Resisting Covid-19 with the “Big MAC” Diet
by Tim Keim
A substantial part of building the kind of immunity that inhibits coronavirus infection can be found in exploring the wonders of a wide variety of foods – foods that contain the medicinal components that boost immune response and keep us not just disease free, but brimming with health! This is why the Big MAC diet is an essential tool to staying well. But don’t head for the drive-through just yet. The Big MAC diet has nothing to do with hamburgers – it is a diet full of carbohydrates (“carbs”).
Wait, isn’t eating carbs bad for us? It depends on the kind of carbs you eat.
Basically there are two kinds of carbohydrates, simple and complex. The refined simple carbs are the ones that we find in highly-processed foods like white flour, white rice, sugar, and many packaged foods. These foods have been stripped of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and lack nutritional value. I hesitate to even call them food; they are processed foodstuffs that are at the root of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, and other lifestyle maladies that kill so many of our loved ones. These foodstuffs also leave us vulnerable to microbial attack from organisms like the coronavirus.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are rich in nutritional value that keep the body and mind running at an optimal level of health that resists disease of all kinds, including viral infections. “MAC” stands for “microbiota accessible carbohydrates” also known as fiber or roughage. These are foods that feed the essential colony of beneficial germs in the gastrointestinal tract, especially the colon. Organic legumes, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits are common examples of the MAC’s that pack the nutritional punch to fuel robust health, energy, top performance, disease resistance, and healthy longevity. Each of the foods just mentioned nurture different types of beneficial bacteria that help us build superior health and resistance to disease. The more diverse bacteria in the gut, the more able we are to avoid age-related diseases such as dementia, arthritis, and heart disease.
The Big MAC diet is nature’s cure for the inflammation that creates a hospitable environment for infectious organisms like the coronavirus and other viral agents. As microbes in the gut ferment crude, indigestible fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids that reduce inflammation and discourage the growth of pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms.
One of the reasons older people are more susceptible to disease is the aging of the gut microbiota. Studies in older adults (Cuervo et al., 2013) demonstrate that increased fiber intake and production of short-chain fatty acids in seniors reduced inflammation and kept the gut microbiome young and vibrant — which contributes mightily to overall immune function and disease resistance.
During infection with organisms like the novel coronavirus for instance, the immune system can over-react and create a super inflammatory cytokine storm immune response that damages organs and can lead to death. Properly modulated counter measures are one of the many responsibilities of a healthy, diverse gut microbiome. The gut microbes serve as negotiators, as it were, to make sure that the immune system does not use an A-bomb when a hand grenade will do the job. It is the Big MAC diet rich in immune-competence building nutrients that enables the immune system to have this measured, properly-proportioned counterattack. The authors of “The Good Gut” call our gut microbes “the puppeteers of immune response.”
Furthermore, one of the indispensable nutrients for fighting viral infection is the mineral zinc. The proper level of zinc in the diet stops the coronavirus from growing within our cells. What happens without this zinc is that our cells will copy the virus until it reaches a level that causes Covid-19. The Big MAC diet is full of virus fighting zinc!
But the Big MAC diet is not a one-trick pony. Rather it is more a panacea, helping us to maintain a high level of mental and emotional health, preventing obesity and did I mention it increases our chance of a healthy longevity?
The gut is also called the enteric nervous system or the second brain, and the Big MAC diet is the very foundation of the healthy brain-gut axis, the communication network between gut and brain. Some of the latest evidence shows that the brain is aware of our gut microbes and how they influence how we perceive our lives and subsequently our behavior (“The Good Gut”, p. 139).This is demonstrated by the fact that the gut produces about 90% of our serotonin, the happiness neurotransmitter.
Ayurvedic medical science has always maintained that most disease begins in the gut. Scientific evidence continues to build confirming this amazing observation by our ancient ancestors. Their adoption of the Big MAC diet thousands of years ago empowers us to this very day.
Pittsboro resident, Tim Keim, is an IAYT certified yoga therapist, Ayurvedic health counselor, author and speaker.