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How to Protect Yourself from Super Viruses, Part 1


Coronavirus, SARS, Ebola, influenza! What are the potential preventive strategies being ignored by most media reports? In this two-part blog, we examine science-validated natural strategies to boost your immune system’s performance.

Body Defenses against Viral Invaders

Natural killer (NK) cells, as well as killer-T lymphocytes, are specialized immune cells that destroy viruses and cancer cells. They release chemical bullets that perforate the protein coating of viruses. Natural killer cells interfere with the replication of viruses. Although different signals actuate these two immune cells, they must be optimally functioning to protect us from super viruses.


Proper handwashing with soap and clean water is the first line of defense against super bug infection. Often wash hands for about 30 seconds. Pay attention to the areas between fingers, around thumbs, and wrists. Use paper towels to turn off the spigot. Alcohol based hand sanitizers are helpful for the coronavirus, but are not as effective as proper hand washing for the flu. As for the corona viruses, alcohol hand sanitizer is effective. Cover your mouth and nose during a cough or a sneeze with a tissue.

During viral epidemics, stop shaking hands and hugging people outside of your own family circle. Rather greet with elbow touch. This protects people from the unbeknownst spreading of viruses. Avoid touching your face with your hands if you have not washed your hands. Try to maintain a 3 foot distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing to avoid getting virus-contaminated droplets.

Sanitize surfaces that are touched frequently with iodine spray. Lysol can also help. Do not wipe dry. Disinfectants must remain on the surfaces for a few minutes. One can also spray hands and face with iodine spray. Disinfect cell phone, key boards, and doorknobs twice a day.

Drink Pure Water!

Dehydration increases the risk for a respiratory, gut, and urinary infection. Dehydration decreases a class of antibodies in the respiratory mucosa. So, if you want to reduce your risk of flu and corona virus, drink liberal amounts of pure water.

Avoid Immune Suppressors!

Sugar is an immune suppressor and encourages inflammation that fuels chronic complications of viral infections. Alcohol suppresses natural killer cell activity.1 Chronic alcohol consumption has a double negative effect of reducing the anti-viral effect of interferon 1 while increasing inflammation.2 Interferon interferes with replication of viruses. Smoking increases one’s risk for influenza and coronavirus. Do not expose yourself to second-hand smoke. Caffeine, as well, may negatively impact lymphocytes.

Be Sure Your Vitamin D Level is Normal.

Unfortunately, Vitamin D insufficiency is common. Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses. Without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer T lymphocytes of the immune system will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. In other words, vitamin D is necessary to activate Killer-T cells. They will remain dormant if there is an insufficient amount of vitamin D in the blood.3 Your body produces natural antibiotic-like compounds called antimicrobial peptides in the white blood cells. Vitamin D increases the activity of these antimicrobial compounds.4,5 Dark skinned individuals and the elderly are especially prone to vitamin D deficiency. Get your level checked!

Viral-Fighting Diet!

A study found that a vegetarian diet increases NK cell activity by a factor of 2.34 compared to an omnivorous diet.6 Additionally, a well-balanced whole plant food diet combats inflammation. Meat and refined carbs are pro-inflammatory! Uncontrolled inflammation plays an important role in the spiraling complications of influenza and coronaviruses.

There are even more immune benefits to a predominately whole plant food diet. A high-fiber diet blunts harmful, excessive immune responses in the lungs. At the same time a high fiber diet boosts antiviral immunity by activating killer-T cells.7 Additionally, soluble fiber transforms the personality of immune cells. They go from being pro-inflammatory, angry cells to anti-inflammatory, healing cells that enable us to recover faster from infection.8 Bring on the apples, oats, and beans! Greens and cruciferous vegetables are especially useful for boosting immunity in the gut and the skin.9 Garlic consumption increases natural killer cell activity and helps to inhibit inflammation.

Some studies suggest that reducing fat intake to 22-25% of the total diet can improve the viral fighting protection of immune cells.10,11 A low fat diet (below 15%) can suppress immune function.

