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But Does It Work? Revisiting Norovirus Prevention Methods

Disclaimer: This information is strictly for the examination of the listed products and their effectiveness against NOROVIRUS. This article does not deny that there could be other, valid health benefits to any of these methods when done in moderation and under the direction of your doctor.

So, over the course of a few months I did a couple But Does It Work? articles on very specific norovirus prevention methods. Specifically grape juice, apple cider vinegar and activated charcoal. I had a lot of knowledge at the time of writing those articles, but in 2017, I have more knowledge, and a better understanding of all these methods, and what it means for norovirus.

In the effort to provide the best, most informative articles I can, I’ve decided to re-do all those articles, plus add a few more, to make one big comprehensive tell all on these commonly used norovirus prevention methods, and finally answer once in for all: But does it work?

Method One: Grape Juice

The Story: If you drink 3 glasses of grape juice every day during exposure to the virus, you will prevent the norovirus as it’s supposed to make your stomach more alkaline (or acidic, depending on who you ask) AND is supposed to help boost your immune system by providing a good dose of vitamin C.

The Facts: Did you know that when you eat, your stomach changes in pH for a brief period of time? This happens because when you eat, your stomach reacts to the influx of items that are different in pH from your stomach. However, it doesn’t last long and it ultimately shouldn’t, as complications from your stomach changing drastically in pH and staying that way would be very bad for us. It’s why people with stomachs that stay more acidic than normal end up with ulcers.

As far as why this matters, norovirus survives the standard change in pH when you eat, whether it be more alkaline or acidic, and ultimately travels to your intestines where it begins to replicate. That’s right, norovirus replicates in your intestines, not your stomach. This slight change in pH while you eat is the same generated effect for grape juice. The difference is, instead of staying at that level like many blogs and sites say, when you drink grape juice, it will effect your stomach no longer than it would when eating. This means that even if your stomach were to become more alkaline or more acidic, norovirus would be unphased because it manages to survive given that situation anyways.

Also, given that norovirus replicates in your intestines, changing the pH of your stomach would not effect much of anything. Plus, any virus that can survive the journey from a very acidic stomach, to the neutral level of your intestines, likely won’t be killed by a slight change in pH to begin with.

There have been studies to suggest that the reason we get sick from norovirus is because norovirus slows our gastric emptying, and not so much because the virus itself causes vomiting (though, that’s still to be determined). There have also been studies that have shown that in controlled lab settings, grape juice when applied to norovirus does kill it, but that’s in petri dishes and ultimately does not reflect how it would react in a human.

Lastly, while grape juice does provide a great helping of vitamin C, just upping your dose of vitamin C per day is not enough to help boost your immune system to prevent norovirus. Plus, drinking copious amounts of grape juice can cause side effects such as: acid reflux, diarrhea, stomach aches, nausea and irritate those with GERD. The amount of sugar you’d be drinking heavily outweighs any health benefits to grape juice, but if you’re looking for a grape product to help your health, try a glass of red wine instead (if you’re of age of course).

The Verdict: This method does not work, and has no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

Method Two: Grape Seed Extract

The Story: If you incorporate grape seed extract into your diet, it will ultimately boost your immune system and keep you healthy from the stomach bug.

The Facts: Much like it’s relative grape juice, this method is going to have a similar fate. Interestingly enough, this was one I had never heard before until recently, but a little research into the topic definitely helped.

The only science I’ve found to back up that this could be useful in preventing norovirus is in an article on a website meant to sell you this product, where they mentioned that while being tested on norovirus in a lab in a petri dish (does this sound familiar?) it killed the virus. However, no tests have been done in humans, and it wasn’t even the human norovirus – it was a surrogate virus which shares the same genome but is not identical.

No where else does it say that grape seed extract is good for preventing gastrointestinal upset. In fact, much like grape juice, side effects of taking grape seed extract include headache, nausea, dizziness, sore throat, itchy scalp and stomach ache. It’s also bad for pregnant women to take.  While grape seed extract does have plenty of other wonderful health benefits, preventing norovirus or other gastrointestinal upset is not on that list.

The other big point that people that make the claim that grape seed extract helps is that it’s full of antioxidants, which ultimately boost your immune system to keep you healthy. While incorporating items into your diet that do help boost your immune system is helpful, just taking grape seed extract alone will not be enough of a boost to prevent norovirus. While it certainly can’t hurt to try, it won’t stop the dreaded winter bug.

