Covid-19 and the Immune System

I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s day with family. There was a lot of isolation and COVID-19 testing for everyone prior to and after this celebration.

I ate some stuff that I am not supposed to eat. For example, my great grandchildren made blueberry muffins. The blueberries (of which there were only a few) were real. Note that the blueberries in the stuff you buy at the store are not real. Otherwise the muffins were flour (sugar), sugar (obviously sugar), an egg, and a bit of salt. The oil was avocado (which is good) because that was the only oil they had.

The worst error was eating the Cheetos. There is nothing good and a lot bad in Cheetos. Well, maybe the worst error was finishing off a bag of vinegar and salt potato chips. When they said “No one can eat just one”, they meant it.

Normal and the immune system

These are just three example of my mistakes. My good friend the nurse reminds me that this is not “normal” for me and I will recover from my sins. That recovery consists of not eating that junk and, instead, eating a diet that provides the nutrients my body (and yours) requires for health. The prevailing health crisis is COVID-19 and the part of the human body particularly important to that crisis is the immune system.

Humans (and all animals) are inevitably exposed to pathogens like bacteria, viruses, etc. Our ability to keep those pathogens from seriously debilitating or killing us is totally dependent on our immune system. TOTALLY!

In other words your primary goal is keeping your immune system healthy. The question is, how does one do that? Is that different from having a healthy heart, functional kidneys, or any other organ in my body?

No, it is not different. Every part of your body is dependent on your immune system. How you keep your immune system healthy depends on the vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Every single vitamin and mineral (and other nutritional elements) is acquired through food. Interestingly the most critical required for the immune system are magnesium, vitamin D3, vitamin C, and zinc. Let’s look at each one.

Nutrition and the immune system

Magnesium is best found in seafood (which is not, by the way, catfish). Next it is found in small quantities in just about everything that grows. The problem is that our soil tends to be magnesium deficient, resulting in magnesium deficient plants.

About 70% of Americans eat a magnesium deficient diet. That happens because the stuff we like (like potato chips, Cheetos, everything made of grain flour and sugar) makes up most of our diet.

Vitamin D3 is typically measured in the blood. Low vitamin D3 levels promote infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Some 185 doctors and scientists are signatories to this letter, This one line from the letter tells it all.

Many factors are known to predispose individuals to higher risk from exposure to SARS-CoV-2, such as age, being male, comorbidities, etc., but inadequate vitamin D is by far the most easily and quickly modifiable risk factor with abundant evidence to support a large effect.”

Deficiency in D3 is also important for bone health, required for the body to absorb calcium.

So where do we get vitamin D3? It is actually made by the body through the interaction of the sun and your skin. Problem is, too many people avoid the sun, preferring (or forced) to stay inside in front of a tv or computer screen.

If your health is poor and you are susceptible to COVID-19 (or osteoperosis) read the letter highlighted above and consider D3 supplements.

Vitamin C is primarily found in whole vegetables and fruit. Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections.

Zinc is known to play a central role in the immune system, and zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. Shell fish, poultry, and red meat are the highest sources of zinc.

If you have followed the COVID-19 treatments being used in hospitals or the suggested treatments at home, you probably found all four of these nutrients included in some way. If your diet and lifestyle are not going to provide these four nutrients, consider taking supplements. The goal is to avoid being sick.

Protection and diet

Perhaps you are planning on a vaccine to protect you from COVID-19. That is probably a good plan. But it isn’t going to protect you from all the other problems that immune deficiency will cause.

Look carefully at your diet. There is only one answer. Minimize processed food that will inevitably be nutrient deficient and eat whole food, both meat and vegetables.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is She can be contacted at, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is