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What Is a Virus? Is There Anything You Can do To Prevent Cytokine Storms?

With information coming at us from all channels and changing practically daily, it’s been hard to separate fact from conjecture when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When I got a chance to interview a molecular biologist who studied cytokine storms and has been keeping up on research on the virus, I couldn’t pass it up.

My mind has been filled with so many questions the last 12 months starting with the very basic:

What the heck IS a virus, and why are some much more dangerous than others?


Remember those cytokine storms from spring 2020? Are those still a thing? How do they work, and why were they so dangerous?

And of course, as a proponent of the strength of our own bodies and immune systems, I was dying to hear if there are any preventative or healing measures one can take without the help of a doctor or hospital.

Dr. Christina Parks was just the expert I was looking for to explain everything (with a little dose of cynicism).

My family hasn’t been personally touched by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (that we know of). But Dr. Parks’ family did contract and get through it easily.

My purpose in sharing this post is to get some straight information out there for you about the basics of virus transmission cytokine storms and antiviral tools you can use.

We’re keeping it non-controversial today — although see the end if that makes you sad.

Meet Dr. Christina Parks, Molecular Biologist

Dr. Christina Parks received her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan in 1999 where her research focused on cytokine signaling. (Cytokines are the chemicals that the immune system uses to communicate.)

She is more passionate about educating our youth than continuing to work in a lab, and she spends her time homeschooling and caring for her special needs daughter (with one son launched into the world) and teaching biology and forensics.

Dr. Parks brings a wealth of knowledge on how genetic and epigenetic factors may predispose certain populations to disease, as well as interactions between medications and the immune system.

What Is a Virus?

Can’t see the video? Watch “What is a Virus?” here on YouTube.

Quick Peek at the Video on a Virus

I remember talking with my husband way back when the pandemic started, about viruses and how they get on our skin. I said something like, “Well, you know, if you touch your face, the little buggers can crawl into your nose.”

And he said, “Are you sure?”

I said, “I don’t – well, maybe I’m not sure! I don’t know!”

So we did a little research, and I was totally wrong.

RELATED: You still don’t want to be touching your face a lot. Wear your mask correctly!

What is a virus? How do we talk about these words – living and dead viruses? How do they move? How do they get in?

“A virus is one of the simplest, but maybe one of the most elegant things that God has put in His creation.

A virus is a little package of cell membrane with proteins in it, with a strand of either DNA or RNA in it, and maybe some enzymes in there too. They’re very, very simple.

It can be really confusing to people when they hear the phrase ‘live virus.’ When we’re talking about a live virus, what we mean is it hasn’t been broken down by the elements.”

Katie: I have a kindergartner, and he just had to learn what a living thing was: it moves, it needs nourishment. It forgets. Yeah, viruses are actually not alive. There’s no crawling.

“It’s really amazing that they can get into you and cause infection when they’re not even a cell! They can’t even really think.”

We started with bacteria thinking they were always bad, and now we know that there are good bacteria (probiotics!) and that we basically can’t do anything, we can’t even make our own neurochemicals without them. When we destroy them, we’re destroying ourselves.

I think that as viral research moves forward, we’re going to find something similar about viruses – that God created them for a purpose but because of The Fall, they’ve been corrupted.

Cytokine Storms & Viral Severity

Can’t see the video? Learn about cytokine storms on YouTube here.

Synopsis of the Cytokine Storm Discussion

This coronavirus is more deadly than the common cold coronavirus, and we heard a lot about cytokine storms back in March and April 2020. I don’t hear about it as much anymore, but is the cytokine storm still a big cause of death in severe cases?

“I follow the data in Michigan, so I can’t speak about it everywhere else. If you look at the death rate, about the same number of people appeared to have died in all the fall, as in the spring. Now, the cases were at least 10 times lower in the spring, but the virus was much more deadly.”

Either the virus itself was more deadly in the spring, or we’re treating it better now. 

“We knew that this virus was going to attenuate and that’s part of the theater that they’re not telling people. We knew it was going to weaken over time.”

Vitamin D and Glutathione to Calm the Cytokine Storm

More from Dr. Parks:

Having said that, the cytokine storm is very real. The question is what predisposes you to that?

