infection & how to defend your health against viruses

Defend against virus infection
‘To protect yourself from infection,
you need to understand the infection triangle’
Lisa Rieniets ND

The best way to guard against infection is to do everything you can to support your body to defend itself. Your body is designed to be healthy. You are miraculously made up of a community of cells together with a larger microbiome (the microorganisms that live in and on you) that has evolved over thousands of years. They are constantly interacting with each other to defend, balance and heal you.

Covid-19 is a new virus to humans and we are all going to be exposed to it eventually. There is no vaccine yet for this virus, so your body is going to have to fight it off sooner or later. The good news is you are designed to fight off virus infection, as humans before you have for thousands of years.

There is nothing new about coronavirus, which are a group of RNA viruses that cause a variety of diseases in humans and animals. They were first recognised in1960 by virologist June Almeida (1930-2007) when she examined nasal washings of a pupil suffering from influenza-like symptoms. June found a virus infection that was similar to a virus that causes chicken bronchitis. It had probably jumped from chickens to humans.

COVID-19 infecting a cell. SOURCE: Débora Barreto/FIOCRUZ/EPA-EFE

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is ninety-six percent similar genetically to bat coronavirus and has jumped from a bat to a human host, and eventually spread throughout the world.

Bats have a stronger immune system than humans. They live with Marburg virus, an Ebola-like disease, that has a 24%-88% fatality rate for humans, as well as Hendra virus that can cause severe and often fatal illness in humans. For this reason, we need to prepare ourselves for being exposed to COVID-19.

understanding the infection triangle

The best way to guard against a virulent virus is to understand the three major factors involved in fighting off infections, and then do everything you can to support your body to defend itself.

Infections are a result of a three-way interaction between a pathogen (COVID-19), it’s host (you), plus the environment that you and the pathogen share.

The key to managing an outbreak of infection is to defend the host, disarm the pathogen, and disrupt the environment so you can reduce the spread of disease.

The infection triangle clearly shows that your wellness, your state of health – together with the environment you live in – will determine how virulent an infection will be – and not just the presence of a virus alone.

Your First Line of Defence: Defend the Host

There are four steps to creating a strong defence.

STEP ONE: Strengthen your cell receptors and make it harder for viruses to infect you

Burglars have to break into your home before they can steal your possessions, and viruses have to break into your cells before they can grow and reproduce.

First, viruses attach to your cell surface receptors then penetrate your cells. Once inside, they release their genetic material and steal what they need to grow and reproduce, killing the invaded cells and spreading hundreds more of themselves into your body.

COVID-19 docks onto your ACE-2 receptors (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2), which are found in your nose, lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, liver and small intestines. All of these organs are potential doorways for COVID-19 to infect you. BUT the stronger the entrances into your home, the less opportunity burglars have to break in.

Core recommendations for strengthening cell receptors:
  • Vitamin D3: Protects the ACE-2 receptor. (4)
  • Vitamin C: Promotes collagen synthesis for epithelial barrier integrity. (45)
  • Zinc: Supports mucous membrane integrity. (45)
  • Vitamin A: Supports the structural and functional integrity of innate barriers. (45)
  • Japanese knotweed Reynoutria japonica. (13)
  • Chinese skullcap Scutellaria baicalensis. (7)
  • Perilla fructescens. (8)
  • Elderberry. (10)
  • Cinnamon. (11)
  • Reishi Mushroom. (21)

STEP TWO: Restore your gut flora

Seventy percent of your immunity is found in your gut, and your intestinal microbiome performs a powerful function in defending you from infection. Gut micro-flora determines the immunity and inflammatory status of your body. (46)

 Core recommendations for restoring gut flora:
  • Probiotics. (23)
  • Marshmallow root powder. (19)
  • Nutrition.

STEP THREE: Reduce inflammation

 Inflammation is like a fire that is sparked (switched on) when your cells are injured, infected, damaged, burnt, traumatised, poisoned, cut, sprained, or you suffer an allergic reaction.

The four signs of inflammation are swelling, redness, heat and pain. These symptoms signal your body.

Inflammation tells your immune system to remove harmful infection/toxins/pollen/gluten or repair damaged tissue from accidents/allergies/falls/burns. This is called acute inflammation and is resolved (switched off) once your self-healing mechanisms kick in.

