The Invisible Army: The Immune System


Joseph Bellott

Besides hygiene (hopefully a no brainer), stress, age, sex, current health conditions, past health conditions, physical strength, and nutrition are all huge factors in the immune system’s function. There are three on this list that can be manipulated immediately – stress, physical strength, and nutrition, and I think it goes without contest that nutrition is the most convenient factor that we can improve.

For the foreseeable future it seems like the coronavirus is going to be a devastating pandemic. As of press time, the virus has had confirmed cases for 126,367 people and has taken the lives of 4,633. Yes, these numbers are nothing relative to the global population of more than 7 billion, yet it’s the rate at which this virus is spreading and especially all the unaccounted for young healthy people who have no idea they are carrying it that is most scary.

As one would assume, the coronavirus is most consequential for elderly people. The risk of dying if infected with the coronavirus is called a Death Rate. Death rates for different age groups as listed by are less than 1% from ages 0-49; from 50 to 69, around 2%; the death rate skyrockets for ages 70 – 79 with a death rate of 8%, and skyrockets again for people 80 and older with a death rate of 14.8%.

The immune system’s strength is most heavily correlated with age. It’s an inverse relationship, where the strength of our immune system decreases as our age increases. Many older people retain the immune system they had in their 30’s for various reasons, such as genetics and especially, living an overall healthy lifestyle including behaviors like working out and eating right. But many, perhaps most older people, lose a significant amount of their immune strength from old age; just very common illnesses like the cold can put their lives in jeopardy.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is published by the US Department of Agriculture, together with the US Department of Health and Human Services to give the highest standard of nutritional advice for all the American people. The guidelines are updated every five years to stay up to date with the latest research. As you may know, there are 13 vitamins and about 16 essential minerals.

It would be impossible for one article to summarize or to entirely explain the roles of all essential vitamins and minerals to a person who just wants to eat the right way in accordance with the ways in which the brightest doctors and nutritional scientists in the world would want a person to eat. Instead of getting technical, just sharing some key advice from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is more than enough to significantly help your body out.

Before you read the list it is important to know that you should eat a variety of foods within each food group. It’s critical to mix it up —  don’t just eat strawberries for fruit, or salmon as the protein, switch it up regularly! And although this list is great, do a little more digging and check out The Dietary Guidelines for Americans for yourself online. This comprehensive list of portions and other information will be very handy. Besides good hygiene (which should be a no brainer), nutrition is the one thing that can be implemented immediately, and with almost no effort.  Recommendations for a daily basis include:

  • Veggies from all subgroups – dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits
  • Grains, at least half from whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Limit saturated fats and trans fats, and added sugars, and sodium

Now go out and spend money how your body would like you to!


Photo courtesy of Nadine Primeau on Unsplash