Dr. David Heber, M.D., PhD, FACP, FASN-Chairman, Herbalife Nutrition Institute
The new corona virus for 2019, also known as COVID-19, has taken the world by surprise with its highly contagious nature and mortality. Relatively unknown until the outbreak, the virus reached almost every part of the world.
Most worryingly, although we know that COVID-19 is part of a large family of viruses, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), there are many features of this virus. which we are about to reveal, such as the dynamics of transmission. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it could take up to 18 months for the first vaccines against COVID-19 to be publicly available.
Only an approved medicine can treat or prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and other diseases. The lack of vaccine leaves us with only practical prevention measures, such as maintaining proper hygiene, wearing a mask if necessary, or maintaining social distance. It would also be helpful to keep our body strong so that our immune system can function well.
After all, our immune system is one of the most effective forms of protection against viral infections. There are two categories of immune functions in everyone’s body – innate immunity, which prevents diseases from entering the body, and adaptive immunity, which eliminates or prevents the growth of pathogens such as viruses and bacteria in our body.
However, boosting the body’s immunity is not as easy as it sounds. There are still many questions about the immune system that researchers are still working on, but what we do know is that there is a tangible link between the immune system and nutrition.
How nutrition affects the body’s immune system
To understand how nutrition and diet affect a person’s immune system, we need to delve into the role of epigenetics, the science of the biological mechanisms that turn our genes on and off.
While the idea of epigenetics may seem complicated, consider the example of honey bees. Although they have the same DNA sequence, bees produce three different organisms – workers, drones and queens – and this depends on the food the larvae eat. This shows that while all worker bees are born with the genetic ability to become queens, workers’ food ultimately affects the way their genes are expressed and physically expressed.
In the same vein, while all people are 99.9% genetically identical, epigenetics makes us unique through the different combinations of genes that turn on and off – which explains why some of us have red hair and others black, or why some of us have darker or lighter skin, for example.
What we eat, where we live, how much we sleep, how we play sports and even with whom we live, all this causes chemical reactions that can change our health. In addition, our microbiome, which is the microorganism we depend on to protect us from germs, break down food for energy, produce vital vitamins and strengthen our immune system.
Most of the immune system – approximately 70% of it – is located near the gut, which monitors food intake and how the body uses it. This makes it extremely important to maintain a balanced diet with the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This requires more than just changing the intake of one or two nutrients, but it also involves balancing the entire diet to ensure that we have optimal nutritional intake at the cellular level.
Strengthen your Immune System through Nutrition!
Four main groups of nutrients that help people strengthen their immune system:
Also known as one of the body’s main building blocks, protein allows the body to produce the antibodies it needs to defend itself against invading viruses and bacteria. To ensure that we have sufficient levels of protein in our diet, we can eat more healthy protein foods such as fish, poultry, lean meats, soy foods and low-fat dairy products.
Vitamins and phytonutrients
Vitamins A and C, as well as phytonutrients, are key players in the health of the immune system. As one of the most immune boosters, vitamin C encourages our body to produce antibodies that fight disease. It is essential to maintain a daily intake of vitamin C, as the body does not produce or store it. Vitamin A supports the health of the skin, tissues of our digestive tract and respiratory system.
Phytonutrients contained in vegetables and fruits reduce the oxidative stress of our body, which can weaken its ability to fight disease. A number of phytonutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, fight inflammation, lower blood pressure and improve the overall health of our immune system.
Probiotics and prebiotics
The digestive system plays a central role in maintaining immune function. The intestinal tract is the main route of contact with the external environment and is a route that contains microbiomes that support digestion as well as the absorption of nutrients. The presence of suitable bacteria in the gut is associated with benefits such as weight loss, improved digestion, healthier skin and, most importantly, enhanced immune function, although research in these areas is not definitive or universally applicable.
Studies show that probiotics, which are “good bacteria”, are good for maintaining the digestive system, and prebiotics, a type of fiber that the human body cannot absorb, serve as food for these probiotics.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, are healthy and essential types of fats that can be found in food, such as chia seeds and supplements such as fish oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids can boost immune cell function, which plays an important role in both innate and adaptive immunity that respond to infections.
Eating is not a substitute for an effective medicine and will not prevent you from becoming infected with COVID-19 or other diseases. However, maintaining a strong immune system is something that all healthy people can do.