Here are some things that make you more predisposed to cytokine storms:

One is low vitamin D. African Americans, especially, are chronically low in vitamin D. In fact, 80 to 90% of Americans are low in vitamin D.

This is something that should have been addressed. We’re a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it should have been addressed so long ago.

Everyone’s had plenty of time to meet with their doctor, test their vitamin D levels, and figure out what supplementation is right for them. Get that vitamin D, especially if you’re in a vulnerable group

RELATED: How much vitamin D is enough?

Vitamin D shuts down the cytokine storm.

sick woman blowing nose

You want an immune response, that’s how your body kills a virus. A normal immune response will ramp up, kill the virus, and then shut down once the threat is gone. If you don’t have vitamin D, it’s not shut down normally.

Some people have mutations in their vitamin D receptors, or other different parts of that system so that even if they do have enough vitamin D, it isn’t working properly. They’re going to be most at risk.

Here’s Katie’s favorite Vitamin D+K supplement that the whole family takes, from Seeking Health.

There’s another molecule that’s really important for this too, and it’s called glutathione. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant. Interestingly, Tylenol depletes it.

So what do a lot of people do when they get sick? They take Tylenol, which makes them even more at risk.

When you’re fighting an infection your immune cells are making a lot of cytokines, which are like little fires, they’re starting fires everywhere to kill the infection, but if the immune cells fall apart, those cytokines inside spread like gasoline everywhere and fuel the fire too much.

Glutathione prevents the immune cells from falling apart. It keeps your immune system, your immune cells intact, and prevents them from basically falling apart and throwing all of their inflammatory molecules all over the place. It prevents lung pathology.

If you feel you have some lung pathology, there are things you can do to increase your glutathione.

Cruciferous vegetables are a great place to start, throw some lightly steamed broccoli into your soup. (Or make Steph’s broccoli salad, our family’s new favorite! I haven’t bought fresh broccoli in YEARS and now I buy it every other week to make this!!)

Sulfuric vegetables: your onions, your garlic, all of those are great.

RELATED: Health benefits of garlic with a creamy garlic dressing, and potent garlic soup

You can buy liposomal glutathione supplements as well. There are different ways you can raise your glutathione. Your doctor or your natural care practitioner can actually give an IV with glutathione in it.

Why isn’t some of that being done?

I (Dr. Parks) read about a study where they were giving COVID patients vitamin D on the day they were admitted to the hospital and reduced mortality by almost half.1

Doctors were seeing huge reductions in mortality by giving vitamin D.

Vitamin D works much better if you’ve been taking it all along.

RELATED: My friend Erin had a pretty low-key case of COVID-19, and her kids were mostly asymptomatic. They all took Vitamin D religiously for the entire pandemic.

What you can do is give your body what it has been depleted in. The illness is going to deplete all that vitamin D, vitamin A, and glutathione.

The people who have long-term COVID, that’s what they’re missing. They’re missing the antioxidants. They’re missing the vitamin D, they’re missing the ability to shut this down.

man with lung inflammation

Here’s an interesting personal experience from a nutritionist battling long-term COVID symptoms.

I talked to a woman and she said, “Oh, my daughter has really bad post-COVID syndrome. She’s only 30.” And I said, “Wow, that’s terrible. It’s surprising someone young wouldn’t be able to shut that down.”

Well, it turns out she’s a vegan, and what many people don’t realize is that vitamin D and vitamin A can only be gotten from animal sources. Now there are some supplements, but in general, it’s going to predispose you, because vitamin D is found in foods like egg yolks, butter, and lard. All those things we’ve been told are bad for us. 🙂

Yay, bacon!

Your immune system is good, the cytokines are actually good when they ramp up, this is good. They’re like the soldiers going into battle.

Vitamin D is the brakes on that system so it doesn’t go too crazy. Then the glutathione is going to keep the car together, keep it from falling apart and, causing these problems.

Do Anti-Viral Options for COVID-19 Exist?

Can’t see the video? Watch “Anti-Viral Options for COVID-19” here on YouTube.

Summary of Dr. Parks’ Info on Anti-Virals

Let’s discuss some evidence-based measures against COVID-19 that aren’t being implemented all that well.

There’s this misconception that we have antibiotics to deal with bacteria, but there are no antivirals. This has been taught in medical school, and it’s sort of a huge monolith that we can’t seem to get past.

