are a good vegetarian source of omega 3 fatty acids. Many fish also contain plenty of vitamin D which helps the immune system puncture holes in viruses and good amounts of zinc, without which the immune system would not be able to function properly.
- Fermented foods, such as yoghurt, as these promote the growth of the important good bugs in the gut which help suppress growth of the unwanted ones.
- Foods high in soluble fibre such as porridge oats, beans pulses, apples and oranges enhance the actions of fermented foods as soluble fibre is a great food source for ‘good’ bugs. These soluble fibres also bind to and lower levels of immune system damaging synthetic chemicals and immunotoxic heavy metals in the body and help remove them safely.
- Many herbs and spices contain powerful antiviral constituents and so have potentially strong Coronavirus killing actions. These include, ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions, horseradish, cinnamon, ginseng, cayenne pepper, peppermint, dandelion, mistletoe, liquorice, oregano and basil.
- Eating more organic foods. Conventionally grown foods tend to have a raft of known immune system damaging chemicals and are often of a lower nutritional value compared to those grown more naturally or organically. Organic foods tend to contain higher levels of immune system strengthening vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, copper, zinc and vitamin C. Vitamin C for example has consistently been shown to reduce the duration and severity during episodes of the common cold.
- Aquatic vegetables like lotus root (water lily ‘potato like’ root) and water chestnuts commonly eaten in China, Japan and India appear to rank as real antiviral superfoods. These can be found locally in the UK in Asian food supermarkets. Unlike land grown crops, which have increasingly been grown on nutrient chemically treated and nutrient poor soils for decades, natural lake grown lotus roots are grown in a nutrient dense and relatively clean environment. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, a study which looked at 36 vegetables to identify the foods highest in antioxidants, found the lotus root to come out on top. This is important as the higher the antioxidant levels a food possesses the great the ability to kill and suppress viruses. Ginger, garlic and spinach also ranked highly in that study.
These long-established natural methods have been recognised and used officially for former Coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS. Actually, during the SARS epidemic, The Chinese Government Health Authority released recommendations for preventing and treating those with SARS. They contained herbs well used in the west that have now been found to contain anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties such as liquorice, skullcap and rhubarb root.
These recommendations have now been backed up by academic studies, showing the effectiveness of natural herbs and spices in tackling the previous SARS outbreak and reducing the level of symptoms and their duration in those with the disease.
As these treatments were found to be effective on one type of Coronavirus, it indicates the same treatments are very likely to be effective on other types of Coronaviruses. So natural treatments used to treat or prevent SARS or even head colds, are very likely to be helpful towards helping the body defend itself against Covid-19.
An initial indication that herbal treatments could already be having a positive effect on the current Covid-19 situation can be found from an early report in the South China Morning Post (18th February). This suggested that the infected people who got medical treatment in areas of China, where 90% of all those infected are given traditional herbals, had a much lower mortality of around 0.1%, compared to areas where only 30% of infected people were initially treated with traditional herbs which had a reported mortality of around 2.6%. These results appeared to lead the Chinese government to swiftly implement a new policy of treating all the people suspected of Covid-19 infection with herbal drinks, in addition to conventional treatments. This gives the first positive indication that the Covid-19 is, like the other Coronaviruses, potentially also sensitive to natural treatments and we should learn from people’s experiences in China.
There is no initial indication which herbals were being given but I imagine that a good starting point will have been the herbs and recipes used by the Chinese Government health authority for the previous SARS outbreak to persons whose jobs (health workers) or relations may bring them into contact with someone with potential SARS. These included the following recipe for an herbal tea drink; Chinese rhubarb root, Honeysuckle flower, Bupleurum root, Skullcap root, Isatis root, Dryopteris root, Cang Shu, Job’s tears, Patchouli, Siler root and Liquorice. More information will come out in due course I am sure but it gives real hope for everyone caught up in this stressful situation.
From my perspective, I believe there is actually so much we can all do now to protect our health and strengthen our natural immune systems from the Covid-19 using the above-mentioned foods which have been safely used in this way for generations. Indeed, many of these foods, herbs and spices will already be found in most people’s kitchens!
Not only can these immune system strengthening nutrients be accessed from eating the right foods, but the above mentioned spices and herbals can be consumed as teas (peppermint, ginger, mistletoe, dandelion) as well as in food supplements (capsules or powders) or in raw juices, such as ginger, rhubarb and turmeric.
Only time will tell what has caused the latest outbreak. However, there is no reason to wait until people start getting infected in your area. Now is the best time to start to change your habits and diet to help your body defend itself from the threat of future Coronavirus virus infections
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