Beware of Nutritional Pitfalls.

Vegetarian diets will not enhance immunity if they are deficient in vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats. Chia, flaxseed, walnuts, organic, non-GMO soybeans, and leafy greens furnish omega-3. Nutritional yeast and fortified nondairy milk often have vitamin D, but vegetarians should have their vitamin B-12 and D levels checked annually and supplement as needed. Both vitamins are essential to immune performance.

Meat substitutes generally are high in sodium and fat, but very low in fiber. Juices have minimal fiber. Definitely not a winning combination for preventive medicine! Emphasize a variety of colorful, whole plant foods for the best prevention of superbugs.

Avoid Deficiencies.

Besides B-12 and vitamin D deficiencies, other nutrient deficiencies can work havoc on the immune system. While it is true, a short fast improves natural killer cell activity, not eating enough protein decreases antibody production. Adequate amounts of vitamins C, D, A, and B-12 are essential for optimal immune efficiency. As we age, the lymphocytes become less efficient. Wise calorie-restriction, vitamin E from nuts and seeds, and folic acid from greens and oranges slow down this aging of the specific immune system.

Include these Trace Elements!

Nutrients and phytochemicals work in synergy to enhance immunity. Therefore, we encourage eating a healthful diet instead of just using vitamin and mineral supplements as insurance. Selenium and zinc deserve especially attention for immune health. Selenium also helps NK cells to proliferate and increases their virus-fighting activity, too. Brazil nuts, cashews, oats, brown rice, lentils, and spinach provide good amounts of this trace mineral. One Brazil nut has more than the daily requirement for selenium!

Zinc is a trace mineral that exerts antioxidant activity and is essential for all immune cells. Zinc deficiency reduces the efficiency of T-lymphocytes. While it is important to have sufficient zinc in your diet, too much zinc can actually inhibit the function of the immune system. How much do you need? About 11 to 15 milligrams a day for an adult. Taking more than 25 mgs. a day can have adverse effects. Plant foods are not high in zinc. A half a cup of tofu provides 2 mgs, one cup of oatmeal has 2.3mgs, one-half cup of most legumes and one-fourth cup of nuts contain approximately 1 mg. of zinc. Vegetarians can be at risk for zinc deficiency if their diet is not carefully balanced to include zinc.

Rev up the Viral Killers.

Moderate exercise increases antibody production. It improves T-lymphocyte function in the elderly, and slows down the aging of the immune system. Regular exercise improves resting natural killer activity in the elderly. Aerobic exercise increases the number and efficiency of the natural killer cells. Following strenuous, exhaustive exercise though, and the number of natural killers is decreased, and their activity is depressed for several days.12

Contrast Showers!

If you do not have a neurological or circulatory disorder, severe anemia, or a blood vessel disorder, contrast showers are an excellent way to propel dormant immune cells into active service. Do an alternating hot and cold shower, as tolerated, in a warm bathroom: hot for 1 ½ minutes and cold for 30 seconds; do three exchanges. Be sure to make the second and third changes progressively hotter. Finish with cold. Hot and cold showers boost the number of circulating white blood cells. Perform this treatment twice a day, ideally. And one time a day is much better than none! Rest afterwards to enhance the effect.


Partial sleep deprivation reduces natural killer cell activity per number of natural killer cells. Even a modest sleep deprivation for part of the night can reduce the killing ability of the natural killer cells by almost 30%.13 Just one night of short sleep produces an inflammatory response that is detrimental!14

Think Positively.

Scientific studies confirm these observations. They show that major depression, for example, reduces NK cells’ effectiveness. A persistent negative outlook erodes both the ability of the NK cells and killer T-lymphocytes to destroy viruses and cancer cells. The emotions and reactive thinking common in depression—helplessness, loneliness, hopelessness, lack of social support, and unhealthy suppression of these feelings—not only depress the mind but the immune system as well.15

Stress reduces the ability of NK cells to make interferon, a chemical that substantially decreases viral replication. However, problem-solving techniques and coping skills improve NK activity in stressed persons. If the individual possesses high emotional stability and low anxiety, stress actually promotes NK cell activity. On the other hand, the same stress can result in a significant decline in NK cells if the individual possesses high anxiety and low emotional stability.16Confidence, openness, social support, effective coping skills, self-discipline, trust, faith, and a will to survive improve NK cells’ efficiency.17


Although we should be concerned about potential emerging viral pandemics, we need to take a proactive stance rather than go into a panicked frenzy. Proactive is the healthier, preventative approach!