But in recent years, because of molecular biology, we can actually screen thousands of medications at a time for antiviral activity.

What they’re finding is that molecules that they really had no idea about, are highly antiviral.

woman coughing

Hydroxychloroquine has been studied for its antiviral properties for two decades now! It’s actually been studied as a treatment for HIV. It’s used because it’s so cheap you can get it to a third-world country and use it as a treatment for HIV.

There are six different mechanisms that hydroxychloroquine works through. Ivermectin works through some of the same mechanisms, but also some different ones, so you could actually take both of them together. Ivermectin is a wormer, and you can get over the counter for your horses.

Both are inexpensive. They’re not patented, so no one is going to make any money.

Both can be used prophylactically as well.

Unfortunately, most of the hundreds of clinical studies done on hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin have been done outside the US.

One study was done on Ivermectin and the COVID-19 virus in a medical setting. They exposed about 650 people on Ivermectin and none of them got it. They exposed almost 500 people that weren’t on ivermectin in the control group, and about half of them got COVID.2

Note from Katie: The actual numbers on the study we found didn’t match Dr. Parks’ memory. 14 people in the Ivermectin group contracted the virus and 57 out of 600 in the control group got sick. The actual research still points in a positive direction, and more research is needed, but the video exaggerates the data.

Hydroxychloroquine Must be Paired with Zinc

More from Dr. Parks:

One of the many mechanisms that hydroxychloroquine uses is anti-inflammatory, as is Ivermectin. Hydroxychloroquine specifically works as a zinc ionophore. That means lets zinc into the cells.

Interestingly, quinine, which is from the cinchona tree, is also a zinc ionophore and was used as a treatment for malaria starting in the 17th century.

It was called the miracle tree because malaria was so terrible. But quinine tasted awful so they said, “It’s terrible. Put some gin in it!”

That’s where the British got their gin and tonics. I don’t know why the gin would make it better, but that’s why they drank their gin and tonic – it was their malaria preventative.

As a result, we still actually have tonic water that has three milligrams per liter of quinine in it.

One way to get that zinc into your system would be to drink it with something like tonic water, which has quinine, a zinc ionophore. Green tea and quercetin are also zinc ionophores

Once the zinc is in your cells it actually prevents the virus from replicating. That sounds like a pretty effective solution to keep yourself from getting sick, even if you’ve been exposed.

Use the Tools at Your Disposal and Keep Asking Questions!

Can’t see the video? Watch Dr. Park’s final words here on YouTube.

You have natural things like vitamin D, vitamin C, quercetin, green tea, and zinc, to build your immunity.

If you’re even more concerned, Ivermectin likely prevents you from getting COVID – treats it very effectively and so does hydroxychloroquine [with zinc].

We can distill Dr. Parks’ final words down to 4 points:

  • Medical interventions not approved by the FDA cannot be mandatory.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak. If we are afraid to speak, we are going to hit a point where we lose our voice.
  • There’s still science that needs to be done.
  • When there are still “what ifs” and “what might happen” questions about something, that should play very strongly into your personal decision.

Dr. Parks and I want to encourage all of you to think: Do I really want to make a decision I may not be able to reverse, I cannot reverse when there’s still science that needs to be done?

Want to hear more?

This full-length interview was about 40 minutes long, and Dr. Parks covered many other topics, such as mRNA interventions, viral transmission vectors, active infections vs. positive tests, why children aren’t affected as much as adults, the impact of UV light on viruses, the impact of facial coverings on infection, super-spreader theories, herd immunity, viral attenuation (the process of a virus getting weaker), and of course, plenty about the V-word and some cynicism and realism.

If you’d like to see the unedited version, it is available only for Kitchen Stewardship® subscribers — join the community for free!


Please share this with a friend or doctor who needs this information!


  1. Leaf, D.E. & Ginde, A.A. (2021, February 17). Vitamin D3 to Treat COVID-19: Different Disease, Same Answer. JAMA, 325(11), 1047–1048. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.26850
  2. Hill, A., Abdulamir, A., Ahmed, S., Asghar, A., Babalola, O., Basri, R. et al. (2021, January 19). Meta-analysis of randomized trials of ivermectin to treat SARS-CoV-2 infection. Research Square. Retrieved from

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

About The Author

10 thoughts on “What Is a Virus? Is There Anything You Can do To Prevent Cytokine Storms?”

