Unlocking Happiness, Cardiovascular Health, and Longevity
God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction. Meister Eckhart, sermon on Romans 8:18
While the United Nations and most scientists consider any age beyond 60 as old age, it’s important to recognize that aging varies for each person. Some individuals may feel elderly and frail at 60, while others are still vibrant and healthy. Numerous factors influence the pace of aging – some accelerate it, while others decelerate it.
The global population of individuals aged 65 and older is increasing at a faster rate compared to other age groups. Based on data from the 2019 Revision of the World Population Prospects, it is projected that by the year 2050, approximately one in six people around the world will be aged 65 or above (16%), which is an increase from the ratio of one in eleven observed in 2019 (9%).
Improving Cell Metabolism with Botanical Compounds
Healthy cell metabolism or normal cellular metabolism is when the chemical reactions that occur in living cells are working properly. Our bodies are made up of over 37 trillion human cells: 37,200,000,000,000. For our bodies to work right, our cells must engage in healthy cell metabolism. Plant medicine can be a powerful ally for cancer patients.
When it comes to calcium and heart health, calcium is a major player.
Calcium is one of the Swiss army knives of our body’s chemistry. In addition to its contribution to our bones, teeth, and nails, calcium is essential to the chemistry that makes our muscles contract and release, including the muscles in the heart. You need calcium to conduct nerve impulses, create blood clots when you’re injured, and help your cells grow normally.
At the same time, however, calcium’s pervasive presence throughout the body, and its role in healing, can also lead to problems.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote a blog about the importance of being outdoors and how easily the virus spreads indoors, despite mask wearing. I emphasized the best ways to reduce the spread of the virus, in order of effectiveness: 1) ventilation, 2) filtration, and 3) mask wearing.
A significant amount of data now indicates that indoor transmission of the virus far outstrips outdoor transmission. This is likely the result of longer exposure times and decreased turbulence levels (and therefore dispersion) found indoors.[i] A recently published paper in JAMA[ii] has confirmed exactly that.
Ventilation and Filtration Reduce the Concentration of Viral Particles
There is no question that the most effective methods to reduce the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 particles in indoor air include ventilation and filtration. Observational studies along with modeling suggest substantial effectiveness for these strategies used alone, combined, and with other approaches.
For example, in one study conducted in 2020 that included 169 Georgia elementary schools, the incidence of COVID-19 was 39% lower in 87 schools that improved ventilation compared with 37 schools that did not; 35% lower in 39 schools that improved ventilation through dilution alone; and 48% lower in 31 schools that improved ventilation through dilution along with the addition of improved filtration.[iii] A simulation model found that filtration with two high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners alone or combined with mask wearing could potentially reduce exposure to infectious particles by an estimated 65% or 90%, respectively.[iv]
An individual can wear a mask in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but as these studies found, it is more important to open windows and doors, turn on fans and open vents, and use portable air cleaners. Honestly, I don’t understand why these simple methods were not employed at the onset of the pandemic. Instead, we went crazy with disinfection, often with strong chemicals, only to find out this had little to no effect on stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The Dangers of Disinfectants
In the attempt to prevent and control infection, the use of disinfectants skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are significant concerns regarding the large-scale use of disinfectants and sanitizers, including worrisome effects on human and animal health and harmful impacts on the environment and ecological balance.[v]
Studies show the excessive use of disinfectants poses a potential threat to living beings and ecosystems,[vi] with a myriad of side effects reported.[vii] For example, using chlorine bleach increases the risk of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, infertility, and impaired brain development in children.[viii] Even the seemingly benign act of too-frequent hand washing with soap and alcohol-based sanitizers can cause painfully dry, cracked skin and potential skin infections. More alarming is that alcohol-based sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning, especially in infants or young children.[ix]
An Israeli worker in a hazmat suit sprays disinfectant in the cabin of an Israir Airlines Airbus A320 airplane at Ben Gurion International Airport on June 14, 2020. Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images
A Reality Check from the CDC
In April of 2021, the CDC finally admitted that COVID-19 infections very rarely spread to people from surfaces.[x] However, because of fear instilled by the pandemic, many people have not relinquished their need to constantly disinfect and sanitize themselves and everything they come into contact with. Adding to the disinfection obsession is that many private and public businesses and venues employ drastic fumigation measures in an attempt to reassure the wary public.
It’s important to realize that the fumigation of outdoor spaces, such as streets, sidewalks, unpaved walkways, and marketplaces is not a useful tool for eradicating the COVID-19 virus or any other pathogen. Any type of disinfectant is immediately inactivated by dirt and debris.[xi]
Here’s a disturbing statistic: In China, 2000–5000 tons of disinfectants have been dispensed in Wuhan alone since the beginning of the pandemic.[xii]
Overuse of Disinfectants is Leading to Pathogenic Resistance through Hormenis
The overuse of disinfectants is creating a serious problem. Collated evidence from multiple studies shows that the chemicals used for disinfectant products can induce hormesis in plants, animal cells, and microorganisms. This is true when applied singly or in mixtures, suggesting potential ecological risks at sub-threshold doses that are normally considered safe.
