How 10 diet, lifestyle and health tips can help boost your immune system, is what our discussion will center on.
The wonders of the immune system! An awesome network of organs, tissues, cells, and secretions that protect the body from pathogens like viruses, bacteria, etc.
We know by now, that Lack of adequate rest, exercise, and most especially nutrition deficiency can suppress the immune system’s ability to fight infections and diseases.
Global statistics on the present Covid-19 pandemic records that a high % of populations in the developed countries have been victims of the pandemic more than in underdeveloped nations.
This could be linked to the many factors which I will want to unravel here;
Below are few points that make some people have less immunity, hence makes them more susceptible to Covid19 Infection than others.
1. LESS EXPOSURE TO SUNSHINE VITAMIN D
Studies have shown that people who have optimal Vitamin D levels are less likely to Experience Common Colds, Asthma and Respiratory tract infections. In fact, upper respiratory tract Infections are inversely associated with LOW SERUM [BLOOD] LEVELS of Vitamin D!
Indeed, Vitamin D has other important functions, beyond its role in maintaining calcium and phosphorus homeostasis and bone health [preventing Rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults].
The discovery of Vitamin D receptors in Immune cells and other cells around the body indicates its non-negotiable impact in decreasing the risk of certain types of infections and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, protection [by the immune system] against diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers and its major role in respiratory health.
In the presence of sunlight, skin cells can synthesize a sufficient amount of Vitamin D from a derivative of cholesterol. Although there are food sources like Cod liver oil, Herrings, Salmon and Tuna fishes, Low-fat milk, Fortified cereals, and Supplements.
However, Daily Sunshine remains the highest source, readily available, and Dietary source is not required if sunlight exposure [for Vitamin D synthesis] is constant.
Now, how this relates to the Rich vs. the Poor is that the average wealthy person especially in the warmer climates stays in a cool temperature room, 24hours every day.
He moves into his air-conditioned car, from his AC house to an air-conditioned boardroom or office and back at dusk to his air-conditioned house, etc.
No exposure to Sunlight, no Vitamin D stimulation in his body!
This is unlike the poor who due to lack of financial wherewithal has to get up early, and hustle under the early sun (8 am to 10 am) either at the open market, shops, streets, or open stall.
However, fortunately for the poor/undernourished, by his hustle under the early sunshine, he gets more Vitamin D stimulated in his skin cell and body.
Since COVID-19 19 is a fatty coated strain that cannot withstand high temperature, heat, and inhaling steam. Vitamin D-Sunshine Exposure beats down respiratory infections which is a major complication of COVID-19; the poor hence has more immunity build-up than the rich.
A word of counsel to the wealthy and over-nourished is to eat more of Vitamin D rich foods sources like Cod liver oil, Herrings, Salmon and Tuna fishes, Low-fat milk, Fortified cereals, and Vitamin D Supplements [though supplement use should be supervised and be for a just a limited period]
And try more to get some 15-20 minutes of Sunlight exposure between 8 am-11 am daily.
2. FATTY DIETARY INTAKES
Clinical Evidence shows that the fattier diets we consume, the lesser the effectiveness of our immune system.
This is chiefly because, Immuno-Modulators (Arginine and Glutamine), which are chemical agents that do regulatory adjustments of the immune system and promote cellular synthesis are basically Protein in Nature.
Now, these Protein’s potency is WEAKENED BY EXCESS FATS additions or frying.
Immunomodulators maintain the Intestinal mucosal’s integrity, prevent pathogens from entering the bloodstream.
Omega 3 monounsaturated and Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, of Animal protein like Salmon, Mackerel, Herrings, Tuna Fishes plus Oils like Extra Virgin Cooking Olive oil, Canola oil, Soy oils and Nuts like Almond, Walnuts, Cashew nuts, etc.
These are food sources that increase immuno-modulators synthesis in the body.
Now how this relates to the poor vs the rich is that the rich [due to financial buoyancy, can afford daily intakes of fries and fatty diets while the poor cannot afford such “luxury” diets frequently.