Chronic (ongoing) inflammation results when a systemic imbalance occurs and your body doesn’t have the resources to recover. It is like a smouldering fire that keeps getting reignited and damages surrounding tissue.

If you have a health condition characterised by chronic inflammation, you must reduce the inflammation overload (smouldering fire) before you get infected by a virus that triggers further inflammation (fire).

If an infection overwhelms your immune system, the result is a ‘cytokine storm’ – massive levels of inflammation that damage healthy and infected cells. Unleashed inflammation, like wildfire, is dangerous. The higher the level of inflammation, the worse the outcome.

Health Conditions Associated with Chronic Inflammation
CARDIOVASCULAR High cholesterol or triglycerides, high blood pressure, stroke, sudden death.
ENDOCRINE Type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
PULMONARY Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).
GASTROINTESTINAL Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Coelic and Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis).
IMMUNE Autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, allergies, anaphylaxis, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, chronic infections.
CELLULAR Cancer – especially breast, colon and prostate.
NERVOUS Alzheimer’s disease, migraines, schizophrenia, chronic stress, mood-disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety, substance induced).
 Core recommendations for reducing inflammation:

 You can support the resolution of inflammation by increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory substances:

  • Japanese Knotweed. (13)
  • Dan shen Salvia miltorrhiza. (13)
  • Turmeric. (26)
  • Quercetin. (25)
  • Ginger. (20)
  • Fish oils. (47)
  • Cordyceps. (22)
  • Boswellia. (49)

STEP FOUR: Support your immune system to defend your body from infection

Reinforcing your immune competence will give you a better capacity to handle an infection that would otherwise harm the nutritionally deficient, inflamed, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, weak or weary person.

Core recommendations for reinforcing your immune competence:
  • Japanese knotweed. (13)
  • Zinc. (34)
  • Andrographis. (37)
  • Echinacea. (36)
  • Vitamin C. (34)
  • Reishi mushroom. (42)
  • Vitamin D. (4)
  • Selenium. (33)
  • Vitamin A. (3), (35)
  • Usnea. (49)
  • Astragalus. (12), (38)

Your Second Line of Defence: Disarm the Pathogen

Source: Jason Roberts, VIDRL – Doherty Institute

You can’t kill viruses because, by definition, they are not alive – they don’t breathe, eat or make energy on their own.

Viruses are entities made up of DNA or RNA wrapped up in a viral envelope called a capsid. They float around looking for a living cell to invade and take over.

Spike proteins that pop up from the capsid give viruses their ability to penetrate the membranes of living cells and infect them.

Viruses can only grow once they invade living material and steal their organic matter.

If the spiked proteins can be inactivated, the virus will become inert (neutralised) and unable to infect a living cell.

Substances like rubbing alcohol, hand sanitiser, or washing your hands with antibacterial soap and hot water, can damage the viral envelopes and reduce their capacity to infect you. That’s is why hygiene and washing your hands is so important.

Core recommendations for disarming pathogens

Herbs have been used throughout the ages to disarm infection. Today, research suggests that plant genes act as microbiome gatekeepers that keep infections out of cells. (49)

Stephen Harrod Buhner, a senior researcher in plant-based medicine, has taught for over thirty years and written twenty books on plants. Here are some of his herbal recommendations to help fight COVID-19:

  • Forsythia suspense. (48)
  • Lonicera japonica. (48)
  • Chinese skullcap Scutellaria baicalensis. (48)
  • Japanese knotweed Reynoutria japonica. (13)
  • Licorice (6)
  • Berberine containing herbs (e.g. coptis, phellodendron & golden seal). (13)
  • Pleurisy root. (31)
  • Houttuynia spp. (14)
  • Isatis spp. (15)
  • Sophora flavescens. (17)
  • Eucalyptus spp. (8)
  • Panax ginseng. (8)
  • Artemesia annua. (8)
  • Kudzu (18)

Your Third Line of Defence: Disrupt the Environment

Social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing are designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by altering the environment infection thrives in. But there is more to consider.

Your environment is made up of the external world AND your personal world of lifestyle, habits, thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Together, they have an enormous impact on your health.

