Coronavirus: Immunity your best bet, build it up – The Tribune India

March 21st, 2020 9:43 pm

Dr Sachin Mittal

Your immunity will be your biggest ally in the fight against coronavirus pandemic. A detailed analysis of the infection shows that those with underlying illness or weakened immunity are more susceptible to a worst outcome.

Immunity or immune system is our bodys ability to protect us against any type of illness or disease.

The immune system is not a single entity, an organ or a type of cell but a complex system with many components that create it, strengthen it or weaken it. The idea of having a stronger immunity is very desirable, so many people are running a random Google search to find ways to strengthen it.

Heredity and genetics also determine our immune system and that is something beyond our control. One must keep in mind there are no easy quick fix solutions but we can always work gradually to strengthen our bodys defence mechanism against any form of illness.

Heres how you can boost up your immune system:

Sleep like a baby

Dalai Lama once said sleep is the best meditation. We cannot underestimate the importance of recharging our batteries with a regular seven to eight hour sleep.

Greg McKeown, the author of bestseller Essentialism, calls it an asset that we need to protect.

Sleep helps restore our immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems.

Research shows that regular sound sleep is associated with longevity and sleep difficulties are associated with problems like depression, alcoholism, bipolar disorder but also a weakened immune system.

Smoking and substance abuse

Apart from increasing the risk of many cancers and heart diseases, smoking weakens immune system. Research shows that smoking not only decreases our adaptive and innate immune responses but also increases abnormal disease-causing immune response. So, it acts like a double-edged sword and kills our soldiers in the last line of defense against infection and illness. Excessive alcohol consumption is also detrimental. Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can damage the lungs and impact the mucosal immune system negatively. Mucosal immune system facilitates the body to identify pathogens and fight the infection. Thats the reason why alcohol or tobacco addicts fall prey to common cold or any form of viruses easily.

Stress

Mahatma Gandhi said: There is nothing that wastes the body like worry. Stress is another big culprit that weakens our immunity. Chronic stress leads to high levels of cortisol the stress hormone which interferes with T-cells (a type of blood cells important for immune response) and decreases production of protective antibodies, thus decreasing the bodys immune response. So, our body would perform well and heal well when it is not under stress. Lets take out some time everyday for meditation and breathing exercises, which are beneficial in lowering down our stress levels.

Eat well; exercise often

Immunity comes with fitness and balanced diet. A nutritious diet is vital. We should not eat just to fill our tummy or satisfy our palate but to nourish our body. As per My Plate nutrition guide, we should have half our plate filled up with fruits and vegetables and the remaining half should be divided into grains and proteins. Avoid any kind of fad or extreme diets. Equally important is staying physically active because that increases blood flow and recharges the white blood cells, which have the responsibility of searching and destroying the infection in the body.

Low to moderate exercise naturally lowers levels of stress hormone Cortisol and helps our immunity. Consistency and regularity matters a physical activity of minimum 30 to 45 minutes a day is recommended for 5 days a week for a healthy lifestyle.

Supplements

While there is a lot of hype surrounding the so-called immune boosters, the evidence backing them is scanty. Yes, we need to ensure theres no deficiency of significant vitamin or micro nutrient like zinc, iron, selenium, etc. If we have any, then replenishing them will be helpful, though a balanced diet takes care of our nutrition needs. Vitamin D, which we get from the sunlight, plays an important role in bodys immunity. Research shows that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmune diseases and higher chances of infection. So, getting some sunshine has real health benefits. Take expert help in its treatment as overenthusiastic supplementation and excess of it can have serious health consequences. If consuming any special foods for building immunity, have it in moderation. The bottom line is, there is no magic wand to enhance our immunity overnight. Work on your health holistically, and gradually you will be able to build up good immunity.

The writer is a Chandigarh-based endocrinologist

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Coronavirus: Immunity your best bet, build it up - The Tribune India

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