The Rich man’s diet is heavily loaded with a daily omelets, creams, and fried cuisines. These, the average earner or poor cannot have such creams, daily omelets, but will rather boil/ broil his own proteins.
The danger of such “luxury” diets to the rich, is not just about Obesity and Coronary heart disease, but a daily decline/ weakening of the Protein-Immune System by high-fat diets!
Scientific data suggests that unsaturated fats, which include Oily fishes like Salmon Fish, Oils like Extra Virgin Cooking Olive Oil, and Nuts like Almond nuts can influence the Helper T-Cells activity and therefore increase Antibody production in the body;
Whereas, Saturated Fats like Mayonnaise, Butter, Fries, negatively affects cellular immune response which is dependent on membrane contact.
Hence the undernourished/ poor, because of their low-fat intakes, maintains their protein immune system more than the over-nourished or rich [who consume daily fat diet] and the poor therefore have stronger immunity against coronavirus than the poor.
The wealthy out there should emulate the average earner on a low-fat dietary intake. Remember, when you fry or add fats to proteins, you reduce the protein-immune efficiency of the diet.
3. LESS HERBS AND NUTRITIONAL SPICES
Scientific evidence reveals that herbs like Black seeds, Garlic, Honey, Turmeric, Ginger, and Lemon peels are powerful antioxidants that also have anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial & anti-viral functions…
In fact, it is known that honey activates the immune System’s response against Infections and Cell proliferation. And Black seeds have Antiviral and Anti-inflammatory abilities against a wide spread of ailments especially Asthma and Upper-respiratory tract Infections. Which are complications that can arise from the Covid19 infections.
Now, how this relates to the Rich vs the Poor is that most local herbs and spices, for instance, Garlics, Utazi, Ginger, etc, comes with odd smells/odors and appearances, which many especially the Wealthy/Aristocratic may find appalling and offensive, hence they do not add them to their intakes.
But the average earner or poor are used to these because they are very cheap and readily available at open markets!
Until now, when the entire world is awakened to the benefits of these herbs, they were mostly ignored by many in the higher class for foul smell and co. Spices like Garlic, Orange/lemon peel, Beets, Turmeric and are proven to have Antioxidants, Antithrombotic, Anti-inflammatory, Antiviral, and many other properties.
They form a large part of “INTERFERONS” in the Killer T-cells of the Immune system, which are found in non-specific immune responses, they interfere with viral growths, directly KILLING Infected Host!
Other sources [not herbal] are Glycoproteins of Apple, Pear, and Carrots, Tomatoes, unrefined cereals like Oats, Whole Wheat, and ripe fruits generally.
However, local herbs and nutritional spices are rich readily available sources that support the interferon T-Cells, and the poor therefore empowers their immunity daily with more of them than the rich, due to these intakes.
Every wealthy person should make local herbs intakes paramount.
4. FRESH FOODS INTAKES
White bread, cookies, cakes, and other food products made from refined flour can negatively affect the immune system. Also, a Harvard based research supports that healthy fresh plant-based foods support your immune system due to high intakes of minerals and vitamins in pure, unadulterated, and untouched forms.
Now, how these relates to the Poor vs. the Rich is that the poor or average income earner eats from open markets. He owns a farm and gets fresh products intact and super-rich in minerals from his personal farm or from his fellow market woman friend.
In fact, most low-income earners (esp. in the tropics), own small farmland for sustaining their family or purchase fresh foods from a neighbor who owns a farm. From which he gets fresh food products intact and super-rich in Minerals and Micronutrient beneficial to the Immune System
Hence, the average earner or poor has more access to fresh and unadulterated nutrient-rich foods, unhampered with and very beneficial to building strong Immunity.
The Rich however purchases his own grocery from sophisticated malls, buying colorful fertilized foods, likely at risk of plastic groceries and Genetically modified food products!