© 2020, Wildwood Sanitarium. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.

  1. Lau, B. How lifestyle affects the immune system. The Journal of Health and Healing, 16(3):2-6.
  2. BioMed Central. “Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to fight off viral infection, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2011.
  3. Barragan M. Regulation of Dendritic Cell Function by Vitamin D. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 21; 7(9):8127-51. 
  4. University of Copenhagen. “Vitamin D crucial to activating immune defenses.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2010.
  5. American Society for Microbiology. “More evidence vitamin D boosts immune response.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2011.
  6. Malter, M.G. Natural killer cells, vitamins, and other component of vegetarian and omnivorous men. Nutr Cancer, 12:271-278, 1989.
  7. Cell Press. “A high-fiber diet protects mice against the flu virus.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2018.
  8. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “An apple a day? Study shows soluble fiber boosts immune system.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 March 2010.
  9. Cell Press. “Eating green veggies improves immune defenses.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 October 2011.
  10. Kelley, D.S., Dietary fat and human immune response. Inform.7:852-58, 1996.
  11. Blankenship, J., How much fat do we need? Journal of Health and Healing, 20(1):8-18.
  12. Lau, B. How lifestyle affects the immune system. The Journal of Health and Healing, 16(3).
  13. Irwin, M. Partial sleep deprivation reduces natural killer cell activity in humans,
  14. Elsevier. “Loss Of Sleep, Even For A Single Night, Increases Inflammation In The Body.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 September 2008.
  15. Bergler, R. Psychogenic stimulation of immune system by nutrition. Zentrabl Hyg Unweltmed, 191(2-3):241-64, 1991.
  16. Borella, P. et al, Emotional stability, anxiety, and natural killer activity under examination. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 24(6):13-27, 1979
  17. Bergler, R. Psychogenic stimulation of immune system by nutrition. Zentrabl Hyg Unweltmed, 191(2-3):241-64, 1991.
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Preventing Breast Cancer

The latest on Preventing Breast Cancer

One out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her life­time. Five-year survival rates are good (85 to 99 percent) unless tumors have metastasized (falls to 25 percent). Death rates have dropped since 1989, but nowhere near enough.

“What’s changed in the last few years is a greater emphasis on cancer subtypes,” says Regina Ziegler of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics at the National Cancer Institute. “Researchers wonder if different subtypes have distinct causes.”

Estrogen receptors

Some breast tumors have estrogen receptors (the tumors are called estrogen-positive) and some don’t (estrogen-negative). “The percentage of breast cancer that’s estrogen-negative is higher in younger than in older women,” notes Ziegler. And those tumors are typically harder to treat.

Different risk factors may fuel breast tumors depending on whether they’re estrogen-positive or estrogen-negative.

“Being overweight or obese is a stronger risk factor for estrogen-positive cancer,” notes Ziegler. Among postmenopausal women who take no hormones, those who are overweight or obese have nearly double the risk of estrogen-positive breast cancer compared to similar women who are lean. Those heavier women, however, have only a 60 percent higher risk of estrogen-negative breast cancers.

It’s not clear how extra pounds boost the odds of postmenopausal breast cancer. “For a long time, people thought that increased estrogen levels in the breast were the main explanation,” says Ziegler.

After menopause, fat cells, not ovaries, are the chief source of estrogen. “If you have more fat cells, they produce more estrogen, and estrogen stimulates breast cell proliferation,” she explains. “But people now believe that insulin and possibly inflammation also play a role.”