Among other negative effects, sub-threshold doses of disinfectant chemicals can enhance the proliferation and pathogenicity of pathogenic microbes, enhancing the development and spread of drug resistance.
The massive application of disinfectants for containing COVID-19 is a double-edged sword, in that it may inhibit/prevent the virus but also imposes potentially significant but non-apparent costs or risks by affecting other non-target organisms in a dose-dependent manner, and by promoting traits of drug resistance.[xiii]
Weighing the Risk-to-Benefit Ratio
We need to do a better job when it comes to weighing the risk-to-benefit ratio of practices such as widespread disinfection. And we need to evaluate these practices carefully, considering the immediate side effects and the long-term implications.
I always advocate for a less invasive, more natural approach for supporting health. In terms of disinfection, I recommend using essential oils instead of chemicals. Plant extracts and essential oils provide a full-spectrum and safer approach to mediating the spread of viruses, without any of the detrimental personal or environmental effects of chemicals. For more on this, see my blog from December 17, 2021, entitled “Essential Oils with Anti-Viral Properties” at https://www.donnieyance.com/essential-oils-with-anti-viral-properties/.
[i] Bhagat, R., Davies Wykes, M., Dalziel, S., & Linden, P. (2020). Effects of ventilation on the indoor spread of COVID-19. Journal of Fluid Mechanics,903, F1. doi:10.1017/jfm.2020.720
[ii] Dowell D, Lindsley WG, Brooks JT. Reducing SARS-CoV-2 in Shared Indoor Air. JAMA. Published online June 07, 2022. doi:10.1001/jama.2022.9970
[iii] Gettings J, Czarnik M, Morris E, et al. Mask use and ventilation improvements to reduce COVID-19 incidence in elementary schools—Georgia, November 16–December 11, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(21):779-784. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7021e1PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
[iv] Lindsley WG, Derk RC, Coyle JP, et al. Efficacy of portable air cleaners and masking for reducing indoor exposure to simulated exhaled SARS-CoV-2 aerosols—United States, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(27):972-976. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7027e1
[v] Dhama, K., Patel, S. K., Kumar, R., Masand, R., Rana, J., Yatoo, M. I., Tiwari, R., Sharun, K., Mohapatra, R. K., Natesan, S., Dhawan, M., Ahmad, T., Emran, T. B., Malik, Y. S., & Harapan, H. (2021). The role of disinfectants and sanitizers during COVID-19 pandemic: advantages and deleterious effects on humans and the environment. Environmental science and pollution research international, 28(26), 34211–34228. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-14429-w
[vi] Chen Z, Guo J, Jiang Y, Shao Y. High concentration and high dose of disinfectants and antibiotics used during the COVID-19 pandemic threaten human health. Environ Sci Eur. 2021;33(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s12302-021-00456-4.
[vii] Yari S, Moshammer H, Asadi AF, Mosavi Jarrahi A. Side effects of using disinfectants to fight covid-19. Asian Pacific Journal of Environment and Cancer. 2020;3(1):9013. doi: 10.31557/apjec.2020.3.1.9-13.
[ix] Santos, C., Kieszak, S., Wang, A., Law, R., Schier, J., Wolkin, A.J.M.M., report, m.w., 2017. Reported adverse health effects in children from ingestion of alcohol-based hand sanitizers—United States, 2011–2014. 66, 223.
[xi] Ghafoor D, Khan Z, Khan A, Ualiyeva D, Zaman N. Excessive use of disinfectants against COVID-19 posing a potential threat to living beings. Curr Res Toxicol. 2021;2:159-168. doi: 10.1016/j.crtox.2021.02.008. Epub 2021 Mar 4. PMID: 33688633; PMCID: PMC7931675.
[xii] Zhang H., Tang W., Chen Y., Yin W. Disinfection threatens aquatic ecosystems. Science.2020;368:146–147. doi: 10.1126/science.abb8905
[xiii] Agathokleous, E., Barceló, D., Iavicoli, I., Tsatsakis, A., & Calabrese, E. J. (2022). Disinfectant-induced hormesis: An unknown environmental threat of the application of disinfectants to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection during the COVID-19 pandemic?. Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987), 292(Pt B), 118429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2021.118429
Many plant molecules, such as polyphenols, interact with and modulate key regulators of mammalian physiology in ways that are beneficial to health. The more we understand about this interaction, the more effectively we can target both the prevention and treatment of disease.
