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As we move into fall and winter, it is time again to add to our arsenal of techniques which help us cope with colds and influenza, and as with last year, look for natural approaches to preventing COVID-19. In a recent newsletter, I discussed how the alternative sweetener xylitol (a naturally occurring alcohol) can be used in the form of chewing gum to reduce cavity formation, and periodontal disease.
This ability to reduce dental problems has further ramifications, as long term studies have shown that children with ongoing dental issues often grow up to be adults with heart disease. Furthermore, advanced periodontal disease is also linked to a variety of disease states, including Alzheimer’s disease, and premature mortality. In fact, xylitol has proven itself in many clinical studies to be a safe and effective way to prevent a variety of bacterial infections, and has even shown prebiotic properties due to its positive effect on the microbiome.
Because these bad bacteria in the mouth can migrate into the body causing havoc elsewhere, there are obviously many benefits to controlling and reducing this pathogenic material. One obvious benefit is improving immune function by reducing the body’s total load of toxins, freeing up the immune system for other jobs. As well, should bacterial or viral material enter the oral cavity, the ability of xylitol to kill these invaders has proven to “prevent the onset of acute respiratory distress syndrome”.
Xylitol and COVID
With regards to COVID-19, at least three recently published peer reviewed articles have reinforced how important oral health care is with regards to this particular virus. Why is this? Well, periodontal disease leads to “systemic inflammation and an increase in proinflammatory cytokine levels. This would exacerbate the cytokine storm of COVID-19, and the oral pathogens in the saliva could cause an increase in the pneumonia risk”.
Xylitol has already been proven to reduce the severity of pneumonia, and viral infections, in animal studies, also improving the survival rates of the subjects. And, since acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia are the primary fatal complications of COVID-19, researchers thought it was time to begin testing the effectiveness of xylitol against SARS-CoV-2.
Further animal studies confirmed much of the previous research: feeding mice dietary xylitol reduced the viral load in lung disease, reduced inflammation-associated immune responses to respiratory infections, and had a positive effect on mice with influenza A (H1N1). (This study fed mice xylitol for 14 days before they were exposed to the virus, and for three days after exposure. It is safe for humans, adults or children, to ingest up to 20 grams of xylitol per day. This should be worked up gradually, so as to avoid digestive distress.)
Now we get to the study that tested xylitol specifically against SARS-CoV-2. This study was tested “in vitro”, meaning the cells from the virus were put into a test tube with a xylitol mixture. In this case, the xylitol used was at a particular concentration, and was mixed with some grapefruit seed extract (GSE), which also has antibacterial properties. The percentage of xylitol and GSE mimicked that found in a commonly available nasal spray, as the purpose of the study was to determine if this mixture could prevent the virus from entering the body through the nasal passages.
“After a 25-minute contact time, the nasal spray (11% Pure Xylitol, 0.85%NaCL (Saline), and 0.20% grapefruit seed extract) reduced virus from 4.2 to 1.7 log10 CCID50 per 0.1 mL, a statistically significant reduction. Images obtained at the BIoCryo Laboratory revealed virus contained on the cell wall but none intra-cellular, possibly due to D-xylose (xylitol) production of glycosaminoglycans decoy targets.”
The authors conclude their study with the recommendation that more research be done given that xylitol and GSE are safe, inexpensive, and commonly available, and have great potential for saving lives. This combination may “prevent spread of viral respiratory infections not just for SAR-CoV-2 but also for future H1N1 or other viral epidemics”. (Study)
Now the payoff for all your reading. The nasal spray they refer to with the same ratio of ingredients as that used in the study, is called Xlear, and is available in health food stores (or online). Xlear is commonly sold for treating allergies, but is also used by some in the winter for treating sinus problems due to colds or flu. Now we have a new, much more valuable use for this mixture.
One More Thing
A comment in the summary of the study we have been reviewing stood out to me: “and the spray allows for comfortable long term mask wearing…” Like it or not, we are all wearing masks, many of us for a good portion of the day. And, I cannot stress enough the importance of washing your (cloth) mask at the end of every day. (I have a couple that I rotate, in order to ensure I always have a freshly washed one available.)
Here is a good example of why mask hygiene is so important: “A group of parents in Gainesville, FL, sent 6 face masks to a lab at the University of Florida, requesting an analysis of contaminants found on the masks after they had been worn. The resulting report found that five masks were contaminated with bacteria, parasites, and fungi, including three with dangerous pathogenic and pneumonia-causing bacteria. Although the test is capable of detecting viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, only one virus was found on one mask (alcelaphine herpesvirus 1).” (Masks had been worn for an average of 5.7 hrs.) (Source)
Given this information, we can see the advantage of having a nasal spray to use in conjunction with the masks, in order to not only prevent outside bacteria and viruses from entering our oral cavity, but to also protect us from the potential danger the masks hold. (Another helpful approach is to spray the mask with colloidal silver, after washing and drying, and letting the silver solution dry on the mask. This will help keep the mask sterile.)
If you were to think that medical masks, disposed of every day, are a way around the problem with cloth masks, you may want to reconsider:
“Swansea University scientists have uncovered potentially dangerous chemical pollutants that are released from disposable face masks when submerged in water. The findings reveal significant levels of pollutants in all the masks tested — with micro/nano particles and heavy metals released into the water during all tests. Research reveals high levels of pollutants, including lead, antimony, and copper, within the silicon-based and plastic fibres of common disposable face masks.” (Source)
The above findings are a warning about what is happening as millions of disposable medical masks find their way into water bodies. (This makes the plastic bag problem pale in comparison: “A separate study reports that 3.4 billion face masks or face shields are discarded every day.” Source)
Germane to our topic, these heavy metals and micro-particles are not just a danger to water systems, but can also be inhaled. Further to this subject: “Top German scientists have found that wearing certain types of face masks for long periods of time could result in potentially hazardous chemicals and harmful microplastics being inhaled deep into human lungs…These findings have been backed up by another leading industry textile chemist who found elevated concentrations of hazardous fluorocarbons, formaldehyde and other potentially carcinogenic substances on surgical face masks.” (Source)
I suggest the use of cloth masks instead of medical masks, if possible, and keep those cloth masks rigorously clean. Perhaps include Xlear nasal spray as part of your daily regimen, masked or not.
And, remember to keep your mucosal lining intact, as that is your first line of defense against any pathogens, whether from your mask or the outside world. (Read my blog, How 3 Nutrients Can Heal Most Ailments, for more information on maintaining the mucosal membranes.)
Also, dog owners should know that xylitol can be toxic to dogs, even when relatively small amounts are eaten. If your dog eats a product that contains xylitol, take the dog to a veterinarian immediately.