For example, a recent study found that women who had high insulin levels had double the risk of breast cancer, whether or not they were overweight. Still, adds Ziegler, “you’re more likely to have high insulin levels if you’re heavier and inactive.”

The influence of diet

“Alcohol is also a stronger risk factor for estrogen-positive cancer,” says Ziegler. In one recent study, women who drank one to six servings of alcohol a week had a 29 percent higher risk of estrogen-positive cancer than women who never drank alcohol. Those who drank at least seven servings a week had a 48 percent higher risk. But there was no link with the less common estrogen-negative tumors.

In contrast, “eating more fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables, may be protective for estrogen-negative tumors,” says Ziegler. When researchers pooled data from 20 studies on roughly 993,000 women, women who ate the most vegetables had an 18 percent lower risk of those tumors than women who ate the least.


Exercise seems to lower the risk of both estrogen-positive and estrogen-negative breast cancer. “With physical activity, the big question is whether it reduces risk beyond its influence on weight gain,” says Ziegler. “We don’t know.”

You have a higher risk of breast cancer if you:

  • are a woman 65 or older
  • have a relative—especially a mother, sister, or daughter—who had breast cancer
  • have mutations in genes (like BRCA1 and BRCA2) found in families with high rates of breast cancer
  • had menstrual periods that began before age  12 or menopause that began after 55
  • were older than 30 when you had your first child
  • never gave birth
  • took hormones after menopause
  • have dense breast tissue (seen on a mammogram)
  • have abnormal breast cells (atypical hyperplasia or carcinoma in situ)

Warning signs: a painless lump in the breast or underarm area. Less common symptoms: thickening, swelling, distortion, tenderness, skin irritation, redness, scaliness, dimpling, puckering, pitting, discharge, or nipple turned inward.

To reduce your risk of any cancer:

  • Don’t use tobacco
  • Lose (or don’t gain) excess weight
  • Limit red and processed meat [or avoid entirely; eat more fruits and vegetables, natural cancer protection]
  • Avoid alcohol*
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day

Sources: Breast Cancer Res. 14: R76, 2012; Am. J. Epidemiol. 180: 705, 2014; J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 105: 219, 2013; Arch. Intern. Med. 170: 1758, 2010; Cancer Res. 75: 270, 2015.

*HER edit: since the article pointed out that alcohol is a stronger risk factor in breast cancer and women should use it as little as possible, it seems odd to suggest allowing up to two drinks per day.

Nutrition Action Healthletter April 2019, page 3.

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Prevent Heart Attacks by Sleeping

Do you want to prevent a heart attack? You need more than a plant-based diet and regular exercise!

Adequate amounts of good quality sleep are very essential to heart and blood vessel health!

Scary Stats

One out of ten Americans suffer from insomnia. Unfortunately, insomnia is a significant risk factor for heart attack.1 However, sleep shortage from whatever cause, spells “hazard to heart health. Middle-aged men who sleep five hours or less per night have twice the risk of developing a major cardiovascular event during the following two decades than men who sleep seven to eight hours by age 71.

Learn more from our friends at the Wildwood Lifestyle Center by clicking here…

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4 Under-rated foods

When was the last time you walked into the supermarket and made a beeline for the bulgur or cabbage? 

These underrated stars aren’t just delicious and healthy. They’re also relatively unprocessed, inexpensive, and versatile.

1. Lentils

Cheap. Quick. Nutritious. How could we resist lentils?

A half cup of cooked lentils has 9 grams of protein and a hefty 8 grams of fiber, plus a good dose of magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and folate and other B vitamins. For just 120 calories, that’s a deal.

Like all dried beans and peas, lentils help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. And, like other plant proteins, they carry a smaller environmental footprint than meat. But unlike most other dried beans, you don’t need to soak ‘em before cooking. Yes!!!

Toss black or French lentils—they hold their shape when cooked—into a salad, or use them to replace that starchy side on your plate.

Save (less-firm) brown lentils for soup or stew. And red lentils (the softest) have their skins removed, so they cook in just 10 to 15 minutes. Use them in a thick soup or curry. Or add them to packaged or takeout Indian lentil dishes to cut the salt.

