Turn Norovirus into No Mo’ Virus
by Nancy Webster
A few weeks ago, our grown son came home to visit for a few days. His appetite was just returning after a serious stint of diarrhea and nausea. He said “it hit him” 48 hours earlier, soon after eating at a restaurant. Since he was certain it had been “just” food poisoning and he was now feeling better, contagion wasn’t a concern… until two days later when I woke up sick. The other seven family members still at home followed suit within the next few days.
When this familiar scene happens, a lot of folks say they’ve got the stomach flu. But they don’t. There’s no such thing. Influenza viruses do not involve the stomach but stick to making us feverish, achy, and congested. Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, cramping, and dizziness can be caused by salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli, and many other bacteria, along with viruses or parasites.
The Inside Culprit
These days, the most common culprit of gastrointestinal illness is the norovirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus causes about 20 million illnesses in the United States each year, and is blamed for at least 800 U.S. deaths each year.
Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps and, sometimes, general achiness and fever. Once exposed, a victim usually feels symptoms within 48 hours, and they last last one to two days followed by a full recovery. Complications (sometimes deadly) tend to happen in the weak and immune-compromised population, largely due to dehydration.
Norovirus is named after Norwalk, Ohio, where the first confirmed outbreak was identified in 1968. You might have heard it nicknamed “the cruise ship disease”. Its favorite haunt is where many people gather in close quarters. This means nursing homes, daycare centers, hospitals, dormitories, retreat centers, and yes, family homes, too.
What makes norovirus so famous is how easily it spreads. If an infected person- even one whose symptoms ended up to three days earlier- prepares food or drink (think restaurants and cafeterias), that contaminated food can make you sick. The virus can live on surfaces for up to two weeks; if you touch contaminated surfaces and then scratch your nose or rub your eyes or mouth, you can get it. And when an infected person vomits or flushes a toilet after vomiting or having a bowel movement, the norovirus goes air-bound and spreads when inhaled.
Norovirus is, like the flu, a family of ever-mutating viruses. You may become immune to the strain you catch, but there are plenty of other noroviruses waiting in the wings so you can suffer an encore later. It’s most often traced back to leafy produce sprayed by pesticides diluted with fecal-contaminated water, and to food handling by still-infected food workers.
Because norovirus does not have a fatty lipid membrane protecting its cell wall, it cannot be broken down by soaps or detergents. Even alcohol does not kill it, which means using hand sanitizer after a trip to the store won’t protect you from norovirus. Chlorine bleach will do the trick, but touching and breathing toxic bleach is not a wise idea for long-term good health.
If all this bad news about norovirus has you feeling hopeless, don’t despair. As long as you and your loved ones are fairly healthy, if you get norovirus it will blow through like a storm system and you’ll feel sunny again within two days. However, you can greatly reduce your risk of catching it (and other “bugs”) by following some or all of these preventive measures:
Keep Your Immune System Strong
1) Support the immune system throughout the year with a nutrient-dense diet, including a daily dose of cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil. Cod liver oil is high in immune-strengthening vitamins A and D and butter oil is rich in vitamin K2. The three nutrients work together. If you take no other supplements, these are the most important. Consider them as necessary as food. If you cannot afford the cod liver oil/butter oil blend, Beeyoutiful also offers the option of A&D as Dynamic Duo and K2 as Katalyst. Some people are also extra low in Vitamin D3. If that’s you, or if you don’t know your levels but also don’t get much sun, you may want to add D3 to the mix as well.
2)Take in probiotics every day! Your immune system is based in your gut. A plentiful supply of good bacteria makes a strong army against bad bacteria and allows your body to absorb completely all the immune-boosting foods and supplements you take in. If you eat a portion of lacto-fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and other veggies and fruits) every day, you get a dose of preventive probiotics. If you do not but are generally healthy and eat well, consider taking Acidophilus Blast. If your schedule hasn’t been tweaked yet to include regular, nutrient-dense meals or you’ve got some health issues, bump up your daily probiotic to Beeyoutiful’s Ultimate Defense or even Gut Guardian for high-potency support.
3)Beeyoutiful also carries Ultra Immune, a handy, all-in-one softgel with virus-enemies allicin (the medicinal part of garlic), elderberry, olive leaf, rosemary and oregano oil. Take one per day all the time so viruses will find you to be a very inhospitable environment. If a family member succumbs to sickness, take Ultra Immune several times per day to increase your chances of evading the bug. (Skip this one if you are pregnant. The oils taken internally may cause miscarriage.)
