Nutrition and Immune Health: Lessons from Zika
News headlines of late have been dominated by the Zika virus making its way through Central and South America. Never one to waste a good crisis, the news media is whipping up Zika hysteria by constantly reporting on worst-case scenarios and potential ‘what-ifs,’ as though everyone bitten by a mosquito is in danger of contracting the disease. Lost in all of the hysteria is any discussion of preventing the spread of Zika by finding ways to improve overall health.
Despite what many misinformed people believe, the Zika virus is nothing new. It was first isolated in the late 1940s in the Zika Forest of Uganda; it was discovered in other parts of Africa and Asia in the 1950s. Zika is usually transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.
Rather than focusing on a vaccine to prevent an illness that normally presents itself with little more than mild flu-like symptoms, perhaps a better approach is to focus our efforts on boosting immune system health which, in turn, would reduce the onset of all kinds of viral infections – Zika included. Perhaps we should be teaching people how to be healthier rather than simply responding to individual health crises.
Nutrition and the Immune System
The human body has built-in defenses that are more than capable of fighting off viral infections. This is why most people who contract the Zika virus never get sick. Their bodies’ immune systems handle the threat in short order. So does it not make sense that the first line of defense against infectious disease is good immune health? Of course it does.
Nutrition comes into play by providing the body with the resources it needs to maintain good immune system health. Consider the following nutrients and their effect on the immune system:
- Zinc – Zinc is known to boost immune system response and promote wound healing. Do you have lozenges in your medicine cabinet you use whenever you feel a cold coming on? It turns out that the main ingredient in those lozenges is zinc.
- Protein – Protein is an important part of immune system health in that particular kinds of proteins have a profound effect on cellular mechanisms. Getting enough protein is vital to a healthy immune system.
- Vitamin A – Did you know that your skin is considered part of the immune system? It is, and vitamin A promotes healthy skin. It also helps to keep the stomach, intestines, and respiratory system healthy.
- Vitamin C – It is well-known that vitamin C boosts immune system health by encouraging the production of antibodies. When a virus enters the body, the antibodies are responsible for
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E is believed to help immune system function by neutralizing free radicals. It is an excellent antioxidant that may be more important to the immune system than
There are certainly other vitamins and nutrients that play a vital role in immune system health. The point to understand is this: when the body has an adequate supply of all the nutrients it needs, the immune system is able to work at peak performance. A strong immune system is the best weapon against viral infections like Zika.
We encourage you to seriously consider educating yourself about good nutrition and immune system health. Just by incorporating sound nutritional practices into your diet, you could enjoy better health and less risk of infectious disease. You would not make the news, but that’s okay.