Polyphenol compounds, when ingested, interact with receptors and enzymes within the consumer. The fact that stress-induced plant compounds tend to upregulate pathways that provide stress resistance in humans and animals suggests that plant consumers may have mechanisms to perceive these chemical cues and react to them in ways that are beneficial. The term xenohormesis is used to explain this phenomenon (from xenos, the Greek word for stranger, and hormesis, the term for health benefits provided by mild biological stress, such as cellular damage or a lack of nutrition).
Although Omicron is now 73% of all new cases in the US, I don’t feel we need to press the panic button. I have some hypotheses on the emergence of the Omicron variant that could put the brakes on the doom and gloom scenario we are all being fed.
According to a study published on December 16th, authored by more than 20 scientists at Columbia and the University of Hong Kong, a striking feature of the Omicron variant is the large number of spike mutations that pose a threat to the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine boosters and antibody therapies. The scientists express concern that the variant’s “extensive” mutations can “greatly compromise” the vaccine, even neutralizing it. The report said the booster shots prevent some of the neutralization, but the variant “may still pose a risk” for those with their third shot. “Even a third booster shot may not adequately protect against Omicron infection,” the study said.
Omicron is spreading faster than previous variants of the novel coronavirus with the virus now in at least 90 countries since it first appeared in South Africa last month. Therefore, the Omicron variant could “out compete” other variants, including the more dangerous Delta variant – thus becoming the dominant variant. However, Omicron infections seem to be less severe and hospitalization and death nowhere near the rates of the other variants. Early reports suggest South Africa were reporting that people testing positive are presenting with mild symptoms: “In fact, they said, most of their infected patients were admitted for other reasons and have no Covid symptoms.” In other words, most of these patients had evidence of infection with SARS-CoV-2 but did not have COVID-19.
What about Africa and Omicron?
There is something “mysterious” going on in Africa that is puzzling scientists, said Wafaa El-Sadr, chair of global health at Columbia University. “Africa doesn’t have the vaccines and the resources to fight COVID-19 that they have in Europe and the U.S., but somehow they seem to be doing better,” she said. Fewer than 6% of people in Africa are vaccinated.
“I think there’s a different cultural approach in Africa, where these countries have approached COVID-19 with a sense of humility because they’ve experienced things like Ebola, polio and malaria,” Sridhar said.
In past months, the coronavirus has pummeled South Africa and is estimated to have killed more than 89,000 people there, by far the most deaths on the continent. But for now, African authorities, while acknowledging that there could be gaps, are not reporting huge numbers of unexpected fatalities that might be COVID-19 related. WHO data shows that deaths in Africa make up just 3% of the global total. In comparison, deaths in the Americas and Europe account for 46% and 29%.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the government has recorded nearly 3,000 deaths so far among its 200 million population. The U.S. records that many deaths every two or three days.
Why Some Viruses Can Be Good
Not all viruses are bad, and perhaps the Omicron variant could actually help us to overcome the pandemic. Omicron, like some viruses, can actually fight against more dangerous viruses and more dangerous COVID-19 variants such as the Delta variant. Keep in mind that viruses typically evolve to become less lethal over time. Like wolves domesticated into dogs, disease-causing viruses seem to become tamer in an effort to survive. The reasoning goes that, sooner or later, SARS-CoV-2 must “lose its fangs and become as boring as the common cold”.
Generally, like protective bacteria (probiotics), we have several protective viruses in our body. I am a believer in hormesis and building adaptive response/immunity. For example, viral infections at a young age are important to ensure the proper development of our immune system. Yet, we keep believing we should vaccinate against everything that poses a threat, even if the threat is mild. We should vaccinate when we have a real threat, and we have proven, non-leaky, and safe vaccines. But this should still be a personal decision and based on a multitude of factors; such as the frail and elderly. Elderly individuals are the most susceptible to an aggressive form of COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2.
In some cases, latent (non-symptomatic) herpes viruses can help human natural killer cells (a specific type of white blood cell) identify cancer cells and cells infected by other pathogenic viruses. They arm the natural killer cells with antigens (a foreign substance that can cause an immune response in the body) that will enable them to identify tumor cells.
Researchers working in Uganda said they found COVID-19 patients with high rates of exposure to malaria were less likely to suffer severe disease or death than people with little history of the disease.
If the Omicron variant is truly as transmissible as the say and significantly less harmful – some reports say 1/10 as strong – should we be afraid of it?
The main part of my personal practice is supporting people with cancer, and there are many situations where approaching cancer with low-dose metronomic chemotherapy yields significantly better results than standard-of-care high dose chemotherapy. In Oncology, systemic chemotherapies typically use the maximum tolerated dose to cause maximum tumor cell death. However, this paradigm has been challenged, particularly in older people and those who have reoccurring cancer, by theoretical models of tumor evolution, which suggest that removal of all cells that are sensitive to chemotherapy permits unopposed proliferation of any remaining resistant cells — a phenomenon called ‘competitive release’. Competitive release applies to viruses and different mutations and occurs when one of two species competing for the same resource disappears, thereby allowing the remaining competitor to utilize the resource more fully than it could in the presence of the first species.
