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The Black Plague Interesting New Findings

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

When you think of the bubonic plague, you likely think of rats, devastation, and a huge death toll in Europe. This infectious disease was the second pandemic in the world. It killed millions of people in the 14th century. But when we take a closer look at black plague interesting facts, we can see that there might be something to learn from this deadly time in history.

In this article, I will share with you some important findings on the Black Death. These findings help us see that nutrition and diet might have more power than you first think. We can take the lessons learned from this historic pandemic into the present day to protect ourselves against infection and stay as healthy as possible.

I will cover:

I will start by explaining what the black plague was, when it occurred, and what the history books say.

Word cloud of black death, black plague, Europe, pandemic, glowing light image.


What was the black plague?

The black plague was the second pandemic event to occur in history. A pandemic is a worldwide spread of disease.

The plague was a deadly bacterium that killed millions of people between 1340 and the 1400s. It devastated whole countries in Europe and even Asia during the 14th century. It is also commonly known as the Black Death, the Great Plague, or the bubonic plague.

History books say that the Black Death was caused by a bacterium (Yersinia pestis) that infected fleas and was then spread around by rats. Those who were exposed to the bacteria and fell ill were at serious risk for death. It was a scary time for anyone living at the time. One you got infected; you could die within hours or days.

When we consider the Black Death, my question is this: what made it so that this bacterium could spread throughout the continent and kill that many people? What came before it, and what may have precipitated this kind of devastation?

Illustration of bubonic plague Yersinia pestis bacteria transmission from rats and fleas, pandemic.

How could a bacterium spread so wildly and cause so much death?

Was the Black Death simply a strong bacterial infection that spread through rats and took out huge parts of the European population? Or were there other factors at play that put people at higher risk for infection in the first place?

To answer these questions, we can look at some recent findings from bone evidence for answers.

These findings point to some interesting facts about the Black Death. And they may give you a new way to look at why the Black Death may have become one of the deadliest diseases in human history.

These facts point to the idea that it might not have been that the bacteria itself was so deadly, but the fact that people were undernourished and deficient in important immune-boosting nutrients.


Recent bone evidence showed 3 important findings

Recently, 25 skeletons of bubonic plaque victims were found in a London cemetery. The bones of the victims revealed three important findings. These included:

  1. The bones showed signs of rickets. Rickets is a sign of severe vitamin D deficiency.
  2. The bones showed signs of malnutrition.
  3. The bones showed signs of injury.

All 25 skeletons (each one a victim of black death) showed signs of vitamin D deficiency, malnutrition, and injuries.

Skulls and bones in pile, bone evidence.

Now why is any of that important? Because it points to the connection between serious infections and dietary factors.

For example, vitamin D is a hormone that is one of the most powerful immune modulators out there. If you are deficient in vitamin D, it will make you highly susceptible to infections of any sort. That might have been a major player in the spread of the Black Death.


Similarities between the black death and the Spanish flu

The importance of diet and nutrient deficiencies can be illustrated by looking at links between the Black Death and the Spanish flu.

The spread of the Black Death throughout Europe has a lot in common with the Spanish flu of 1918. This was the most severe pandemic in recent history, and it occurred near the time of World War I.

Some of the commonalities include:

  • As with the black death, the Spanish flu resulted in mass deaths, wiping out large portions of the population.
  • The Spanish flu was during a time of war. And when you see that there were lots of signs of injuries in victims of the black death, it sure sounds like a time of war as well.
  • The Spanish flu also came at a time when many were underfed or not eating nutritious diets. The first World War brought along canned food which was lacking in nutrients. And as we saw from the bone evidence, the black death victims were also malnourished and deficient in important nutrients.

Looking at it this way helps us to see that perhaps there were precipitating factors that helped the black death Yersinia pestis bacteria lead to so much mortality.

If you'd like to learn more about the Spanish flu, watch my video here. In it, I share more about what I've learned from the Spanish flu and why it is interesting to consider for our own health in the modern day.


Interesting black plague facts that point to nutrition and diet

There are a few more facts about the bubonic plague that can help us see what a key role diet and nutrition can play. Here are some things to keep in mind:

#1. A volcano could have impacted vitamin D levels prior to the bubonic plague.

In 1315 there was an eruption of a volcano, Mount Tarawera. The ashes from this event may have affected temperatures around the globe, and they may have caused a barrier in the air that resulted in lower vitamin D levels before the outbreak of the plague. As I mentioned earlier, when you don't have enough vitamin D, you are much more likely to catch an infection because your immune system is compromised.

Gold vitamin D icon, vitamin D liquid capsule on white background.

#2. Vitamin C deficiency can cause shrimp to develop black death lesions.

When you starve shrimp of vitamin C, they develop black lesions like Black Death lesions. And they also get severe infections. Again, this supports the idea that vitamin deficiencies may predispose you to risky infections. Vitamin C is another important vitamin for immune health.

#3. The Great Famine led to malnutrition before the black death spread.

There was a Great Famine in 1315-1317, related to bad weather and crop failure. A famine leads to widespread malnutrition, with people not getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy and fight off disease. Along with malnutrition comes deficiencies in vitamins and minerals that are required for proper immune function.

Taken together, these facts help us to see that factors like vitamin deficiencies can play a really vital role in making us susceptible to disease.

When it comes to the black death, deficiencies in things like vitamin D and vitamin C could have made a big difference. Because people did not have sufficient levels of these immune-boosting vitamins, that may be why they were more likely to get infected and die of the Yersinia pestis bacteria.


Key takeaways from these black plague facts

The reason I bring up all of these black plague facts is to show you the relationship between severe infections and vitamin deficiencies.

The black death and Spanish flu are both good examples of how deficiencies can set you up for a serious, deadly infection.

To protect yourself against viruses and bacteria, it is important to make sure your immune system has all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Especially vitamin D, which is one of the most powerful immune modulators out there.

Digital illustration of immune system defense against bacteria and viruses, healthy immune system.

Vitamin D is almost impossible to get from your food. And while we can get it from healthy sun exposure during the sunny months, it is really hard to get naturally during winter. So take it in supplement form to make sure you have enough vitamin D.

Here are the key points to remember:

  • During both the black death and the Spanish flu, factors like war, famine, and more predisposed the populations to being malnourished and deficient in nutrients.
  • Bone evidence shows that black death victims were both malnourished and deficient in vitamin D.
  • Being deficient in nutrients like vitamin D makes you more susceptible to infection.
  • If you want to protect yourself against severe infections and stay healthy, you need to avoid deficiencies.
  • Taking a vitamin D supplement is a great thing to do to boost your immune system.

While we think of the bubonic plague as something from the past, it actually is still around today. About seven people die each year in the US from the bubonic plague. And that is just one of many infections out there that you want to protect yourself from.

Diet and nutrition are powerful things when it comes to staying healthy. Go here to learn more about factors that can make you more susceptible to infection.

How do you make sure that you get plenty of nutrients, especially vitamin D? What do you do to protect your body with your diet? Share in the comments section below.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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