As I mentioned in my last article about COVID-19, my perspective in fighting this disease is from a holistic approach, which means the healing of the human body physically, mentally and spiritually. Thus, the diet of the human family is an important factor to fight off any virus or disease that might impact our health.

Regarding our diet or nutrition, we need to build our immune system with more alkaline foods that will fight off viruses like COVID-19. That means a more plant-based diet is the best approach for fighting off any diseases which might impact the human health system. The immune system consists of tissues, organs, cells and proteins. Together, these body organs carry out the processes of fighting off pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and other foreign particles which cause infections or diseases in humans. The human body is designed in such a way that when it comes into contact with a pathogen, it triggers the immune system to respond.

As a result, the immune system releases antibodies, which attach onto the pathogens and kill them. Thus, to strengthen a person’s immune response to foreign objects, dark leafy green vegetables are best because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which can help boost a person’s immune system. Foods such as spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers, garlic, ginger, sweets potatoes, turmeric, cucumber, mushrooms, citrus fruits, kiwi, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts and kale. Also, our native kallaloo dish is a booster for our immune systems. It is a high alkaline food and very nutritious.

Fruits are also a major source of boosting our immune system. A book titled “Tropical Fruits of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Their Nutritional Values,” published by the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service, is an excellent resource to have. The list of local fruits that strengthen and boost your immune system are as follows: banana, carambola, custard apple, egg fruit, genip, gooseberry, guava, jojo, lime, mamey apple, mango, mesple, papaya, passion fruit, pomegranate, pummelo, sea grape, sorrel, soursop, sugar apple, avocado, Surinam cherry, West Indian cherry, and yellow plum. Other fruits to boost the immune system are blueberries, elderberries, raspberries and melons.

Exercise is also an important factor to boost your immune system. Exercise increases your blood and lymph flow as your muscles contract. It also increases your circulation of immune cells making them roam throughout your body at a higher number and rate. This reduces illness risk and inflammation in your body. Also, water promotes the immune response by working to get rid of toxic or foreign invaders from your body through your kidneys. Water also prevents toxin build-up, which in turn boosts your immune function.

It has been proven that sunlight helps to produce vitamin D, which impacts our immunity among other things. In recent studies conducted by Georgetown University researchers, it was revealed that sunlight energizes the T-cells in our body which play a central role in human immunity. The report went on to say how beneficial sunlight is in improving your immune system. However, too much sunlight is not healthy.

When it comes to our health, we must do it in moderation. Temperance is an important factor which should play a major role in our daily lives in protecting our immune system. Drinking too much alcohol, excessive sugar, caffeine, smoking, all this and other unhealthy habits weaken our immune system. In simple terms, temperance is setting a balance in all facets of life.

What about air? Fresh clean air is also important in keeping our immune systems strong. Believe me, those of us who get outside and breathe fresh clean air on a regular basis have been shown by scientists to have stronger immune systems than those who stay indoors most of the time. This means that you have less illness overall as your body has an easier time to fight off germs before invaders take over your body. Like fresh air, rest also fits into the equation of healthful living, which boots our immune systems.

When we sleep, our immune system releases proteins known as cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. The problem is, we also need sufficient cytokines when you have an inflammation or infection in your body, or when you are under stress. Thus, sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines which strengthen our immune system. You notice when you get a good night’s rest of about seven or more hours, you wake up feeling refreshed. It is because you have sufficient cytokines working on your behalf to keep you healthy.

Trust is another factor that plays an important role in our overall health. Believe me, trust is a higher power, thinking positively no matter what the situation is.

We all have this built-in divine spirit to move mountains in our lives. Thus, one’s faith plays a role in one’s health.

Like trust in divine intervention, so is intermittent fasting, which improves one’s immune system. It could be a juice or fruits fast for one day, or how many days you want to fast. You can also fast on eating vegetables or drinking water alone.

For example, studies have shown that a 3-day fast can essentially reset the immune system, thus providing many potential benefits to your body physically and spiritually. Fasting and praying is the highest power of humankind existence. In the natural world, animals fast when sick. Plants slow down their metabolism in the dry or winter seasons, which means giving the system a chance to recharge itself to fight pathogens. When humans fast, it casts out fear, stress, discontent, depression, anxiety, etc.

Individuals who have serious illness should never fast without seeing their physician.

Another simple thing one can do to boost the immune system is taking a hot and cold shower, as this stimulates your immune system. A warm cup of bush tea in the morning and evening will also stimulate the immune system. Taking a soak at the beach is another powerful medicine in building your immunity. If possible, you can wash off the salt water the following day. The sea is full of minerals. All of these remedies were once part of our cultural upbringing. Relive them.

— Olasee Davis, St. Croix, is an ecologist at the University of the Virgin Islands. He is active in Virgin Islands historical, cultural and environmental preservation.