The Unexpected Polio Connection to the Current Pandemic

July 22, 2020
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

You might be surprised to learn what polio can teach us about this worldwide virus – and how you can protect yourself.

Every summer, for more than half a century, the fear of the poliovirus epidemic would resurface, closing playgrounds, pools, and movie theaters. Targeting babies and children, they were placed in sanitariums to isolate them so others wouldn’t catch it. And even though effective natural therapies were available, most opted for the iron lungs for struggling infants, heavy leg braces for children, and wheelchair confinement for the afflicted adults.

The poliovirus killed or paralyzed millions of babies and children primarily, but adults, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, suffered its crippling effects. Each year another 15,000 or so people succumbed to what seemed like an unstoppable disease. Much like the current pandemic, there were more questions than answers – even after more than 50 years of researching it.

Every year of the polio epidemic, far-reaching new theories of its origins were suggested, from stray cats to insects and more. But surprisingly, researchers found that polio had existed for centuries and had only recently turned into a pandemic. They found inscriptions from ancient Egypt and the virus itself in ancient Native American bones. So what turned it into a pandemic?

The Hidden Catalyst

In thinking that stray cats were the cause, more than 72,000 cats were slaughtered in just one year. But this wasn’t the underlying reason for the pandemic. The truth had something to do with the insects they were suspecting as the cause.

Shortly before the polio epidemic broke out, there was an infestation of gypsy moths that threatened to wipe out entire orchards in the Northeast US. A new insecticide, Lead Arsenate (LA) was used to eradicate the moths. It wasn’t long before the first polio outbreak happened – in the Northeast US.

Lead contamination has long been known to cause damage to neurologic tissue, which looks remarkably similar to the lesions caused by polio. This is one reason why we’re so careful to keep lead out of our water, dishware, and gasoline now. The other component of the insecticide, arsenic, is not only known to cause cancer but attacks the DNA of the cells in our immune system, which lowers our resistance to viruses.

LA was sprayed on crops for more than 50 years, while the polio epidemic raged on. And LA was the first insecticide that created the perfect storm for the polio pandemic – but it wasn’t the last. In the 1940s, DDT became the insecticide of choice, and in case you haven’t heard, it’s even more toxic. Studies done in the 1960s and 1970s showed that DDT not only increased the risk of becoming infected with polio, but also increased the rate at which polio multiplied inside your cells, turning it into a pandemic superbug.

But our industrial society doesn’t stop with insecticides as our only source of environmental toxins. We now have more than 80,000 chemicals in our air, along with countless others in our food and water supply. We are surrounded, and our immune systems are paying the price. Just like toxins played an insidious role in the polio pandemic, they’re playing a role in the current one as well.

The Pollution-Pandemic Connection

With the poliovirus, it targeted mainly young children. With the coronavirus, it seems to be worst in those with diabetes and obesity. Pollution may play a key role in these comorbidities.

When your liver is overburdened with toxins, it shuttles them off to be stored in fat cells. These toxin-filled fat cells not only bog down your immune response and increase your risk of infection, but also can worsen the complications with their metabolic effects. The heavy metals and chemicals (like glyphosate) in environmental pollutants have been linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and more.

Researchers at Washington University studied the impact of pollution on a group of US veterans with no history of diabetes. By following these veterans for an average of 8 years, they estimated that air pollution alone contributed to around 3.2 million cases of diabetes globally. This risk was increased even with the low levels of pollution that are currently considered safe by the WHO and the US Environmental Protection Agency. An even newer study done by the Lancet Commission on Health in October 2017 showed that pollution can have an even greater effect on health, leading to the development of diabetes.

As I explained in this article about the diabetes connection to the pandemic, hemoglobin becomes coated with sugar through a process called glycation. We measure this process through the Hemoglobin A1c blood test. Glycation impairs oxygen delivery to your cells and is one reason why diabetics are more prone to infection in general, but also to the more serious effects of the coronavirus.