  1. Hi Katie Omg I have read a lot today and your conversations are inspiring! Keep them coming. My Dr doctor did prescribed me bottle of d3/5000, my d level was low. I do feel better and I’m a mushroom lover. But what is this HQC. I take zinc occasionally. I always practice social distance. Ethel

  2. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    About Either the virus itself was more deadly in the spring, or we’re treating it better now.–Yes, we’re treating it better now because doctors have learned from experience and study of several treatments not mentioned here, including other medications but also positioning patients in ways that help them breathe through this particular kind of lung inflammation.

    Another issue is that in the spring of 2020, most of the people getting serious cases of COVID-19 were elderly and therefore more likely to die of it. After a few months, the most vulnerable people were either dead or much better protected (by nursing home protocols or home isolation with supplies delivered), so a larger proportion of the virus’s victims were younger, healthier people who have been more likely to survive. Here is a CDC report on the change seen in summer 2020.

    Not only has the virus not gotten weaker, but the recent more-contagious variant is 64% more likely to kill people over 30.

    So, although I’m very tired of social distancing and very frustrated that vaccinations aren’t yet making a dent in the pandemic, I think we still have to take this very seriously!

    It’s great to know that vitamins help us fight the virus, and I hope you told Dr. Parks that (as reported here on your site), there IS a non-animal source of Vitamin D, mushrooms, and in fact we can increase the Vitamin D content of mushrooms the same way light-skinned people can increase the Vitamin D in our own bodies: exposure to sunlight! I’m glad springtime is here so we can get out in the sunshine more!

    1. Very grateful for the sunshine too, and eating lots of mushrooms as well! 😉

      It’s also good that physicians have learned that ventilators are not as helpful as previously thought – we are getting better at treating, yes, thanks be to God. And the variant before the newEST one, the one with G in the name instead of B, was more contagious but less deadly, I believe.

      Variants are tough to be sure, and the science and experience is constantly changing – will the variants prove to be a problem for the vaccines? Will wild immunity end up better? Time will tell. This interview was from early March 2021, so already some of the info is dated.

      Americans have had a full year to improve their baseline health and make big changes to get themselves out of the high risk groups (reversible type 2 diabetes a prime example The saddest thing to me is that we’ve done the opposite and gained weight as a nation. 🙁 Well…maybe not. So many sad things — like a death rate increasing from 0.3% to 0.4% being reported as “64% more likely to kill.” No wonder people are so scared with the constant media diet! Factual, yes. Twisted to make the headline sound worse than it is? Hmmm… To quote your source: “The absolute risk of death remains relatively low.” Sounds like we might want to start hugging our friends and family more, since hugs decrease blood pressure and stress levels, potentially lengthening our lives – the math on risks of not hugging vs. risks of dying from Covid would be fascinating.

      I’m very serious about the fact that we as a country are not handling this pandemic well at all, on economic, medical, psychological, journalistic, and political fronts.

      Your opinions and sources are always welcome here, and I hope to share sunshine, mushrooms, and hugs someday with you in person,

      1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

        Absolutely, we should be hugging our friends and family **who live with us or are in our “pod” with limited exposure** for the wonderful benefits of physical affection. That’s not the same as hugging a dozen different people every week. One of the things I’ve found most puzzling in the past year is that literally all the people I’ve seen arguing in favor of more mixing and hugging, sooner, and claiming that this deprivation has really serious effects…are people with strong religious beliefs emphasizing marriage, nuclear family, and sexual chastity. You are in that group. Are your husband and four children not fulfilling your needs for physical affection? This is an honest question, because the way you wrote about hugging doesn’t specify *who* to hug.

        For me personally, it has been weird not to hug anyone but my partner and two children for over a year, but because I can hug them I don’t feel I am languishing. My health has been better than normal since I recovered from last spring’s illness, despite stress, and I assume that’s mostly because I’m just not picking up as many germs as usual.

        This interview includes information that was outdated months before the interview was conducted. FDA warned against hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 in July 2020 because of side effects Dr. Parks did not mention. My doctor friends have said hydroxychloroquine logically seemed like it would work really well but has turned out not to be very effective against this particular virus.