We are only as healthy as the environment that we live in

Our ability to defend our bodies against virus infection can be undermined by:

  • Exposure to high levels of stress.
  • Not exercising.
  • Insomnia.
  • Exposure to high levels of air pollution.
  • Smoking and vaping.
  • High levels of radiation.
  • Living or working in a ‘sick building’ (see sick building syndrome and mould).
  • Eating foods grown in poor soil that cause nutrient deficiencies.
  • Eating highly processed foods that destroy nutrition.
  • Adding to your toxic burden by ingesting synthetic chemicals in food additives and preservatives, or applying them onto your skin (cosmetics, fake tan, toiletries, perfume, Botox).

Do the best you can to improve the quality of your environment

  • Do all you can to reduce your stress levels by practising mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing and prayer.
  • Aim for 10 minutes (better than nothing) to 1 hour of exercise five times a week.
  • Aim for 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
  • Buy an air purifier, especially if you live in a high pollution area. And stop smoking or vaping.
  • Clean up mould in your home and workplace.
  • Use natural, organic cosmetics and personal care products.
  • Purchase organic, uncontaminated, non-modified food, and eliminate processed sugar from your diet.
  • Eat as close to natural (unprocessed) foods as you can to give your body the best chance to fight off infection (see Mediterranean Diet Pyramid).

Improve the quality of your environment with essential oils

I also recommend diffusing essential oils to reduce airborne pathogens, especially eucalyptus, lemon myrtle, peppermint, lavender, cloves, cinnamon, lemon, ‘thieves’ blend, orange, bergamot, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, or Immune Guard by foodboost.

Use 10 drops of essential oil to every 100mls of water. Double the amount to 20 drops if you get sick until you are well again.

Try these blends until you find your favourite: 10 drops of Immune Guard • 5 drops of eucalyptus oil and 5 drops of lavender • 5 drops of bergamot with 5 drops of rosemary oil • 5 drops of lemon myrtle oil and 5 drops of peppermint oil • 5 drops of ‘thieves oil’ and 5 drops of lemon.

Diffuse oils at night if you get an infection that affects your lungs. Traditional Chinese Medicine states that the Lung Meridian is most activated and working hardest between 3am to 5am.

Defending Your Health: A Natural Approach

The basic underlying principle of alternative (natural) medicine is that you are a self-healing organism, more than capable of protecting yourself from infections.

You are not a machine that cannot defend or repair itself. If you think of yourself as a machine, then you become the ultimate victim of disease, fated to get sick and unable to protect yourself. Your mind is that powerful.

Instead, you are more like a garden, a living ecosystem that is not a victim of hostile pathogens. And just like plants, you have an inbuilt capacity to defend yourself from invaders unless you are deficient or weakened.

When soil is depleted, the soil structure becomes imbalanced, the microbiome damaged, and you reap plant life that is diseased and undeveloped. By restoring nutrient deficiencies and repairing the microbiome, you create fertile soil. Strong, healthy plants that can defend themselves from disease grow from fertile soil.

Similarly, if you feed the cells of your body what they need to create and maintain a vital immune system and clean up your environment, you will reap the reward of a healthy body that can defend itself.

Your choices to support your health changes your destiny. You are no longer a passive victim of infections, but rather a dedicated gardener growing healthy plants (cells) capable of withstanding and recovering from invasion (infection).

The information in this article is not a prescription. People have asked me before, do I need to take everything you’ve written about? The answer is no.

The core recommendations I’ve shared with you are researched findings. Our practitioners sit down with you and take into account your case history, your current state of health, and any medications you take, to create a tailored health program. There is no one size fits all. I always recommend – get qualified, personalised advice. All the very best, Lisa Rieniets. N.D

Rener Health Clinics

412 Canning Highway, Attadale. Western Australia 6156

Phone: +61 (08) 9330 2922   Email: [email protected]   Website:


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  1. Great article, thank you, Lisa. We don’t have to fear a new virus if we know how to take care of our body, strengthen our immune system and fuel it with the right food. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    1. Thank’s so much Kamila. Glad Lisa’s article inspired you. That’s what her goal is this year and she’ll be sharing more throughout the year. All the best 💕

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