The immune system has it’s name for a reason: it’s more complex than just eating right or adding vitamins. Stay healthy this winter by eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, reducing your stress, exercising and practicing good hand hygiene. Everything else is out of your control.

The Verdict: This method does not work, and has no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

Method Three: Apple Cider Vinegar

The Story: Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar every day will ultimately effect the pH in your stomach, causing it to become more alkaline and will kill norovirus.

The Facts: I wish I could simply copy and past the information from grape juice to here, because the answer is virtually the same. As we already learned from grape juice, while drinking ACV does likely shift the pH in your stomach, the likelihood that it shifts it enough to damage norovirus doesn’t seem possible. And, given that norovirus replicates in the intestines, which is drastically less acidic than the stomach, the likelihood that you would ultimately effect your stomach’s pH great enough (that isn’t damaging to you) is likely impossible.

It’s also worth noting that just because ACV makes your stomach more alkaline, it does not mean that the stomach is now alkaline. Making your stomach more alkaline just means lowering the pH, but your stomach will still be acidic. It just means that your stomach will lose acidity briefly and then level back to the normal acidity soon after.

So, if your stomach is usually about 2.0 pH on average, and then norovirus survives that acidity and moves to your intestines to replicate, which is usually 5.5-6.5 pH on average, you’re not going to damage the virus simply by taking a shot of ACV. Your stomach would not fluctuate enough, either in pH or in time, to damage the virus.

The Verdict: This method does not work, and has no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

Method Four: Activated Charcoal

The Story: Taking a tablet of activated charcoal at the time of exposure can prevent you from getting sick; and taking activated charcoal while sick can ultimately reduce the severity of your symptoms or stop the virus all together.

The Facts: When I first researched this method of norovirus prevention I was confused because in all my time, I always thought that activated charcoal was used to make someone throw up, not prevent it. Turns out, my mindset on activated charcoal was just flawed, and that activated charcoal is an effective remedy for nausea…

BUT! The biggest but I can muster, is it’s an effective remedy for nausea when the activated charcoal has something to bind to, like a toxin. Activated charcoal is most commonly used for drug overdoses or when someone has ingested a toxic particle that needs to be neutralized. In fact, in most situations of activated charcoal being used, it’s done in cases where a toxin is being produced by the body that needs to be stopped.

So, let’s talk about how this is relevant to norovirus. Many people feel that if you take it at the time of exposure, say by way of eating contaminated food, it would ultimately stop the virus in it’s tracks. Well, here’s the issue: norovirus is not a toxin. Activated charcoal is most effective when it has a toxic substance to adsorb, and norovirus is not a toxin and the body doesn’t register it as a toxin. It doesn’t poison the body the same way other bacteria may.

Also, considering that the primary reproduction of the virus happens in the intestines, treating norovirus with activated charcoal would not work the same as other viruses or illnesses that replicate in the stomach.

While I cannot speak for nausea in general, I can speak on the fact that taking activated charcoal specifically for preventing and reducing norovirus symptoms seems far fetched. There hasn’t been any science or studies that have shown that activated charcoal effects norovirus in humans, and without the science, it’s dangerous to use this method too frequently simply for virus prevention.

The Verdict: This method does not work, and has no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

Method Five: Colloidal Silver

The Story: Ingesting small doses of colloidal silver will protect you from norovirus.

The Facts: I had a long drawn out explanation but I think I can sum this up even better in a few simple statements. Colloidal silver is literally pieces of silver suspended in some kind of liquid. The silver reacts with the liquid, and then, according to natural and homeopathic websites, it becomes this magical, curative substance.

Here’s the problem with that research: there is no true, scientific evidence that it is this magical curative substance like many say, and there have been countless lawsuits over companies that make these claims by the FDA. Many websites that promote alternative medicine, and other natural, home remedies make claims that it can cure a wide range of previously difficult to treat illnesses like: AIDS, cancer, the common cold, shingles, tuberculosis, and many others.

Also, silver serves no physiological purpose in our body. We don’t need it, it’s not something that aids us in any way, so ingesting it doesn’t necessarily do much for your body. There are also high risks to taking colloidal silver, especially ingesting it. Beyond potentially dying your skin a blueish grey color (permanently!), you can also risk kidney issues, neurological problems, stomach distress, headaches and a few more problems.