Obesity goes hand in hand with diabetes, both with exposure to pollution as a root cause and as a risk factor for a poor outcome with the pandemic virus. Those toxic fat cells slow your metabolism, which increases inflammation and causes weight gain. That inflammation can cause circulating inflammatory cytokines to increase, increasing airway resistance and weakening respiratory muscles, decreasing your oxygen carrying capacity, which is crucial when fighting this virus.

The only way to get ahead of these dangerous complications is to detox the toxins that are at the root of these issues.

Detoxify For Life

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, then you know that I believe detox is just as important as diet when you are working towards optimal health. I’m not talking about going to the health food store and finding a detox supplement to take for 30 days to get cleaned out. That may clean out your colon but it doesn’t get down to the cellular level where the toxins that are causing these issues are being stored. Detox needs to be a daily event, not a seasonal one.

To detox at the cellular level, you need your diet to be detoxifying and nourishing. That’s where my Fat Flush and Radical Metabolism plans come into play. If you have diabetes or any other chronic illness, I recommend a deeper detox through my Radical Metabolism plan. You can then transition to the Fat Flush plan for maintenance or further weight loss, if you choose. If you’re looking for a cleansing, nourishing weight loss diet, then the Fat Flush plan is what you want. If you’re not sure which plan is best for you, then I urge you to take my new personalized Weight Loss Quiz. Just answer a few simple questions which will allow me to personally recommend the right program for you.

In addition, I strongly recommend taking the supplements recommended with each plan (which you can find here in the Fat Flush Kit, as well as the Radical Metabolism Bundle from UNI KEY Health). Living in these pandemic times, we simply can’t have too much immune support and our nutrient levels need to be optimal to have the reserves to fight. Uni Key Health’s Daily Greens Formula, for example, that I helped formulate, is full of all the nutrient requirements I insisted upon — ORGANIC, non-GMO greens including kale, spinach, collards, celery, and maybe the most key nutrient of all when it comes to detoxing and fortifying your immune system — chlorella. I chose chlorella because of its exceptional chelating abilities to remove heavy metals from your body. The chlorella used in Uni Key Health’s Daily Greens is hydroponically grown and the best on the planet. Uni Key’s Daily Greens Formula is strategically designed to provide the perfect blend of 11 energizing supergreens to boost your daily nutrient intake. These greens are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals and critical disease-fighting antioxidants. If you have a hard time getting enough greens in your daily diet, this product makes it easy — simply toss a scoop into your morning smoothie!

If you suspect metal or chemical poisoning, please contact Uni Key Health’s Testing Coordinator for information on ordering a Tissue Mineral Analysis. It’s so easy! With a simple hair sample, their Testing Consultant will be able to determine from lab results what is causing your deficiency and, more importantly, how to remedy it! Contact Uni Key Health Systems at 800-888-4353 to place an order, or order online at Uni Key Health.

So tell me, what are YOU doing to optimize your immune defense to these new viruses?

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Lucy

    Fascinating information about polio. Being a baby boomer, I lived through this in the 1950’s and remember how scary it was not having a cure. I understand that detoxing is more important than ever! Too bad this was not known back in the day!

    • Liz


      We are very fortunate to have new information available to us now. We have other heavy metals to deal with now and a way to detect them with the TMA. I take this test twice a year to keep up with what is happening in my body.

  2. Rosilla

    Taking a Tissue Mineral Analysis is a great way to find out the levels of heavy metals, including lead and arsenic. I do take this test every 6 months.

    • Liz

      Rosilla, So glad you are using the TMA to help improve your health.

  3. Tulula

    So glad you mentioned the Daily Greens. I’ve been using this for several months now and I do have more energy. I’m happy that it is also good for my immune system.

    • Liz

      Tulula, The organic greens in this formula are such powerful detoxifiers. That’s great that you are experiencing more energy. This can happen as you lighten your toxic load.



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