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Survival Water Fundamentals: 9 Common Waterborne Diseases and How to Treat Them Naturally

Nine predominant waterborne diseases and how to use natural medicines to combat them.

E. coli

How are you today, Ready Nutrition Readers?  In “Part 1” of this series, we discussed the importance of water in a survival situation. We’re going to jump into “Part 2” of the three-part series covering water basics, preps, and sustainability.  Before we start, remember this article is for informational purposes and does not (nor does it intend to) treat, diagnose, prescribe, or classify any actions, medications, or conditions outlined herein.  Only a licensed, certified physician may do such; please consult with your doctor prior to taking any action or utilizing any of the information contained in this article.

We are going to cover a list (non-exhaustive) of waterborne pathogens that you will most likely face in a grid-down/societal collapse scenario.  The reasons these diseases will be prevalent will be due to lack of electrical power, infrastructure (water, sewage, and trash removal), and a general decline in overall sanitation.  We will detail a few facts about each disease, list pharmacological (prescription) actions, and then naturopathic aids that are available.  Here’s our list: Amebiasis, Cholera, Cryptosporidium, E. Coli, Giardia, Hepatitis A, Rotaviruses, Typhoid Fever, and Toxoplasmosis.

  1. Amebiasis – The causative organism is Entamoeba histolytica. Amebas strike in the colon in the form of cysts or trophozoites.  Food or drink contaminated with human waste/excreta [termed “fecal-oral” transmission in this article] is how the disease is introduced.  Signs include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weakness.  Medications include Paromomycin (300 mg orally 3 times/day for 7 days), or Iodoquinol (650 mg orally 3 times/day for 20 days).  Naturopathic aids include Oak (Quercus robur), as the dried bark, leaves, and seeds are good for diarrhea and bloody stool, approved by Commission E.  Oak is both antiviral and antihelminthic (fights worms).  For a tea boil 1 gram in water.  The ratio is 1 tsp is equal to 3 g medicine.  Take the tea 1 cup 3 times daily.
  1. Cholera – The causative organism is Vibrio cholerae, a gram (-) short, curved, and motile rod bacteria. The organism produces a potent enterotoxin that causes the over-secretion of chloride, sodium bicarbonate, and water in the small intestine so that the large intestine is overwhelmed and can’t reabsorb it all. The disease is transmitted via fecal-oral contamination.  Severe attacks produce a large quantity of diarrhea with the appearance of rice-water, along with vomiting and muscular cramps. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are usually given to replenish lost fluids.  Sometimes IV Quinolone antibiotics reduce the symptoms.  Natural remedies include Fool’s Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) used especially in gastrointestinal complaints, cholera in infants, summer diarrhea, and acute diarrhea with vomiting.  The entire fresh plant and the dried herb are used, and it is available in health food stores as an alcohol-based extract.

Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) is also highly effective against Cholera and diarrhea.  The polyphenols in the Green Tea are the active constituent that is also antiviral. For more information on Green Tea’s antiviral activities, please refer to Ready Nutrition’s article on Ebola and HFV’s written by yours truly.  300 – 400 mg polyphenols can be taken in 2 – 3 cups of tea (usually bags are 1.8 – 2.2 grams).

  1. Cryptosporidium – Caused by a protozoan of the genus Cryptosporidium (the most common is Cryptosporidium parvum). It is usually found in people after they consume water or food exposed to animal waste; the stools of patients are highly infective.  Signs and symptoms include explosive diarrhea and abdominal cramps after a 4 – 14 day incubation period.  Symptoms persist for 5 – 11 days but can last for a month.  In Milwaukee in the mid 1990’s a municipal water supply was contaminated by grazing livestock, resulting in 400,000 cases.  The least expensive method to kill is by boiling the water; Chlorine will not kill the cysts.  There is no effective prescription treatment, as the disease is termed “self-limiting,” meaning it will burn out of its own accord after a while.  Holistic aids are available in the form of Cocoa (Theobroma cacao), where the seed is used for infectious intestinal disease and diarrhea.  Available in health food stores, follow the directions of the manufacturer.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a perennial herb that provides symptomatic relief of abdominal cramps, disorders of the digestive tract, nausea, and vomiting.  Peppermint has antiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and spasmolytic effects on the gastrointestinal tract.  It is approved by Commission E. for diarrhea and can be taken as a tea (1) cup 3 – 4 times per day between meals.  Peppermint is contraindicated for gallstone patients.

