You can’t avoid childhood disability – can you? Well, yes, when you can avoid the effects of the stealthy cytomegalovirus (CMV) contracted in the womb, potentially causing permanent disabilities such as deafness blindness, developmental delays, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

CMV is a member of the herpes family that can lie dormant and undetected for years. It is found in over half the population  but rarely causes a problem until a person’s system is weakened. It is a sneaky virus, because the immune system doesn’t recognise it, so even if a person has the virus, there aren’t usually any symptoms.

CMV lies dormant until the body is weakened and becomes vulnerable. In healthy people, CMV can cause a mild flu-like illness that lasts a few days or weeks, which they fully recover from.

If a mother contracts CMV during pregnancy, there is a one-in-three chance of CMV being contracted by the foetus, resulting in developmental delay, making it a leading cause of birth defects in the Western world.

You can read the research paper in Cell

Treatment at hand:

Common nutrients that have direct antiviral effects are often quite low in normally healthy people. The king antiviral nutrient is zinc, and it is low in many people. I see this quite clearly when I test patients, as you can see in the graph below.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 1.49.16 pm

People who are low in zinc are susceptible to many health problems, one of which is viral infections. Quite simply, zinc deficiency causes immunodeficiency, resulting in an increased number of infections. Doctors acknowledge the benefit of zinc’s antiviral action, and zinc containing lozenges for viral throat infections are now available. If zinc helps viral sore throats and the common cold, it stands to reason that other viral infections can be treated or avoided using zinc therapy. Many studies have been done on the antiviral effects of zinc.

One of the signs of zinc deficiency is white spots on the fingernails. They can be quite faint, but if they are there, chances are you need more zinc. Not everyone who is zinc deficient has white spots on their nails though, so it is just a guide.Image result for white fingernail spotsLow zinc levels in humans has many causes, but once recognised, it’s easy and safe to take as a supplement during pregnancy.

High zinc foods:

Beef, ginger, herring, oysters, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and whole grains, provided that the soil where these foods are grown contains enough zinc for the animals and plants to absorb.

Anti viral foods:

Lots of common foods have antiviral compounds too, such as seaweeds, citrus fruits (vitamin C) cabbage, carrot, (vitamin A) onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, black currants and pomegranate, and other highly coloured fruit and veg. 

For healthy babies, pregnant women need adequate levels of all nutrients.

Antiviral herbs:

Some herbs like Olive Leaf extract have antiviral properties, but it is best to check with your health professional regarding safety during pregnancy.

Medications:

Antiviral medications may be available, but not recommended to be taken during pregnancy. The recent research on CMV affecting unborn babies, should lead to efforts to develop antiviral medications for pregnant women with CMV.

Lifestyle:

If you are pregnant and have stresses and strains leading to fatigue and feeling unwell, taking the right type of supplements to ensure good nutrition (see a health professional – don’t make a guesstimate)  may be easier than changing your diet – especially if you have morning sickness. Plenty of sleep is important too, as it helps to keep immunity strong. Easier said than done sometimes though!

Until now, the German Measles (rubella) virus during pregnancy has been seen as the main cause of birth defects, which is much less problematic now, due to the vaccination programme.  Zinc and a fresh food diet including plenty of vitamin C containing fruit can help to prevent the CMV virus becoming active – whether you are pregnant or not.