The COVID-19 pandemic has focused on a singular target—SARS-CoV-2—and how to neutralize it using an injection. But the issue of viral illness is so much larger than a single virus or one pandemic. Humans and viruses coexist. It’s a daily reality that you’ll be exposed to one or more of them, but not everyone will get sick.
What determines how you fare when exposed to any given virus is a complex mix of genetics and toxic stressors that degrade your immune system. Those “toxic stressor exposures,” which can be chemical, physical, biological, or psychological in nature, hinder your immune system’s ability to fight off viruses, and they deserve greater recognition in the fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics.
As noted by a team of researchers in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, the role of toxic substance exposures is underreported in the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and previous pandemics have been viewed almost exclusively as virology problems, with toxicology problems mostly being ignored.
“This perspective is not supported by the evolution of COVID-19, where the impact of real-life exposures to multiple toxic stressors degrading the immune system is followed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus exploiting the degraded immune system to trigger a chain of events ultimately leading to COVID-19.”
Viruses Won’t Be Going Away
The notion of injecting our way out of viral illness ignores the crucial fact that viruses are all around us, and it’s impossible to develop an injection for every one that’s dangerous. Currently, there are about 263 viruses from 25 viral families known to infect humans. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. More than 1,100 viruses have been identified in animals and humans, but even this doesn’t give the full picture of how many viruses are circulating around us.
The Global Virome Project revealed that about 1.67 million viral species may have yet to be discovered in mammals and birds, and up to 827,000 of them have zoonotic potential, meaning they’re capable of being transmitted from animals to humans.
It should be noted that viruses aren’t all bad.
Some viruses may offer beneficial effects, like helping to regulate gut microbiota and to protect against noninfectious diseases. Further, the very exposure to viruses is a necessary evil, one that primes, maintains, and strengthens your optimal immune response:
“The mammalian virome includes diverse commensal [symbiotic] and pathogenic viruses that evoke a broad range of immune responses from the host. A subset of the virome (in particular, zoonotic viruses that appear to be pathogenic in humans) challenges the immune system continually.
“This process appears to be a dual-edged sword. Healthy immune systems respond optimally to viral challenges and are further strengthened by the continual challenges, offering additional protection against other viral challenges.”
Chronic Conditions Linked to COVID-19 Severity, Death
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 5 percent of COVID-19 deaths list only COVID-19 on the death certificate. The other 95 percent have other comorbidities and underlying conditions that contributed to the death, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, or diabetes.
Many of these underlying conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 and death are caused by toxic exposures, such as poor diet, environmental chemicals, inactivity, and stress.
“In short, it is the pervasive, constant exposure to toxic stressors in our environment, in combination with genetic factors, that cause us to develop diseases that impair our immune systems and make us susceptible to serious COVID-19 infection,” reported the Alliance for Natural Health. As the researchers noted, this includes factors such as:
Lifestyle—This includes physical inactivity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet including ultra-processed foods and refined grains, and chronic sleep deprivation.
Pharmaceuticals and other medical side effects—Among adults 65 and older, 54 percent take four or more prescription drugs. Additionally, immunosuppressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, antidepressants, antibiotics, nanomedicine products, adjuvanted vaccines, surgical stress, anesthesia, and ionizing radiation therapy can all degrade the immune system.
Biotoxins and biomaterials—These refer to mold including aflatoxin, as well as viruses and bacteria.
Occupational and environmental exposures—This type of exposure can include endocrine-disrupting chemicals, microplastics, heavy metals, pesticides, air pollution, radiation, PFAS, fine particulate matter, disinfection byproducts, and more.
Psychosocial and socioeconomic factors—From depression to chronic stress, social isolation, stressful life events, and childhood adversity, these issues can also contribute to poor health.
For instance, researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy analyzed 482 COVID-19 patients hospitalized between March 1, 2020, and April 20, 2020. “Obesity is a strong, independent risk factor for respiratory failure, admission to the ICU, and death among COVID-19 patients,” they wrote, and the extent of risk was tied to a person’s level of obesity.
Even patients with mild obesity had a 2.5 times greater risk of respiratory failure and a five times greater risk of being admitted to an ICU compared to non-obese patients. Those with a BMI of 35 and over—moderate or severe obesity—were also 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
Also, as with many viral infections, COVID-19 appears to have a nutritional component, by which you may lower your risk of severe outcomes by using vitamins and minerals therapeutically. Despite that, nutrient deficiencies continue to be ignored as official risk factors for COVID-19. COVID-19 patients given a combination of vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin B12, for instance, were significantly less likely to require oxygen therapy or ICU care compared to patients who were not, according to a cohort study published in Nutrition in 2020.
Focusing Only on Virology Misses the Importance of Toxicology
The COVID-19 pandemic response has focused on short-term emergency measures like quarantines, lockdowns, and injections, which do nothing to address the long-term outlook for helping humans fight pathogenic viral diseases. Strategies that focus on boosting the immune system, however, are inexpensive, numerous, and readily available. Such strategies could save lives now and in future pandemics, say Ronald N. Kostoff and other researchers from the United States, Russia, Spain, and Iran in a review published in Food and Chemical Toxicology in 2020.
“There are strong misconceptions about the role played by SARS-CoV-2 in the emergence of COVID-19, especially the severity of COVID-19 in selected demographic groups. These misconceptions result in treatments focused on virology without any consideration of toxicology: containing/attenuating SARS-CoV-2 exposure/viral loads rather than intrinsically strengthening the immune system,” they wrote.
“These virology-based actions do not address the underlying toxicology-based problems that must be addressed properly in order to decrease human vulnerability to infectious diseases, including COVID-19.”
Infectious diseases like COVID-19, SARS, and influenza have a lot in common, including that only a small fraction of those who are exposed develop symptoms and, of them, an even smaller percentage die from the infection, often due to pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Those most likely to die from these infectious diseases include the elderly with underlying conditions. Having a comorbidity such as heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, obesity, or diabetes is a more reliable indicator of impaired immunity than even chronological age among older adults, the researchers wrote.
Toxic stressor exposures contribute to these underlying conditions as well as metabolic stress. And those with chronic conditions often suffer elevated baseline inflammation, which further increases the risk of dying when exposed to a virus such as SARS-CoV-2. All of these factors add up to increased vulnerability to infectious disease—vulnerability that likely could be prevented, according to the researchers.
“The most severe consequences from COVID-19 and influenza stem from a degraded/dysfunctional immune system, and the exploitation of the degraded immune system by the virus. For a healthy immune system, the virus would be unable to overcome its strong defenses, and would be neutralized,” the researchers wrote.
In order to protect the public, however, a “quarantine” from toxins—in ultra-processed foods, environmental chemicals, wireless radiation, and much more—would be far more effective than quarantining from one virus, they wrote.