Though this is termed not totally unhealthy, they are incomparable to fresh locally farmed foods which the open market stalls and local farmers can give.
GMO foods are still argued upon as to their possibility of lowering immunity, increased risk of metabolic syndrome hypertension, and some chronic diseases.
While natural, local produce is from soils rich in minerals beneficial to the immune system.
Make most fresh grocery purchases from local farmers and markets.
5. MORE SUGARS AND FIZZY DRINKS
Research reveals that constant intakes of added sugars can negatively impact the immune system!
Sugars are called Pro-inflammatory agents in the body. Sugary beverages have little benefits to add to the body but reduce calcium in the body, convert to fats because it is in excess, and increase metabolic syndrome, type2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Daily consumption of sugary drinks, alcohol, and packed beverages is more rampant among those that have more financial wherewithal than the poor!
When blood sugars are elevated for an extended period of time, the blood may be placed in an inflammatory state, which not only negatively affects the blood vessels but leads to Cellular Dysfunction.
This triggers inflammation and changes both the Innate and Adaptive Immune System.
The rich and over-nourished have access to these ‘ dangerous luxuries’ more than the poor, due to the fact that the wealthy person has higher financial earnings hence increasing his susceptibility to diseases, weakened immunity, and Infections.
This is because as a general rule, excessive sugar consumption depletes the body’s nutrient balance which triggers a cascade of inflammations and metabolic disruptions. In fact, high sugar intake curbs/ reduces the potency of immune system cells that attack bacteria.
Of all food intakes, added sugars and sugary diets such as sweets, chocolates, sugar syrups, marmalades has the greatest risk above other diseases.
Reduce intake of added sugars, artificial sugars and sweets.
6. MENTAL STRESS
Research reveals that when we are stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced.
The Human body is more susceptible to infections when stressed, this is because Corticosteroid, which is the stress hormone is increased under extreme stress.
This Hormone suppresses the effectiveness of the Immune System by lowering the Number of Lymphocytes that are the White Blood cells that help to fight off infections.
Now, how this relates to the Rich vs. the Poor is that the average wealthy Individual is encumbered with constant burden concerning his investments and economic situation.
Sometimes, these take a toll on his body, his health, relationships, etc. This kind of stress is the least worry of the poor whose main concern may be the sustenance of daily feeding and shelter.
Chronic mental stress releases hormones like cortisol that suppresses inflammations. Really, some inflammations are needed to activate immune cells and white blood cell’s actions. However, with prolonged stress, the white blood cells are greatly compromised.
The rich go through more mental stress than the poor/undernourished, hence have a compromised immune system than the poor/average earner.
Reduce stress, shed responsibilities and know u cannot do all alone!
7. LESS ACTIVITY LEVEL & EXERCISE
An article written by Prof. Zhen Yen, a professor of cardiovascular medicine, who ran experiments on lab rats, discovered that Exercise and increased activity levels [mild but regular aerobics], can help with Respiratory problems e.g., ARDS.
ARDS is a type of respiratory failure characterized by rapid inflammations in the lungs that prevents Oxygen from reaching the organs. This has been reported in many Covid19 patients.
We know that exercise is beyond six-packs! It helps cardiovascular health, reduces weight, encourages more calcium production thereby preventing osteoporosis, and acts as an anti-depressant. Now, we know that beyond that, exercise reduces Covid19 severity and respiratory functions.
How this relates to the Poor vs. the Rich is that the average affluent hardly walk on his two feet outside his/her house. He is chauffeured from home to office or events and everywhere. He hardly even takes a stroll except on weekends.
A large percentage of affluent also find it hard keeping up with exercise and workouts schedule. This is a different scenario for the poor/ average earner, who has to get in the streets and walk long kilometers and miles to make his daily bread.
This, fortunately, helps the average earner or non-affluent to build a stronger immunity than the Rich/ affluent. While the Rich who consumes more calories daily with less activity level is more prone to infections and disease.
