We must face the fact that COVID happens, but we must also realize that we can change how it happens to us. As was emphasized by many early in the pandemic, this virus was destined to become endemic along with the flu and other common viruses. Eradication of most viral diseases is a pipe dream based on the eradication of Smallpox and Polio- something made possible by specific characteristics they don’t share with SARs CoV-2. The ease of spread of SARS CoV-2, the delay in onset of symptoms which allowed the disease to spread before the patient is aware of having it, and the ability of the virus to infect other animals all serve to make eradication practically impossible. Therefore, efforts at widescale eradication are pointless, unlike individual efforts to optimize one’s immune terrain. For the individual, researchers list 80 modifiable contributing factors which you can change today.
The single stranded RNA beta coronavirus now known as SARS CoV-2 causes the disease everyone now dreads- called COVID-19. COVID-19 came third in line after Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), in 2002–2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, two other coronavirus caused diseases which faded in obscurity after initial scares. They did not spread as rapidly as SARS CoV-2, and neither did they possess other characteristics which permitted them to transition from a pandemic stage into an endemic stage of ongoing infections. Besides the factors which allowed it to make this transition, SARS CoV-2’s ease of mutation also helps by creating new variants that allow intermittent waves of infection even in those previously infected.
This endemic nature and repeating waves of variants means that no matter how strong our offensive attack at the public health level becomes, it will be the individual defensive strength of our immune systems and other modifiable factors that makes a difference in our chances with COVID-19. The researchers in this study applied a medical literature screening method to identify 80 factors across 5 categories which they assert are contributing to the occurrence and severity of COVID-19. They divided the 80 individual factors into the categories of “Lifestyle, Iatrogenic, Biotoxins, Occupational/Environmental, Psychosocial/Socioeconomic.”. In the list below, many of these factors will be familiar as even the media has echoed these risk factors for COVID-19 over the past few years. Other factors will not be as familiar to those outside of functional medicine or who are not following the research closely.
Below, you will find the raw list of modifiable risk factors contributing to the onset and severity of COVID-19 disease, listed according to the categories offered by the study authors. In future articles on this site, I will discuss some of them in more depth. For now, I will simply note one factor in particular that many may find surprising: mycotoxins. Yes, toxic chemicals made by molds in our environment can, with sufficient accumulation, disrupt our immune defenses and make COVID-19 more likely or more severe. Much more will be written on this in coming article posts. For now, you can read their 80 factors below, although some, especially in the iatrogenic category, are not ones you can go back and change after they happened (organ transplants, for instance).
High fat intake
Red meat intake
High sodium intake
Low Vitamin A
Low Vitamin B12
Low Vitamin C
Low Vitamin D
Low Vitamin K
Steroid use (various)
Proton Pump Inhibitor use
Unchangeable iatrogenic factors: Kidney transplantation, Liver transplantation, Kidney dialysis, Bone Marrow Transplant, Oophorectomy (ovaries removed), Pneumonia vaccine, Radiotherapy,
Herpes Virus infection
Various organic chemicals
Chlorine in drinking water
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
This list offers each of us opportunities to lower our risks of contracting COVID-19 or succumbing to severe forms of this endemic disease. While not everyone will have every factor and not everyone with a particular factor will be able to make major changes, practically everyone can make some changes that will make a significant impact on their future interactions with this virus and likely other viruses as these same factors surely play a role in other infection risks. Helping our patients not only restore but also preserve healthier more abundant lives requires attention to these details. We are thankful that we have the opportunity to be a part of the journey.
Kostoff, R. N., Briggs, M. B., Kanduc, D., Dewanjee, S., Kandimalla, R., Shoenfeld, Y., Porter, A. L., & Tsatsakis, A. (2023). Modifiable contributing factors to COVID-19: A comprehensive review. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 171, 113511. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2022.113511
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.