4)Then there’s the classic, all-round immune-booster and healer: vitamin C. Most of us don’t get enough of this needful vitamin in our diets, because our food is shipped far, stored long, and processed empty. Beeyoutiful’s Rosehip C contains acerola powder that has many extra, illness-fighting minerals. For those who can’t swallow pills, Beeyoutiful carries Gentle C, capsules of C plus buffering calcium which can be opened and stirred into drinks or soft food. And now there is new ChewC, too!
5) Bee propolis, packaged in Beeyoutiful’s Bee Immune, works hand-in-hand with vitamin C. Made by honeybees, propolis contains antiseptic plant resins, enzymes, flavonoids and other immune-supporting compounds. The combo of vitamin C and propolis is a safe option for pregnant mamas to stay well.
6) Check your lifestyle. Eat regular, nutrient-dense meals. Avoid a lot of sugar, especially if sickness is in your midst! Get regular, gentle exercise. Do not over-exercise as this stresses your immune system. Go outside every day. Sleep: it’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity! Your immune system is rebooted every night you get enough sleep. Keep your relationships solid and happy and lift your cares to your Creator. There’s no better stress reliever!
Keep Things Clean
We touch 300 surfaces every 30 minutes. The very best advice for staying well is to wash your hands well and often, especially after visiting the bathroom. Although the soap does not disinfect the tough norovirus, a thorough washing (including under the fingernails) will help the virus particles slip off the hands and down the drain. But if your children wash hands like some of mine (if they even remember!), you know some extra disinfecting is in order, especially when norovirus has struck.
Toilets, sinks, counters, floors, doorknobs and light switch covers all need a frequent wipe down when sickness hits home. Don’t forget phones and keyboards, too. Norovirus particles can live up to two weeks on surfaces. A 10% bleach solution kills norovirus, but it is very unhealthy to use. Instead, fill a 32-ounce spray bottle with water and add 40-60 drops of grapefruit seed extract (GSE). GSE is proven to destroy norovirus (it kills mold, too). Add 10 drops per load to the softener compartment of your washing machine to kill norovirus on sick clothes and bedding. Add a few drops to your dishwasher (or dish water). Norovirus particles like to hide in food stuck onto dishes. And don’t forget toothbrushes! After use, soak yours in a glass of water with 2 drops of GSE. Rinse before using again.
Another option for sanitizing and freshening is essential oils. Most are anti-viral as well as anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic. Use in all the places you use GSE, although not as many drops of oil are required as of GSE. Mix 5-10 drops of tea tree or oregano oil in a spray bottle of water and wipe away. Or get fancy and mix up several oils together for maximum protection. See two great blend suggestions in the sidebar.
Don’t forget about clean air quality! Remember how norovirus goes airborne. A diffuser is most helpful in doing this job well. You can run straight tea tree or oregano oil or use your blends in it. If you don’t have a diffuser, regularly spritz your spray bottle of oils and water in the air of every room, focusing on sick rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. I have heavily sprayed a damp cotton cloth and hung it by a fan in a pinch, too.
When It Hits
You are not defenseless when norovirus hits. There are many “tricks” touted to take away symptoms quickly and to keep family members of the first victim well.
1)Take iodine. Almost everyone in America is deficient in iodine, says Dr. David Brownstein, author of Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It. There are varied opinions about how much to take, but a daily dose is helpful for most people and will greatly boost immunity to all sicknesses including cancer, especially cancer of the breasts and prostate. Testimonies abound of stomach viruses being stopped in their tracks by taking six drops of Lugol’s liquid iodine in a little water (it tastes strong) as soon as symptoms develop. This may need to be repeated 2-3 times in a day if vomiting has already started or becomes severe.
2)Take apple cider vinegar (preferably raw). Two teaspoons diluted in water for adults and 1 teaspoon in water for children. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice in the water is extra help. This measure works best as a preventative when you know you’ve been exposed to norovirus but have no symptoms. The ACV helps get the body in an alkaline state. Viruses, like all disease, grow best in an acid state.
3)Take activated charcoal. As soon as you get “that feeling” in your stomach, take 10-12 capsules and it likely will go away. If symptoms get ahead of you, take the charcoal anyway and again after vomiting or having diarrhea and your sick time will be over much sooner than if you let nature take its course. Try to drink enough water with the capsules to help them work. The charcoal captures toxins and carries them out of your body. (Do not take charcoal at the same hour you take probiotics.)
