“The greatest medicine of all is to teach people how not to need it”
‘An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”
To start with, what is the Immune System? The immune system is a network of Organs, Tissue, Cells, and Secretions that protect the body from foreign organisms (pathogens) such as Bacteria, Viruses, Parasites, Fungi and Toxins.
The Immune system includes two basic types:
- The Innate Immune System
- The Acquired Immune System
The innate immune system is present from birth, It is the 1st barrier of the body’s protection against Antigens, It comprises of one, the Physical barriers like the Skin, which secrets Sebaceous glands that secrets sebum. This sebum is antiseptic in nature and destroys specific pathogens like bacteria and toxins, preventing them from entering the bloodstream, same goes to the mucous membrane that lines the orifices of the body, I mean openings from inside the body to the outside; they include the Nostrils, the ears, the mouth, and the genital openings.
Secondly, the innate immune system also comprises of Chemical secretions such as HCL in the stomach, Acidic urine in the urinary tract, Tears in the eyes, Saliva in the mouth which is rich in Lysosomes, with strong antibacterial, antiseptic nature that is volatile against some toxins and pathogens that the body senses as harmful. Thirdly, we have Physiological barriers, which come as Fever, growths, tumors, Pus from injuries etc.
Now, the innate immune system is limited in ability to recognize Antigens (Antigens are pathogens that previously attacked the body system with infections and diseases). On the other hand, the Acquired Immunity initiated by a recognition of a specific Antigen, it is acquired over a person’s lifetime. This type of immunity is LIMITED in Babies and Infants, hence Nutrition experts recommend more breastfeeding because Human milk has a high concentration of Microbiota and probiotics which has great protective immune components e.g. Immunoglobulins, Lactoferrin, etc.
All these secretions are strategic barriers that the body puts up to fight off external harmful agents from coming in and damaging the body. Some are signals that the white blood cells and Antibodies which include the Neutrophils, Macrophages and of cause the T and B cell, are fighting major infections, viruses, bacteria, fungi and other pathogens from the body.
In concise conclusion, the immune system can be likened to a Castle with 3 mechanisms of defense, 1st Floor are the Gatemen (Physical & Chemical barriers) of the Skin and Orifices of the body, 2ND Floor is the Sentries & Archers of Neutrophils, Macrophages and Physiologic barriers. The 3rd floor is Soldiers of B and T cells which chiefly engulf and destroy viruses in the body. IF THE VIRUS GETS PAST THE 1st, 2nd & 3rd BARRIERS INTO THE BODY; THE LINES OF DEFENCE ARE BREACHED & WE THEREFORE FALL SICK.
What role does Nutrition play in Immunity and Viral/ Pathogenic infections prevention generally?
First, it is good to note that Nutrition is important in Maintaining both Acquired and Innate immunity, Secondly, NUTRITION DEFICIENCY CAN SUPPRESS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM’S ABILITY TO PREVENT INFECTIONS & DISEASES!!!
Nutrition deficiency which could also be termed as Malnutrition is a cellular imbalance or state of deficiency of Nutrients & Energy sufficient for the body’s demand for growth, maintenance and specific functions which leads to adverse effects on the body tissue. Malnutrition results in reduced production of immune cells, MALNUTRITION RESULTS IN A BREAKDOWN OF THE BODY’S BARRIERS TO ANTIGENS, THIS INCREASES SUSCEPTIBILITY TO INFECTIONS, DISEASES, AND DEATH.
Malnutrition could be under-nutrition or over-nutrition, even though over years, Malnutrition has been known more as Undernutrition of Kwashiorkor, PEM, Edema, Cachexia, Oral changes and Skin changes. But Over-nutrition can be injurious too, as a person could also be Obese, Overweight or be suffering from Nutrient toxicity or micronutrient deficiency. Fact is, a wealthy person with enough wherewithal for food can yet suffer from a macro or micronutrient deficiency because they consume Quantity and not Quality!
The following are the Nutrient needs for stronger Immunity, they include:
The relevance cannot be underestimated, Proteins are a chief constituent of Muscles, Organs and the Endocrine. All body fluids except bile and urine contain proteins. All antibodies, which are necessary for antibodies are proteins by nature. REMEMBER, RESISTANCE TO DISEASES IS AN IMMUNOLOGICAL RESPONSE.
Example; Animal proteins such as Lean meat, Egg, Fish, Poultry and Plant proteins like Legumes and Pulses such as Beans, Peas, Lentils, runner beans, green peas, and Nuts.
Note that the more fats on a protein, the less the protein value of the protein. Also, the plant proteins (incomplete proteins) can be upgraded to a high biological value by adding Animal proteins to it e.g. spice up beans with crayfish/ fish. This increases the biological impact of proteins on the body tissues.