  1. E. Coli – Caused by the gram (-) bacteria Escherichia coli, found in the colon of both humans and animals. The organism causes diarrhea that is best treated with fluid replacement and electrolyte therapy, both orally and intravenously.  Prescribed medications include Sulfa drugs and quinolones. From an herbal perspective, the Green Tea and the Oak can be taken as outlined earlier.
  1. Giardia – The causative organism is Giardia lamblia, a flagellate protozoan. The cysts survive in water up to 3 months; boiling the water inactivates them.  Humans ingest the cysts in fecally contaminated water or food.  Symptoms include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, abdominal distension, fever, and oily/greasy stools.  The illness begins onset 2 weeks after exposure; the sickness may last 2 – 3 months.  Identification is via cysts or trophozoites in stool.  There is no effective treatment; however, prescription meds include Metrinidazole (Flagyl), or Albendazole.  For herbal remedies to alleviate these symptoms, take Green Tea and Peppermint as detailed earlier in the article.
  1. Hepatitis A – The cause here is an RNA virus without an envelope. Contaminated food and/or water serve as the vehicle of transmission.  Incubation runs 2 – 6 weeks, and the acute stage lasts 2 – 12 weeks with recovery being several weeks to several months.  There are no prescription meds to specifically treat it, although some success has been found with Immune globulin containing IgG anti-HAV antibodies.  This provides passive immunity for 6-8 weeks and can prevent full-blown infections if administered before or immediately after exposure.  A few herbs are highly effective with Hep A.  Coffee (Coffea arabica) is approved by Commission E for diarrhea.  Take it 500 mg per day (approx. 5 cups).  Be careful not to take more than 1000 mg/day.

Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is an herb that has aerial parts and roots that work against Hepatitis.  For a tea, use 1 ½ dessert spoonfuls in boiling water and steep for 10 minutes.  Celandine also comes in an extract of 1:1 in 25% ethanol in your health food stores.  For raw herb or extract, follow the directions of the manufacturer.

  1. Rotavirus – A group of viruses that worldwide is the most common cause of dehydrating diarrhea in children. The incubation period is short: 1 – 3 days, with fecal-oral transmission.  Another disease that must run its course, the primary challenge is fluid balance and electrolyte replenishment.  As mentioned earlier, Green Tea’s polyphenols work against viruses and especially Rotaviruses.  Take it as outlined before.
  1. Toxoplasmosis – Normally I wouldn’t include this one, as it is not severe except in those who have weakened immunities. That being said, in a grid-down environment after a partial or total societal collapse, we may not have the luxury of being able to pick and choose.  The reason I selected this is because it can be a waterborne disease, and it is found in birds and cats, the latter of which many people have.  The causative pathogen is Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan that brings on a mild infection.  Toxoplasmosis arises with inadequate hand washing after disposing of cat feces.  The illness also arises from not cooking lamb or pork completely.  It presents with a mild swelling of the lymph nodes.  Prescription treatments include pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine, and leucovorin (folinic acid) taken in a combination until 2 weeks after the symptoms have disappeared.  The main thing needed is to stay hydrated and not lose electrolytes.  Peppermint and Green Tea are your effective herbal supplements to help you with this illness.
  1. Typhoid Fever – This severe (and highly infectious disease) is marked by fever (to 104ºF), swollen lymph nodes, stomach pain, extreme weakness and exhaustion, and a rash. The bacteria (Salmonella typhi) are gram (-) that run from the ileum and colon to the bloodstream, causing internal bleeding, ulcers, and hypovolemic shock about 14 days post-infection.  It can be transmitted by water or food contaminated by human feces, or by vomitus and oral secretions when in the acute phase.

A typhoid carrier is someone who has recovered from the disease but is a reservoir/holds the bacteria (especially in the gallbladder and kidneys) and excretes the germs in urine or feces.  The prescription drug of choice is Ciprofloxacin, a 10-day course of it; check the package insert and the manufacturer for the daily dosage/divided dosages.  From an herbal perspective, Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) is harvested for a root-tea.  It is contraindicated for pregnant women.  Dosage is 0.5 g – 1 g  dried or as a decoction 3 times per day.  Green Tea (taken as indicated earlier) is also very effective.

Now that we have covered some of the “creepy-crawlies” and methods to combat them, let us return to the most important measure of all: preventative actions.  Proper hand washing and sanitation of all utensils and cooking vessels is crucial to maintaining safe and healthy water supplies.  Proper cooking temperatures and cleanliness need to be adhered to at all times around your food preparation site and your food and water storage points.  Your local county extension office will have good information on Serve-Safe, a course you can take that gives excellent instruction on handling, storage, cooking temperatures, and hold times, as well as more on the creepy-crawlies of food borne illness.

Part 3 will entail different collection and storage methods for home and family water supplies, and blend in what we have covered in Parts 1 and 2.  As with all things, consult with your family doctor for approval and permission prior to employing any and all information in this article.  Remember: you can view your water glass as half full, as this is positive thinking; just don’t let it be just half clean!  Have a great day and Part 3 will arrive for you shortly!

Jeremiah Johnson

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on April 3rd, 2015