4)Take a high-quality probiotic. Especially if you have severe diarrhea, large, therapeutic doses are required. This calls for Gut Guardian Supreme, with 50 billion beneficial bacteria per dose. The reason your stomach cramps with norovirus is because the virus irritates the lining of your stomach and intestines. Take four capsules as soon as possible and follow up with that many on an empty stomach 3-4 times that same day. Once your symptoms are gone, keep taking 3-4 capsules 2x/day for a few more days to help stabilize your gut. Then drop down to the regular, suggested dose.
5)Use oregano oil. This one is for when you know you’ve been exposed, but not for after symptoms start. Add one drop of oregano essential oil to a serving of food that contains fat (an olive oil-based salad dressing is a great choice). Be sure it is a pure brand like Beeyoutiful’s. Repeat twice daily. Oregano oil kills good bacteria, too, so don’t overdo, don’t use for more than a few days, and don’t take at the same time you take a probiotic. (Make sure you’re using essential oils correctly and very carefully!)
6)Rest your stomach. Some suggest no liquid (or food) be taken for up to three hours after the first vomiting episode and then just occasional sips should be re-introduced. If that is too difficult, try to just allow sips instead of big gulps.
Ginger drinks are known for settling the stomach. Old-fashioned ginger ale, made with real ginger and real sugar, is still often recommended, but not the ordinary kind found in most stores today. Ginger ale made by lacto-fermentation is another option, as is hot tea made from grated, fresh ginger and sweetened with a bit of honey. Our family sips kombucha when sick. And I admit we’ve even used Gatorade when homemade felt overwhelming.
Peppermint essential oil is also known for relieving nausea and indigestion. One drop in a little water, sipped slowly, may not only help your tummy but will also freshen your mouth.
Once symptoms abate, do not rush the re-introduction of food or your stomach may rebel one last time. Start with light foods. Bone broth is excellent (do not use MSG-laden bouillon cubes). We like salted soda crackers at this time, too.
7)Isolate the patient. If you have the luxury, isolate the patient to a certain bedroom and bathroom to help contain the virus. Caregivers should use disposable paper towels for clean up and wear latex gloves for extra protection. (As a mom of many in a small house, I’ve found this an impossible suggestion to carry out!)
The big complication of norovirus that causes hospitalizations and even death is dehydration. I have a daughter who will vomit 20 times or more when she gets sick with the same virus that makes the rest of us get sick 3-4 times. Some people seem to tend that way. Non-stop diarrhea is another problem. If your patient is very weak and faint, with no urine for hours and no tears, and sometimes with sunken temples (or a sunken soft spot on a baby’s head), dehydration is severe. If you cannot get an oral or rectal rehydration solution into them, the need for hospitalization to get intravenous fluids is essential and immediate.
First try an oral rehydration recipe to administer by teaspoonfuls every five minutes if that’s what it takes to keep it down. Pedialyte is what most pediatricians recommend. Unfortunately, it has many unhealthful ingredients blended with the needed electrolytes and salts, but those may not be a worry in the face of possible hospitalization. You can also mix up your own using a recipe approved by the World Health Organization. Be careful to follow it precisely or worsened diarrhea or imbalanced cell salts (and resultant seizures) may occur. Made correctly, this recipe works very well (see sidebar).
When vomiting prevents a patient from absorbing enough liquid, a rehydration enema is the answer. The body actually absorbs liquid faster rectally and this bypasses the upset stomach. Once, a grown daughter of mine was so dehydrated she could barely walk. I administered the following recipe using a $10 enema bag kit from the drugstore and her health was turned around within thirty minutes. This is another recipe you should store with an enema kit and the ingredients in your emergency medical supplies (see sidebar).
In spite of technicalities, my family has called norovirus the “stomach bug” forever. When we eat well, watch sugar intake, take cod liver and butter oil daily, our friends get the bug but we do not. Those are the most important ways to stay well. But when Real Life happens and the bug threatens or catches us, the other suggestions definitely lessen the damage.
(If despite the above measures your patient exhibits any of the following, call your doctor immediately: 1)No urine output in 8 hours; 2)No tears with crying; 3)Excessive thirst; 4)Dry mucus membranes in the mouth; 5)Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea; 6)Abdominal pain, especially abdominal pain which settles in the right lower abdomen.)
With her eight children, Nancy Webster has accumulated over 156 child-years of parenting experience so far. She has many more stomach bug stories (“learning experiences”) she spared her readers in this article. Nancy assures all new parents apprehensive about how they’ll handle the gross factor of stomach bugs that pity will get them through it.