Based on this model, an evolution-based treatment strategy that maintains a residual population of chemotherapy-sensitive cells should suppress growth of resistant cells when therapy is withdrawn, as the drug-sensitive cells have a fitness advantage in this condition.
A 2016 study designed an evolution-based treatment strategy using taxol (paclitaxel) adaptive therapy (AT), and compared this with standard taxol therapy (ST) in orthotopic xenograft mouse models of triple-negative and estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Two AT regimens were tested: AT-1, which maintains dosing frequency, but decreases paclitaxel dose as a tumor responds, and AT-2, which uses the same doses of paclitaxel, but doses are skipped when a tumor has responded. The treatment algorithms relied on tumor volume measurements determined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as this could be used clinically.
In both mouse models, ST initially suppressed tumor growth, but exponential growth resumed following treatment cessation. AT-1 had the same effect as ST initially but was able to maintain a stable tumor burden similar to the initial tumor volume throughout the experiment (∼2 months). This allowed continued reduction of the paclitaxel dose, and eventually treatment withdrawal in some cases. Interestingly, AT-2 controlled tumor volume for longer than ST, but unlike AT-1, tumors treated using AT-2 eventually progressed. A direct comparison between AT-1 and AT-2 indicated that AT-1 provided better tumor growth control.
The failure to trigger an effective adaptive immune response in combination with a higher pro-inflammatory tonus may explain why the elderly do not appropriately control viral replication and the potential clinical consequences triggered by a cytokine storm, endothelial injury, and disseminated organ injury.
Perhaps the best approach would be to implement strategies, such as herbal medicine and nutritional compounds, including Zinc, Vitamin D, Quercetin, Selenium and an immune health-promoting diet, which provides a diverse and robust GUT microbiota. This would be a sensible, cost-effective, approach that supports and optimizes innate health and the immune response.
Dysregulation of the gut microbiota (gut dysbiosis) is an important risk factor as the gut microbiota is associated with the development and maintenance of an effective immune system response. The elderly have a significantly increased susceptibility to infections and it has been reported that probiotic bacteria from the genus bifidobacterium can enhance certain aspects of cellular immunity in the elderly. The best places to find this beneficial bacterium are yogurt, probiotics like kefir, or sauerkraut.
Selenium is a trace mineral which is deficient in many people. It plays an important role in free radical scavenging, targeting oxidative damage, a major factor in the COVID-19 “cytokine storm,” which is the immune response with an overproduction of cytokines and other immune cells that can lead to a rapid multi-organ failure and damage to the lungs, heart and kidneys. Animal studies show that selenium with ginseng stem/leaf saponins increase the immune response against infectious bronchitis causes by a live coronavirus vaccine.
This may provide all those infected by SARS-CoV-2, to develop a milder disease and help them to clear the virus through an efficient adaptive immune response. With a milder form of COVID-19, being infected by the Omicron variant could be the path to building natural immunity which builds effective immune memory that can persist for decades and typically results in enhanced responses and accelerated pathogen control, and a generation of robust and durable T and B cell alike; and this goes beyond the detection of antibodies. The absence of specific antibodies in the serum does not necessarily mean an absence of immune memory.
Wishing a Joyous Christmas, Winter Solstice, belated Chanukah, and a Happy New Year to you and our world. May our prayers be our words in deeds, and may our earth be made very peaceful because of each of us.
 Lihong Liu, Sho Iketani, Yicheng Guo, Jasper Fuk Woo Chan, Maple Wang, Liyuan Liu, Yang Luo, Hin Chu, Yiming Huang, Manoj S. Nair, Jian Yu, Kenn Ka-Heng Chik, Terrence Tsz-Tai Yuen, Chaemin Yoon, Kelvin Kai-Wang To, Honglin Chen, Michael T. Yin, Magdalena E. Sobieszczyk, Yaoxing Huang, Harris H. Wang, Zizhang Sheng, Kwok-Yung Yuen, David D. Ho; Striking Antibody Evasion Manifested by the Omicron Variant of SARS-CoV-2, preprint doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.14.472719
 Chen C, Zhang XR, Ju ZY, He WF. (2020). Advances In The Research Of Cytokine Storm Mechanism Induced By Corona Virus Disease 2019 And The Corresponding Immunotherapies. Zhonghua Shao Shang Za Shi (Chinese Journal of Burns), 36(0), E005. doi: 10.3760/cma.j.cn501120-20200224-00088. http://rs.yiigle.com/yufabiao/1183285.htm