Promoting a Strong, Healthy Immune System
By Gene Bruno, MS, MHS
Are you frequently the victim of the common cold or the flu? If so, you’re not alone. Each year there...
By Gene Bruno, MS, MHS
Whether you call it "staph", "staph A" or “MRSA” (pronounces mersa), it’s all the same: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA is a bacterial infection which is resistant to methicillin and other antibiotics in the penicillin family.1 Although staph is a common bacterium found on the skin of healthy people2 , if staph gets into the body it can cause a minor infection such as boils or pimples or serious infections such as pneumonia or blood infections. In fact, MRSA symptoms are similar to those for any type of Staph infection:
In addition, MRSA-specific symptoms include:
Listening to or reading news reports, you might think MRSA is only a problem occurring in children. Not so. In fact, MRSA was first seen in hospital patients who are elderly or very ill. However, any place where people come in close contact may be a venue for contracting MRSA. This includes schools and gyms, as well as hospitals. You may also be at more risk if you have had frequent, long-term, or intensive use of antibiotics. In addition, those with long-term illnesses, intravenous drug users or those who are immunosuppressed are also at increased risk.5 6
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA may be responsible for over 94,000 serious infections and is associated with nearly 19,000 deaths in the United States in 2005. 7 It has been observed that these numbers Make MRSA responsible for more deaths each year than AIDS.8
As you’ve undoubtedly heard from news reports, hand washing is a good way to help prevent MRSA. Alcohol based topical sanitizer are also an effect means of helping to prevent the transmission of MRSA.9
Although MRSA is resistant to traditional antibiotics, it can be treated with other types sulfa drugs, tetracyclines, and clindamycin. Some types of MRSA are even resistant to these, but may be treated with vancomycin, or even newer drugs, such as linezolid.10 11
From a complementary or alternative perspective, there are a number of things that can be done to help prevent staph infections naturally. These include some adjustments to the diet, as well as the addition of certain dietary supplements to one’s personal health program. Such changes may help build up immunity so that the body’s own defense systems can help prevent and fight infections of all types, including MRSA.
From a dietary standpoint, it is important to restrict sugar since sugar interferes with the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria. I’m not talking about the type or amount of sugar you get from eating fruit, but rather the amount you get from drinking soda and eating sweets and other junk food. Likewise, alcohol interferes with a wide variety of immune defenses, and excessive dietary fat reduces natural killer cell activity. So just eating a healthy diet can be beneficial for good immune function.12
In terms of dietary supplements, there are some general immune-promoting nutrients which may have benefit in preventing MRSA infections:
Some specific dietary supplements might have benefit against MRSA directly:
With so many choices, it might be hard to decide which of these supplements to use. My personal recommendation would be to regularly take a basic foundation program of nutrients (e.g., a multiple vitamin, a vitamin C product, a vitamin E product and a multiple mineral) which would provide vitamins A, C and zinc, as well as other important nutrients that are need anyway for good health; in addition to a pomegranate supplement, and an echinacea/goldenseal supplement. The basic foundation program and pomegranate supplement could be used all the time. The echinacea/goldenseal combination should only be used for about two months, and then there should be about one month’s break. After that you can continue using just Echinacea. The reason for this is that ongoing use of goldenseal might deplete certain B vitamins. Also, goldenseal is only typically taken if an infection is present. However, given the current prevalence of MRSA, there may be preventive value in this short-term use of goldenseal.
Smart Supplementation™ is a free series of educational literature created by Huntington College of Health Sciences (HCHS) as a public service. Although copyrighted, it may be freely photocopied and distributed, but may not be altered in any way. Smart Supplementation™ is not intended as medical advice. For diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition, consult your physician.
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