NUTRITION THAT CAN ASSIST BUILD OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM PROTECTING OUR BODIES FROM THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC

Dr T Mandindi pic e1601291527814 300x226Immune system, put in simple language is a network of pathways and antibodies in our bodies that are meant to protect us and fight against potentially harmful microorganisms of all kind and diseases that we are exposed to.

These microorganisms are always ready to attack, invade and try to infest us and are not visible to human eye-they are viruses, bacteria, pathogenic substances and microbes of various nature. Therefore, the innate-immunity (first-line of defence in the body, e.g. skin, mucus, hydrochloric acid of the stomach, etc.) and adaptive-immunity (created antibodies to fight against that particular pathogen as it invades the body-e.g.

TB bacteria our bodies will form antibodies to recognise these and attack back) or our immune system stand ready to fight back these invaders. There are factors which can depress our immune system, to mention just a few; poor diet: malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency, this arises as a result of diet lacking in building-blocks-nutrients, nutrients that are key to building antibodies and immune cells; old age: at this stage organ associated with immunity such as; bone marrow (blood-making) produces less immune cells required to fight infections; obesity/overweight:-suppressed T-cells (white blood cells)-it becomes a risk factor for flu viruses; chronic diseases:

Chronic diseases potentially disable some immune cells resulting to immune-deficiency disorders and that autoimmune response to invaders is destroyed eventually leaving individuals vulnerable to sickness and diseases; environmental toxins: normal functioning of immune system is impaired by air pollutants, water pollutants, including excessive alcohol intake, smoke (be it from tobacco, burning coals, factories emissions, locomotive emissions and cellphone radiations and minerals/chemicals/drugs and other substances that are harmful to inhalation….); Not enough sleep at any age:

The body finds time to reproduce new cells, renew and restore cells (lost during work and fight of infections during the hustle and bustle of the day) at its rest-cytokine that help the body fight pathogens and infections is released at this time of rest/sleep. It has been found that little rest/sleep lowers the amount of the cytokines produced-immunity is thereby compromised; negative stressors and mental instability: stress is known to release cortisol (a hormone that suppresses the activation of immune cells and the action of white blood cells). Most of the these are out of our control, as at some stage we will all reach old age, we stress without being conscious, we inhale pollutants…etc.  Therefore, in these conditions I advocate on strengthening on what is within our control-that is food!

For healthy living and as part of immune system building blocks the following are suggested:

  • As part of a variety of nutrients to cover the spectrum of immune booster-foods, we need to consume a variety of foods in a day’s diet which will provide enough nutrients-this will better prepare the body for any invasions by the negative microorganisms;
  • Antioxidants are critical for immune building-for example, Vitamin A, D, E, C, zinc, selenium, iron, zinc and Protein foods- all found in a variety of animal and plant foods (Mandindi, 2017);
  • Antioxidants and vitamins: These are substances that protect body cells from and inhibit oxidation of the same from free radicals and scavengers. For example, vitamin C or E (profound antioxidants) which remove potentially oxidizing and radiative (damaging) agents in the body organs such as heart, lungs, intestines-as oxidation may result in heart disease, lung cancers, ulcers, etc…
  • We require generous portions from a wide variety of fresh, raw (as far as possible) fruits and vegetables, including avocado pear which provides a fair amount of omega fatty acids (good fats for the body). These supply vitamin C in varying amounts, zinc, selenium, vitamins D, E and A (antioxidants). These include foods such as citrus fruits, guava, rainbow peppers which are rich in vitamin C and E respectively, wild and exotic berries (iziphingo, amaqunube, amafiya, strawberries) and green leafy vegetables both exotic and traditional, eg. spinach, broccoli, beetroot, wild spinach and other edible wild plants imifino, nemithwane (young pumpkin leaves), (Mandindi, 2020). Deep yellow vegetables; pumpkins, carrots, beetroot…
  • Proteins: The best bet here would be the light kind of proteins which come from fish, chicken, legumes and nuts, because corona virus has a tendency of thickening (in simple language) the blood causing clots, the red meat protein and saturated fats can encourage the formation of thick blood, needless to say that can lead to clogging of arteries, hypertension, clotting of blood (thrombosis), heart attack…; However, red meat has advantages of being a source of minerals and vitamins as well.
  • Whole grains too have health benefits rather than refined carbohydrates-eg maize, sorghum, whole wheat products, consumed in varied forms: Grains as stamped or whole, eg. umngqusho wombona or owengqolowa/uqumatana; iinkobe/sophu/amaqhashu respectively… (see Mandindi, 2020);
  • It is also important to make probiotic-containing-foods part of the diet-eg less fat cheeses, yorghurt, amasi omvubo (maas), amarhewu, isidudu somqombothi-rich in iron and vitamin B-complex (see how to eat it in our traditional/indigenous diet this is what made our ancestors live for a long time in addition to the exercise -Mandindi, 2020);
  • The foods given above are just examples and are not limited to that, it has to be a variety in each single day.
  • Avoid, over processed/refined, salty, fatty (saturated fats) and high sugary foods-healthy diet stimulates immune response;
  • Exercise and drinking of water need to be part of our lifestyle, twice a week bask your legs in the sun for 20 minutes but avoid sun on the chest and on the back, it can be harmful to delicate organs;