Since the past couple of months the world is going through COVID-19 Virus pandemic and there seems to be no end in sight. The only way to put an end to this is by developing a vaccine or a medicine to counter the virus and its ill effects. However as the virus is new, nothing much is known about how to stay safe from it. The only thing we can do as per doctor’s advice on the media is to improve the body’s natural immune system to fight off the virus. This involves not only taking in healthy foods but also restructuring the lifestyle so that the body repairs any inflammation caused by unhealthy foods and habits. This does not apply only to the current pandemic situation but in general to maintain one’s good health as well ,i.e, both physical and mental.
In this blog i have tried to provide information on the topic of boosting immunity based on the knowledge gained over the years from listening to doctors, nutritionists, yoga practitioners on social media and putting them into practice.
Immunity boosting foods
Eating a healthy balanced diet that contains adequate nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals is the best way to support your immunity. Doctors generally prescribe Vitamin C, D, E, A, Zinc rich foods to fight off infection. Protein from lean/low fat animal sources and plant-based versions support a healthy immune system.
Your immune system becomes activated during an injury or when your body recognizes anything that is foreign – such as an invading virus, bacteria, chemicals etc. This often triggers a process called inflammation directed at protecting or healing your health. The prime cause of all illness that leads to inflammation is leaky gut because that’s how all the toxins get into the body in the first place. However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Choosing the right anti-inflammatory foods may go a long way in reducing your risk of illness but picking the wrong ones could accelerate inflammation.
Doctors advice a more plant based diet like leafy greens, rainbow of fruits and veggies, Omega-3 rich foods, anti-oxidant rich foods like beans, ginger, turmeric, green tea, cocoa etc for anti-inflammatory eating. However, processed diet like refined carbohydrates, sugar, deep fried items, pastries contain unhealthy fats that are pro-inflammatory.
Pre-biotic & Pro-biotic
The incredible complexity of the gut/intestine and its importance to our overall health is a topic of increasing research in the medical community. Numerous studies have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, skin conditions etc. The term “gut microbiome” refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines. A person has many different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. While some microorganisms are harmful to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.
pro-biotics and pre-biotics are both pretty big topics in nutrition these days. Even though they sound similar, the two play different roles for your health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics are food for these bacteria that are not digestible by humans. Eating balanced amounts of both pro- and prebiotics can help ensure that you have the right balance of these bacteria, which should improve your health. Even research has proved that the good bacteria in the gut sends signals to your immune system and help regulate inflammation.
Foods rich in pre-biotic fiber are oats, yums, beans, berries etc. Pro-biotics that naturally contain helpful bacteria are fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha tea, kimchi, miso etc.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. In this respect, it’s not a diet in the conventional sense but more accurately described as an eating pattern. For this reason, intermittent fasting is very popular among the life-hacking crowd, as it improves your health while simplifying your life at the same time. Common intermittent fasting methods involve the daily 12-hour beginner friendly method or the next level daily 16-hour fasts or the more advanced fasting for 24 hours twice per week. Some of the purported health benefits of intermittent fasting include reduction of inflammation among others.
Science has shown that mindfulness meditation can have a positive impact on a huge range of health conditions, but what many don’t know is that a meditation practice is actually linked to lowering inflammation. As mentioned in my previous blog on meditation, Cortisol, aka the stress hormone, is released whenever your body is stressed. Cortisol also mobilizes your immune system to respond to a potential threat which are inherently inflammatory. This stress response is good in situations where you need it. But if you have sustained, chronic levels of stress, your body is less able to cope with the amounts of cortisol it’s producing, which forces your immune system into overdrive—leading to chronic inflammation.
With meditation, breathing and heart rate slows that results in cortisol level drop. Regularly meditating helps lower cortisol levels so the default setting is a calmer mode which supports your inflammatory response, too.
In this pandemic situation, many people are working from home hence the exposure to light might be limited. Exposure to light plays a crucial role in helping our bodies regulate sleep in a healthy way. As you deal with disruptions to daily life, you may need to take steps so that light-based cues ,i.e, both natural light and light from electronic devices have a positive effect on your circadian rhythm.
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