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Cerebral Palsy

As incredible as it may sound, coconut may hold the key to stopping the occurrence of cerebral palsy in infants. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that occurs in newborns or in early childhood. It is characterized by abnormal stiffness and contractions of groups of muscles, involuntary writhing movements, or loss of coordination and balance. The degree of disability is highly variable, ranging from slight clumsiness of hand movement and gait to complete immobility. Other nervous system disorders, such as hearing defects or epileptic seizures, may be present. Mental retardation occurs in about 75% of cases. The symptoms are permanent. There is no known cure or treatment that can reverse symptoms.

Tens of thousands of infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year. Generally, cerebral palsy is not recognized until well into the baby’s first year, when the disability becomes apparent. Most cases are believed to occur before or at birth. The prevailing belief has been that a traumatic birth, leading to asphyxia or lack of oxygen to the brain, was responsible. However a recent study from Australia has shown that exposure to certain viruses shortly before or after birth may be the real culprit.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal (2006;332:76-80) researchers examined 443 children with cerebral palsy and 883 healthy controls. All of the babies were born between the years 1986 and 1999. Blood samples were taken within a few days of birth and checked for the presence of neurotropic viruses. Neurotropic viruses are viruses that cause infection in nervous tissue, for example herpes and rabies viruses.

These viruses are also able to cross the placenta in pregnant women and infect the fetus. This study tested for enteroviruses (viruses that replicate in the intestinal tract) and herpes viruses. Herpes viruses can be divided into two categories: group A and group B. Group A viruses include herpes simplex type 1 (causes cold sores) and herpes simplex type 2 (causes genital herpes), Epstein-Barr virus (causes glandular fever), cytomegalovirus (a very common infection that usually only causes problems in people with a weak immune system), and human herpes virus 8. Group B viruses include varicella-zoster virus (responsible for chicken pox and shingles) and human herpes viruses 6 and 7.

The researchers uncovered some very interesting results. Exposure to infections was common to all the infants. Interestingly, premature babies, (without cerebral palsy) were more likely to be infected with herpes group A viruses, suggesting that infection before birth may lead to pre-term delivery. Herpes group B viruses were found more commonly in babies who went on to develop cerebral palsy. In fact, this relationship is so strong that the risk of cerebral palsy was nearly double.

The likelihood of an infection present in the mother spreading to the fetus and causing harm is determined by at least three factors:

01 the specific virus,

02 whether it is an initial infection or a reactivation of the virus,

03 the gestational age of the fetus at the time of infection.

With cytomegalovirus, the risk of transmission to the fetus is 50% for a first-time infection, but less than 1% for reactivation of the virus. Once an infection enters the fetus’ bloodstream it can cause direct damage to the nervous system, or the inflammatory chemicals produced by the immune system of the fetus can damage the developing brain. Some viruses stay in our body and affect us for many years after the initial infection; some may remain for life.

These viruses are extremely common, with more than half of the population being infected. These viruses tend to live inside our nerves and generally stay dormant most of the time. They can become reactivated when the immune system is compromised. Factors that can trigger reactivation include excessive stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and infections.

The risk of transmitting a virus to the fetus is greatest with new infections. Therefore, it is important to keep the immune system healthy and avoid exposure to new viruses, particularly when pregnant. Herpes viruses are usually transmitted by saliva, direct skin contact, and sexual secretions. Risk of becoming infected with new viruses is reduced by avoiding exposure to people who might carry these infections.

There are no known drugs that can effectively kill herpes viruses. Once an infection takes hold, the immune system is the only defence. So if a woman becomes infected while pregnant there is little doctors can do.

Although conventional medicine offers little help, there is hope. Consuming coconut oil while pregnant and nursing is one possible way to help protect newborns from developing cerebral palsy. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil possess potent antiviral properties that have been shown to be effective in killing herpes viruses. Coconut oil will help to protect the mother from infections and strengthen her immune system, thus preventing an infection from spreading to her fetus. After birth the baby is still vulnerable because its immune system is developing. A nursing mother consuming coconut oil daily will enrich her breast milk with lauric acid and other antiviral medium-chain fatty acids that will protect the baby from infections. Simply consuming coconut daily, along with eating a healthy diet, may be all that is needed to prevent this crippling disease.

How much coconut oil should be consumed to get adequate protection? About 3 to 4 tablespoons a day should be enough during pregnancy and nursing. Divide the dosage equally throughout the day. More can be taken if desired. Coconut oil is a food, not a drug, so it is not harmful. If an infection manifests itself, increase the dose to 6 or more tablespoons a day. Additional oil can be applied topically if needed.

by Bruce Fife, ND

Hippocrates Organic Food-Grade Coconut Oil is available.