Nutrition and Agency

Plate of beautiful sliced fruit

Photo by Naveed Pervaiz, Unsplash

People with healthy immune systems are far less subject to Covid 19, if at all. Your magical immune system cells want nothing more than to knock out the first signs of that virus–all while you go about your business or sleep.  However, a healthy immune system needs resources to do its magic. It requires care and feeding, which takes agency.

What we eat has a huge influence on our immune systems. Think about it: what you ingest provides the raw materials with which your immune system does its magic. That system takes those fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water you give it, creating weaponry to take out the bad guys. It takes a leap of faith to think that your immune system will do its magical best for you when you’ve left basics out of its arsenal.

Unfortunately this particular leap of faith is part of medical training in the US.  According to one study, US medical schools offer on average 19.6 hours of education about nutrition over a four-year period (Down from 23 hours in 2008). Some do not offer even a single hour! To say the least, this invalidates the role of nutrition in human health, in the minds of the doctors to whom our society accords a high-priest role in healthcare.

We evolved alongside natural substances with properties that nourish our bodies. In a beautiful evolutionary twist, we often find these health-conferring substances to be quite tasty and beautiful, too! None of those things is true of pharmaceutical drugs. Yet, here we are with an illness with no pharmaceutical solution. Our government and various (not all) informational outlets have little or no nutritional counsel to offer for our health. They are even dismissive of the role of nutrition in creating health. They then act as if the only possible solution to a novel virus in our midst will be a pharmaceutical industry vaccine.

But you can do better than that.

People with heart or lung disease, diabetes, and cancer are far more likely to succumb to Covid 19, as are the elderly. These are people who are immunocompromised, with fewer resources to stave off the virus than healthy people. Let’s look at diabetes. In the US, One hundred million people are either diabetic or prediabetic, meaning that absent intentional behavior they will end up with full blown diabetes, soon. (To put this in perspective, the US has 320 million inhabitants.) Type one diabetes is linked to heredity, but type two, which many have or are headed toward, clearly results from dietary habits. These are people whose immune systems are functioning poorly.

Yet, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that type two diabetes can typically be completely reversed through diet! (Type one benefits from dietary interventions as well.) By exercising that level of agency, people suffering from this terrible disease have brought their immune systems back online.

The picture with heart disease is quite similar. Heart disease evidently affects half of American men and a third of American women at some point in life. This disease kills many and costs the healthcare system billions upon billions every year. However, diseased arteries are capable of being healed through diet, as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and other researchers have proved. Of Esselstyn’s nutritional healing approach, former NIH director Bernadine Healy wrote, “Dr. Esselstyn’s . . .focus on the healing powers of proper nutrition on diseased coronary arteries has now proven right, raising another unthinkable notion—that heart patients can cure themselves.”

Doctors do not routinely educate patients as to these facts. Their picture of human health is limited by background and/or predilection. That either leaves people to be “patient” and do what the doctor says; or get some vitamin A(gency)!– making all the layers of choices that create health through diet.

For example, you can choose to read things that inspire hope and passion, have fun seeking out cool recipes, shop for whole, organic foods, and work on creating a home environment in which healthy foods are celebrated.

This post doesn’t aim to give you a nutritional education–many resources are available for you to explore, at your fingertips. I will just point out some bare basics. Vitamin C, D, A (regular-old) and zinc are tremendously supporting of your immune system, and non-toxic. If you would like your immune system to apply its expertise to malign viruses, you should understand that it needs those. You can easily research what foods to emphasize in your diet if you don’t want to take supplements. Drinking a lot of clean water is also important:  cells create waste as part of keeping you healthy, and that waste needs to be flushed out. Lastly, much of your body’s immune system resides in the gut. It would therefore appear that cultivating a healthy microbiome is one way to stave off the novel virus and any similar ones that will eventually come along.

There is something twisted about “public health” that ignores so many aspects of individual health. There are alternatives to the fragmented thinking in which we are supposed to focus all our energies on the disease of the day. However, we would have to find and choose healthy alternatives. No one is going to make us do that, and indeed there are forces at play that would prefer that we didn’t.

So, honor and love your beautiful immune system.  Don’t leave it trying to make bricks out of straw–what it hands back may not be to your liking. And, have fun with foods that say to your body “I love you!”

Ready to climb one more rung on the ladder toward greater agency? Read on!


Adams et al. Status of Nutrition Education in Medical Schools.

Esselstyn, Caldwell B.. Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure.  Avery, 2008.

Colino, Stacey.  “How Much do Doctors learn about Nutrition.” US News and World Report, Dec. 7th, 1016.

Fuhrman, Joel. The End of Diabetes: The Eat and Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes. Harper Collins, 2012.