The wave of fear in reaction to Covid-19 has disrupted all of our lives in so many ways, and the question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not our collective reaction to this virus is justified. To evaluate this, I’m going to discuss the facts about the microbial world of viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi, and the ways in which our microbiome can have a huge effect on the strength of our immune system and overall health.
Viruses are the smallest known biological particle (the tiniest are only twenty nanometers in diameter). However, they are not biological organisms so they are not classified in any kingdom of living things. They do not have any organelles and they cannot respire or perform metabolic functions, and they can’t reproduce on their own. This means viruses are not living organisms. So, what are they? A virus is basically a packet of information in the form of DNA or RNA—the building blocks of genes and life.
Scientists studying genes and proteins found that viruses are ancient, but they were not the first form of life. In fact, research suggests viruses and bacteria share a common ancestor: a fully functioning, self-replicating cell that lived around 3.4 billion years ago, shortly after life first emerged on the planet. From this cell, bacteria have evolved in the direction of increasing complexity, while viruses have gradually shed unneeded genes until they were no longer able to reproduce on their own.
Today, it’s tempting to think of viruses as mere pests. But, “They are not agents of destruction,” says Gustavo Caetano-Anolles of the University of Illinois. “Life on Earth would look very different without our viral co-inhabitants.” James Shapiro, a University of Chicago microbiologist notes that “we wouldn’t be here without them”. For example, researchers speculate that more than 100 million years ago a viral infection in a primitive mammal uploaded a gene that helped the placenta evolve.
Syncytin is a protein that viruses use to fuse cells together in order to hop from one host cell to the next. In mammals, it fuses placenta cells with the uterus and allows the fetus to draw nutrients from its mother.
Humans co-evolved over millions of years with viruses, and current science tells us that they provide critical updates to our system in much the same way that our cell phones update on a regular basis to improve function. It’s interesting to note that when the human genetic code was mapped in 2003, researchers found that nine percent of our genetic material was from RNA or retroviruses: the same type of virus as Covid-19.
For a more in depth discussion of viruses and the ways in which they affect human biology, I recommend watching Dr. Zach Bush’s presentation on The Microbiome Movement. Dr. Bush is a triple board certified M.D., and provides deep insight as to the truth about viruses, as well as the world of microbes including bacteria, parasites, and fungi, and the ways in which they play a vital role in our health as part of our microbiome.
Our microbiome is the totality of all the viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi living not only in our gut, but on our skin, in our mouth, nose, sinuses, and yes, even in our brain. The importance of the microbiome to our health is now indisputable, and researchers are finding new insights into the connection between our health and these microbes almost daily. Not only is the health of our microbiome directly related to our immune health, but it’s also critical to our digestive, brain, and skin health.
These facts directly correlate with the outcomes we are seeing in the current pandemic. The highest death tolls are among those populations with compromised health from smoking, obesity, and diabetes, namely the aged and immune compromised. Dr. Bush has shown a direct correlation between death rates and those parts of the world with the heaviest glyphosate use. Several medical experts have made the point that the virus itself isn’t what’s killing people, but rather the overreaction of the immune system (called a cytokine storm) is to blame. Fundamentally, if you are unhealthy you are not able to properly update the information from the virus and mount an appropriate immune response.
To optimize our health, we should be focusing on our microbiome health in addition to distancing and proper hygiene practices. Here’s what you can do:
- Eat organic whole foods, especially high fiber root vegetables like carrots, radishes, and sweet potatoes
- Eat more fermented foods such as homemade sauerkraut (Bubbie’s is my favorite) and kimchi
- Avoid factory raised chicken, pork, and beef. (See this resource guide for better choices.)
- Use Dr. Bush’s Ion-Biome daily to promote gut health.
While people’s fear of viruses is understandable, I believe it’s important to acknowledge and understand the positive role they can have on our overall health as well. Perhaps we can even replace fear with a healthy respect for viruses as we appreciate the way in which they interact with our microbiome. My hope is that this understanding will empower you to take more control over your health.