        Here’s the FDA warning against Ivermectin and here are the NIH guidelines explaining that Ivermectin does appear effective against coronavirus but may not be able to kill the virus in the body without being used in doses that kill the patient! Here is the manufacturer’s statement on why their own product is not a safe treatment or preventative for COVID-19.

        Personally, I’m going to take a vaccine that has been through rigorous clinical trials for this particular purpose–and then I’m going to continue social distancing until the case rates come way down–rather than swallow some horse pills because one doctor said they were safe, in contrast to information I was able to find in less than one minute by Googling the name of the drug.

        Yes, “The absolute risk of death remains relatively low.” It’s still a much greater risk than many of the others you worry about–certainly, the virus is more fatal than the vaccine is.

        There is no Vitamin A or D in bacon. That’s too bad–despite being mostly vegetarian, I do love the flavor of bacon! It has some minerals, at least, and protein.

        I hope you’ll look into Mary’s claims that Vitamin D is actually a dangerous hormone. I haven’t heard that before and have heard many recommendations to take a supplement at least during winter, especially if you are vegan, drinking unfortified milk, or dark-skinned. I am none of those, but I do take a low-dose supplement from November through March.

        1. Hi Becca,
          Thanks for including more sources so our readers can continue to follow the research and get their questions answered.

          Vitamin D is a hormone, not a vitamin like others, but I’m not convinced yet that taking supplements is a bad idea, although I can see how it could be. I found this report on many research papers fascinating:

          Sounds like pastured pork has some Vit D but not conventional.

          re: hugs, yes, my family is certainly all I need, but isn’t more merrier when it comes to healthy things? My heart breaks for people who live alone and in fear through all this.

          I personally don’t think I’d take Ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine without a lot more research, but I don’t anticipate being a Covid case that would land in a hospital either. But yes, it’s been controversial. The problem as I understand it is that zinc was not included in the reported studies.


          1. Becca @ The Earthling’s Handbook

            More isn’t always merrier when it comes to “healthy things,” like Vitamin D or water, both of which have a fatal overdose level. Hugs are a “healthy thing” when both people enjoy them, but they also can have the side effect of passing germs that are not so healthy. That’s why we’re abstaining from promiscuous hugging until the virus is less prevalent. Of course people who live alone need hugs, too, and that’s why I mentioned forming a pod. I know that if I lived alone, I would need to arrange a few people for hugs and spending time together, and that’s good for mental health. But hugging a large number of different people is risky to physical health at this point.

          2. Katy is correct in that the problem with many American studies of HCQ did not include zinc and atleast one study used a lethal dose of HCQ. I worldview trust the FDA’s warning so much for several reasons: HCQ has been used safely for decades but does not make any significant profit. However the brand new vaccine, was financially backed by several gov agencies including the NIH and the HHS.

  3. I find this interesting. I’ve been curious about the whole Vitamin D thing from the start. I’m not a proponent of Vitamin D suppelements – they are hormone therapy. Hormone D is something our bodies make, not something we need to get through food. And low Vitamin D is just a symptom, so treating it with a supplement is not getting to the root cause. It’s just a band aid.

    Our whole family had covid – no big deal. We never take Vitamin D. And my levels were just checked – 26. Based on my own research that is in the ideal range. But based on what you read these days that would be considered very low.

    I did take Vitamin D a few years ago…and got my levels up in the 70’s. During that time my thyroid went crazy, I had a miscarriage, and I gained 25 lbs over a few months span. I also made my tissue calcium level sky rocket. It has taken me years to recover from it. And it wasn’t about K2.

    The low Vitamin D theory is interesting. But it doesn’t line up with my own research/my own experience.

    I need to research more. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Mary,
      That’s really interesting about Vitamin D being “hormone therapy.” Something to seriously consider as we make a choice for supplements, for sure – what IS the root cause of potential low Vit D? It sure does seem like a lot of medical/health experts I respect recommend D supplements. I just saw something from Dr. Rhonda Patrick about Vit D being tied to the Ace-2 receptors, another covid issue. It’s definitely important – but where is the causation? Could something else be the real cause of problems and Vit D is just a correlation? Yes, more research needed…

      Thanks for sharing your experience,

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