Exercise reduces the risk of cardiopulmonary infections, prevents some cancers, prevents quick aging and now we know, Exercise reduces the risk of respiratory problems likely linked with COVID-19.
Exercise DAILY! Mild but regular aerobics will benefit both the affluent as well as non-affluent.
8. LACK OF GOOD REST
Aristotle’s publication on sleep and sleeplessness in 350 BC suggested that digestion in the stomach produces hot vapors that lead to sleep. He explained that people with fevers experience something similar driving them to sleep to help enhance their healing process.
That work suggests that sleep may be a powerful tool to fight the Covid19 pandemic, not just by reducing the likelihood or severity of infections alone, it may boost the effectiveness of medication/ vaccines even in the infected.
Sleep or Good Rest is a simple way to bolster the immune system against colds, Influenza, and other Respiratory Infections.
Sleep is a time of restoration of the body during which a type of CYTOKINE is released that fights infections. Too little sleep lowers the amount of Cytokine that the body can release and it reduces the effect of Immune cells.
Now, how this relates to the Rich vs. the Poor is that a large number of wealthy people with large investments hardly get enough time for good rest/ good sleep. Probably due to big investments here and there, the affluent may be prone to get infected from covid19, due to infrequent rest/ sleep.
Also, a lack of adequate rest disturbs the immune system by the release of harmful steroids and hormones. This increases the likelihood of Infectious attacks.
Sleep is non-negotiable for optimum health, the affluent are advised to get some regular sleep and rest.
9. UNDERLYING HEALTH DISORDERS
A WHO research supports that there is increasing evidence that people with existing chronic disease conditions e.g. Diabetes, Lung disease, to mention a few. Are at higher risk of death due to Covid19.
Many go about life with ailments and diseases that they grapple with in their personal lives. These health conditions may not be known to friends and the public. These, both the affluent and non-affluent both experience.
However, there are some disease conditions that global statistics note is more rampant with the Rich, more than the Poor/ average earner. Disease linked with Obesity (like Heart problems & Type 2 Dm), High protein diets (like Kidney disease), and cholesteraemia (cardiopulmonary/ lung disease), etc.
These are underlined health disorders that get worsened when the body is compromised already and this becomes too much for the body to effectively fight an external factor while it is dealing with an on-going chronic infection.
Chronic disease and underlying health disorders weaken, attack, and potentially doubles the immune cells. With an attack of an ailment like Covid19, the body may break down completely as the immune cells are weighed down. This is more rampant among the affluent than the less affluent.
Reduce exposure to covid19, use your medications, and embrace nutrition and lifestyle modalities from qualified authorities.
In a Nurses Health Study, which followed 114,000, middle-aged women for 14years. It was discovered that the risk of developing Hypercholesterolemia, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Dm was 93 times higher among women who had a BMI of 35kg/m2 (at the start of the study) compared to women with a BMI lesser than 22kg/m2.
The Health professional follow-up study found a similar association in Men too.
The truth is overweight and Obesity, that is more fatty cells build up in the body especially around the waist secrets hormones and other substance that fire up inflammations. These inappropriate inflammations cause a variety of health complications including weakened Immunity.
Obesity is associated with low-grade chronic inflammations [due to many fatty cells], these fatty cells produce inflammatory processes.
Now, how this relates to the Rich vs. the Poor is that the wealthy are usually over nourished, with amass of excess body fats especially around the belly belt than the poor/undernourished.
Lose weight if overweight, maintain regular, low-intensity exercise regimes.
FASEHUN TOLANI, RD.
Clinical Nutritionist/ Regd. Dietitian.
Presenter of Nutrition Gist/ Host of Online Dietitian Clinics @ www.Onyxh.com
Human Physiology by Wiki Books, Articles by Metagenics Institute, WADLAWS Perspective in Nutrition [5th edition], Prof ZHEN YEN Publications, Nutrition and Immunity [Harvard School of Public health], Biotics Research.com, Merriam Webster dictionary.