Earlier this year I gave 2 presentations on this topic at the (virtual) annual meeting of Physicians and Ancestral Health, a physician organization dedicated to incorporating evolutionary biology and lifestyle recommendations into the practice of medicine. Here is the first slide:
And here are some very important references:
Please note that this lecture was given before the delta variant arrived so the data applies to the pre-delta period.
I will skip several of the slides and get to the nutritional immunology and other lifestyle factors.
Here is the very busy slide that summarizes nutritional immunology:
Key points in this slide:
- Omega 3 fats from fatty fish fight inflammation, excess omega 6 fats from refined “vegetable oils” (corn, soy, cotton seed, sunflower seed, safflower, etc.) contribute to inflammation and blood clots, contributing to cytokine storm and bradykinin storm.
- Vitamin D interferes with the virus at multiple points.
- Adequate iron (Fe) from meat and seafood is essential for immune function (Iron from plant sources is much less bioavailable compared to meat and seafood.)
- Adequate complete protein (not available from vegan diets) is essential for immune function.
- Zinc and selenium (both found in seafood and meat) are essential for multiple protective pathways in the immune system (enhancing response to infection and mitigating excessive inflammatory response as cofactors for antioxidant enzymes)
- Sugar and high glycemic foods cause inflammation, high blood sugars suppress the immune system
- Dietary fiber supports a healthy gut microbiome which in turn suppresses inflammation and provides the gut lining with SFAs (gut epithelium requires SFAs for energy and function, gut barrier function needs SFAs)
- Phenolic compounds in colorful vegetables and berries modulate multiple essential immune pathways that can inhibit viral replication.
- Carotenoids, phenolics support several vital immune pathways.
- Omega 3 fats are the building blocks of chemicals that help resolve inflammation and mitigate against cytokine storm and bradykinin storm.
- Multiple vitamins and phenolics support our internal anti-oxidant system.
- To get a balanced protein intake we should eat “nose to tail”. Include connective tissue (home made bone broth is a great source) and organ meats (from grass fed/finished ruminants) in addition to muscle meat.
Here is another busy slide that presents more detail, note the reference at the bottom of the slide to read more.
So does the “Standard American Diet” meet these nutritional needs to support a healthy immune system?
The % above represent the % of American adults with intakes BELOW the EAR (Estimated Average Requirement) for various vitamins and minerals. But note the definition of EAR:
“nutrient intake value that is estimated to meet the requirement of half the healthy individuals to avoid symptoms of a clinical or subclinical deficiency” (NOT OPTIMAL LEVELS for immune function)
Note also that this study did not consider omega-3s, phytonutrients, flavonoids, polyphenols, fiber, etc., all of which are essential to a robust immune response to any virus including SARS CoV-2.
With regards to omega 3 vs omega 6 fats:
We will return to this topic in my next post. We are just scratching the surface of a complex system.
In the context of the COVID 19 pandemic I will close with the usual summary.
- Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
- Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
- Follow good sleep habits
- Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
- Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels. Supplement with Vitamin D3 to get your levels above 30 ng/ml. (read this Open Letter)
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
- Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
- Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.
- Eliminate refined-inflammatory “vegetable oils” from your diet, instead eat healthy fat.
- Clean up your home environment and minimize your family’s exposure to environmental toxins by following recommendations at EWG.org with regards to household products, personal care products, and organic foods. (https://www.ewg.org/)
- If you are over age 12 and eligible for vaccination, consider protecting yourself and your neighbor with vaccination.
THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.
Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.