The biggest concern is what it does to your gut health. Some studies claim it destroys both good and bad bacteria in your gut (much like alcohol based sanitizers for your hands), while others claim it’s not that it discriminates but that it does disrupt the flora production in your stomach. Either way, ingesting colloidal silver is not good for your gut health when taken frequently, or at all.

As far as it’s potential to fix norovirus? Forgive me for being skeptical, but I would imagine that anything that could possibly disrupt the production of the bacteria that protects you from catching viruses would likely only make you more susceptible to norovirus in the long run.

Want to help your gut health? Take probiotics or eat yogurt!

The Verdict: Can be dangerous to your physical health (especially your gut), and ultimately there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim.

Too Long; Didn’t Read?

Essentially, what you need to know is: none of these methods have been proven through scientific research to be effect for preventing norovirus. Those methods that have had tests on norovirus have been on what is known as surrogate norovirus, which is different than the virus that infects humans. Your best defense to preventing norovirus is understanding how it is spread, what to do when someone in your home become ill, and of course proper hand hygiene.

Have another method that you want me to explore? Leave it in the comments and I’ll get to researching!

If you would like to email #Fearless, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. We do our best to respond within 48 hours, but if for some reason we cannot get back to you in that time frame, we promise we will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find us on any of the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram!

Lastly, we run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle we are passionately engaged in. It is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

8 Comments

  1. Kathryn says

    I have used all of the above methods in a panic to potentially stop the spread of Noro. While I appreciate the honesty I also feel like my security blanket has been ripped away from me! The other two methods I engage are the following: I drink lots of raspberry cordial (real, proper cordial not imitation stuff) if I feel I’ve been exposed and I also take saccharomyces boulardii every day as prevention against Noro. I dare ask, but do either of these methods work at all against Noro? Thanks in advance!

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    • I am not familiar with either but I’m happy to look in to it. And I’m sorry that you feel that happened but this of it this way: you’ve been fine doing those methods and never been sick, despite it not working. Nothing will have changed except now you know 🙂 your threat has not changed!

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  2. Pingback: But Does It Work? Activated Charcoal Pills & Stomach Bugs | #Fearless

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  5. Megan Styles says

    I will say this: I cannot speak to all methods or to their efficacy against norovirus specifically. However, I PERSONALLY have used colloidal silver myself to treat a crippling sinus infection when 3 rounds of heavy duty antibiotics (Zithromax twice and Levaquin) failed. Colloidal Silver was THE ONLY THING to clear up my sinus infection ( I’m assuming antibiotic resistant bacteria) after 1+ month of suffering with the infection recurring after 3 different prescriptions failed to eradicate or to prevent it from returning. Due to this I have not taken ANY prescription antibiotics in over 7 years. I keep Colloidal Silver handy and any time I feel symptoms of a sinus infection coming on I use it nasally for a few days till symptoms clear up. I’ve also used it topically for several injuries and it certainly speeds healing and prevents infection (a form of Silver is the main ingredient in popular topical “infection preventative” creams including Bacitracin) I’ve also used Collodial silver to treat a pink eye infection (which was diagnosed by a physician) in lieu of antibiotic drops. Colloidal silver worked quickly and effectively and prevented re-infection of myself/family. As for Apple Cider Vinegar I believe the whole point of supplementing it in your diet is that it contains micro-nutrients which nourish/bolster your immunity as well as supplementing “prebiotics” which are the food which Probiotics consume to live. You can take Probiotics daily but if you’re not feeding them the Prebiotics they need to survive, they’ll never thrive/colonize in your gut!

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    • I definitely cannot talk of the other health benefits of colloidal silver, and while I’m always quite hesitant to personally use homeopathic methods to treating illnesses, that’s not enough to rule out it’s health benefits 🙂 I always juat advise people to do things safely, in moderation, and with the guidance of a doctor. As far as ACV, I think adding it into your diet in ways that make sense can’t harm you, but in the case of norovirus, just take a straight shot of ACV won’t prevent the virus from replicating. I hope that makes sense!

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  6. Pingback: Everything You Need To Know About… Norovirus! | #Fearless

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