With so many illnesses doing rounds all over, what does the common man do? We all have to take the bus or the train back home from work, children continue to go to school, we all want to take that relaxing evening stroll down the beach. We cannot bow down to the fear of illnesses and stay put at home, instead, we must focus on strengthening our immune systems, so that we can effectively make our bodies stronger to fight against the various pathogens that cause diseases.
What is the immune system? The immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect the body from infection.
It is not just bacteria that cause infection, viruses, fungi and parasites also cause infections. It is precisely for this reason that doctors ask us not to self medicate as popping in antibiotics will certainly not cure infections caused by viruses, fungi or parasites.
What are the basic ways of staying healthy and ensuring the optimum functioning of our immune system?
- Do not smoke and avoid alcohol. If you do drink alcohol ensure that you drink in moderation and have a glass of water between each drink of alcohol so that you reduce your alcohol consumption by half.
- Exercise regularly for at least 45 minutes, 5 times a week. Stay active throughout the day, choose to use the stairs instead of the elevator, get up every hour from your desk and stretch.
- Eat a well-balanced diet, making sure to include whole grains and vegetables, fruits, enough proteins and essential fat like ghee, seeds and nuts. Remember to consciously avoid packaged, highly processed factory-made “food-like products” which are rich in artificial sugar and devoid of nutrients. Ensure that you drink enough water and make sure your iron and vitamin levels are maintained.
- Check your vitals – Weight, Body Mass Index, Blood Pressure and take corrective measures if they are not in the healthy range.
- Get adequate and restful sleep, making sure you are away from all devices at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- Reduce and manage high levels of stress, remember happiness boosts the immune system.
- Wash your hands, especially before meals, for 20 seconds with soap and water, and restrict the use of sanitizers as they are in fact affecting our immunity negatively by affecting the “good bacteria – balance” in our bodies.
- Avoid raw food, especially outside salads, chutneys and ice, due to possible water contamination.
- If you are unwell, be considerate and stay indoors till you have recovered.
Few Immune boosting gifts of nature –
Turmeric – Haldi – contains powerful anti-inflammatory and an anti-bacterial compound called curcumin. Make sure to add a dash of pepper while consuming turmeric to enhance the absorption of curcumin.
Garlic – Lahsun – A quick tip about using garlic to enhance immunity is to chop the garlic and let it sit there on your chopping board for at least 20 minutes before you utilise it in your cooking, so you activate the immune-boosting enzymes in the garlic.
Star Anise – Chakriphool – excellent spice which acts as an antiviral, antifungal and boosts the immune system.
Indian Gooseberry – Amla – an excellent source of Vitamin C, which is a great remedy for fighting infections.
All kinds of citrus fruits like orange, sweet lime, grapefruit, kiwifruit and berries which are great sources of antioxidants
All kinds of yellow-orange and red fruits and vegetables which are rich in beta carotene and lycopene ( carrots, pumpkin, bell peppers, tomatoes, apples).
All kinds of dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli full of antioxidants and vitamin C.
All kinds of nuts and seeds rich in essential fats and Vitamin E.
Lastly, remember to keep your gut strong and in balance, as 70% of your immunity is located in your gut. Make sure you have fibre in your diet from whole grains, legumes and pulses as well as fruit and vegetables. Have probiotic food like curd and chaas and avoid excessive use of artificial sweeteners.
Share this with your loved ones. Stay strong. Stay healthy.
This author of the article is Sonam Rayani, a Nutrition and Diet Consultant since 11 years, founder of Jatropha Wellness. She has also studied Nutrigenetics and Gut Microbiomics and is currently studying special education for children. Socially, she runs the True Love Project, which bridges the gap between the haves and the have nots.