2. Cabbage

A head of green cabbage can stay fresh in the fridge for weeks and gives you plenty of bang for your buck. Feeding a small army of friends? Cabbage goes far.

Plus, you’ve got options. There’s also the vibrant purple-red cabbage or the more delicate Napa or savoy.

A cup of shredded raw cabbage is packed with vitamins C and K, and also delivers a decent dose of folate and fiber. For around 20 calories…and a whole lot of crunch…that’s hard to beat.

Slice some into thin ribbons—or grab a pre-shredded bag—and start bulking up your meal. Use it raw for a salad or slaw that won’t wilt. Prefer cooked? Add it to stir-fries, soups, or fried rice.

3. Pineapple

Pineapple is no slouch in the nutrient department. One cup has roughly 90 percent of a day’s vitamin C, 2 grams of fiber, and a smattering of potassium, magnesium, folate, and other B vitamins—all for only 80 calories.

But it’s not just about the numbers. Have you ever gotten a badpineapple? You can count on irresistible, juicy fruit hiding underneath the prickly skin because pineapples are typically picked ripe. Just look for one with fresh-looking dark green leaves and a sweet smell.

Google “how to cut a pineapple” before you dig in. (Blending in a smoothie? Just use frozen.) Then get chopping…and snacking.

4. Bulgur

Short on time? You can’t beat bulgur. Simply add boiling water, cover for 10 to 15 minutes, and drain. Ta-dah! (Coarser bulgur needs a longer soak, or a 10-minute simmer on the stovetop.)

Bulgur—dried wheat that’s steamed and cracked—isn’t just for tabbouleh. Sub it for the side of brown rice on your dinner plate, and you’ve doubled the fiber. Or cook it with raisins or other dried fruit and top with nuts for a new spin on hot cereal.

The whole-grain goods: a ¾-cup (cooked) serving has 6 grams of fiber, 10 percent of a day’s magnesium, and a decent dose of iron, zinc, and many B vitamins.

What’s more, stores like Whole Foods sell bulgur in bulk. Whether you’re trying to sidestep excess packaging waste or want to buy only what you need, it’s a find.

The information in this post first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.

HER Edit: The original article listed salmon as a fifth underrated food as a source of omega-3, but we suggest it would be safer to avoid the fish product and get similar amounts of omega-3 from just one tablespoon of flax seed sprinkled on your food. Flax seeds are good sources of many nutrients. Their health benefits are mainly due to their content of omega-3 fats, lignans and fiber.

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Tofu is Firming Up

Tofu is firming up. Take Wildwood organics “super firm“ vacuum-packed high protein. It’s denser than water-packed tofu, so it can go straight from package to pan, with no draining or pressing. Simply open, then cube or slice.

Bonus: Less water means that you get more protein per bite or per serving (15 g in roughly 3 ounces) than you’d get from water-packed firm (8 grams) or extra-firm (9 grams) tofu.

Not too shabby for 140 calories’ worth of plant protein that’s low in saturated fat easier on the planet than red meat, poultry, cheese, or any other animal protein. And tofu also supplies some iron, magnesium, and healthy fat.

Tofu soaks up whatever flavors you add to it, and goes from pan to plate in minutes. It’s easy to cook…yet hard to overcook. Curry? Stir-fry? Tacos? Done and dusted.

Use super-firm tofu in any recipe that calls for a firm or extra-firm.  Can’t find Wildwood brand? Look for another vacuum-packed brand. Trader Joe’s Organic High Protein Tofu and Hodo Organic Firm Tofu are two good bets. Check out your nearest supplier. – 800 588-7782

Right Stuff, Fast Food, p. 16, April 2019, Center for Science in the Public Interest, the nonprofit publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter, 1220 L ST NW Suite 300 | Washington, DC 20005,

Photos of slices of tofu: slice-the-tofu-597229__480.jpg and prepared tofu: vegetarian-1141242__480.jpg are from 11 views