These ones promote protein synthesis and immune responses, they include Arginine and Glutamine. They maintain intestinal mucosal integrity and prevent pathogens from entering the blood stream. Examples include Omega 3 and Omega 6 mono & polyunsaturated fatty acids found;
Extra virgin olive oil (which is good for salads, sauté and low heat cooking), Salmon, Mackerel, Herrings, Titus fishes. Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acid is present in Canola Oil, Soy Oil and Nuts like Almond nuts, Cashew nuts, and Walnuts. NUTRIENT FORMULAS AND SUPPLEMENT CAN GIVE OMEGA 3 ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S A MAJOR NUTRIENT NEED.
Interferons are naturally occurring Glycoproteins found in T-cells.
They are found in Non-specific immune responses, THEY INTERFERE WITH AND STOP VIRAL GROWTH. Glycoproteins include Pectin and Gums which is chiefly found in foods like Apple, Pear, Citrus, Garlic, Carrots, Tomatoes. Whole grains like Oats, Whole wheat, Brown rice, Red wine are also a good source. RIPE FRUITS HAVE MORE GLYCOPROTEINS THAN UNRIPE FRUITS.
4. MICRONUTRIENT DEFICIENCY
It is possible to be more concerned about a balanced diet, about macronutrients such as Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals that we lose focus on the smaller or Micronutrient such as Zinc, Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Sodium to mention a few.
The essence of the nutrients as minute as they can be, cannot be underestimated in enabling a strong immune system. Zinc is known for its strong Prostate health-boosting, Iron helps in blood hemoglobin levels and Potassium is strong support for hypertensive patients. Micronutrients are seen in Seafood like Prawns, Snails, all forms of Crayfishes, Shrimp and Mushrooms.
5. VITAMIN C
Vitamin C like the other Vitamins and Minerals are not to be relegated factors that guard the body and improve immunity. Vitamin C is potent in its contribution, converting Cholesterol to bile, it helps in Collagen synthesis which is critical to bone repair, blood vessels and wound healings. It helps in Iron Absorption (non-heme iron).
Now in this context, it improves immune functions because WHITE BLOOD CELLS CONTAIN THE HIGHEST VIT C IN ALL THE BODY CONSTITUENT. This may protect against OXIDATIVE STRESS associated with Cellular Respiration. Little wonder Vitamin C IS VALIDATED MEDICATION FOR COMMON COLDS AND RESPIRATORY ISSUES. Examples include Pawpaw, Pepper, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Green leafy vegetables, Broccoli, Lemons, and Citrus family generally.
Note that Vitamin C can be easily lost in processing and cooking to about 40% of it, Athletes and Smokers have a higher requirement (About 35mg/day is needed, as they lose it to increased Oxidative stress), Women also using Contraceptives require higher Vitamin C. Men need 95mg/day of Ascorbic acid and Women need about 75mg/day.
6. VITAMIN A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it occurs as Preformed retinoids and Provitamin A carotenoids.
As early as the 1920s, researchers have recognized that Vitamin A (mostly as Retinoic acid) was important for immune system functions. They observed that INCIDENCE FOR INFECTION WAS ONE OF THE FIRST SYMPTOMS OF VIT A DEFICIENCY. Many studies have shown that Vitamin A deficient individuals have a greater susceptibility to illness and Infection. This may be in part because Vitamin A helps maintain the Epithelium, A BARRIER THAT PROTECTS THE BODY AGAINST ENTRY OF DISEASE PATHOGENS.
Vitamin A supplementation has been shown to reduce the severity of some Infections, 900microgram and 700microgram is the RDA for men and women respectively. Kidney disease increases Vitamin A toxicity because the body flushes excess of the vitamin through the urine. But in a diseased Kidney, the urinary route is compromised.
Examples of Food rich in Vitamin A include Liver, which is still one of the greatest sources, Fortified milk, Orange colored fruits like Carrots, Plum, Strawberries, and Orange, Red, plus Dark Green Vegetables.
In conclusion, the immune system is a complex network that guards the body against viruses and all forms of pathogens and Nutrition is a strong factor that enhances the effort of the immune system. Nutrition is more result prone as Preventive Medicine rather than Curative Medicine; hence it is advised that a Lifestyle of Good and Adequate Diet, Timely Rest and Quality Exercise should be a lifestyle imbibed by all on day to day basis, and essentially at this period of Covid19 outbreak.
FASEHUN OYETOLANI, RD.
Wardlaw’s Perspective in Nutrition [8th Edition]
Human Physiology [from Wiki Books Contributors]
Merriam Webster Dictionary