Boosting immunity is need of the hour

March 30, 2020 11:29 pm | Updated March 31, 2020 03:01 am IST

Dr. Bhuvaneswari Shankar. Photo: Special arrangement

Dr. Bhuvaneswari Shankar. Photo: Special arrangement

When we are supposed to protect ourselves from the virus from outside, we need to protect ourselves beginning right from within our body by strengthening the immune system. The immune system is indeed complex and is to a great extent impacted by the environment around us.

There are many factors that affect the functioning of the immune system.

A healthy lifestyle involves eating nutritious food, practising hygienic habits, walking and exercising regularly, maintaining good emotional and mental health and having adequate sleep.

It is important to understand that these factors play a significant role in regulating and boosting immunity .

Gut microbiome

A healthy body has a healthy gut. The microbes living in our gut, collectively known as microbiomes play an important role in the body’s response to infectious pathogens like coronavirus.

It is thus important to maintain a healthy gut which helps to prevent impaired digestion that can damage the vital organs like lungs causing respiratory failure.

This is the reason we should think of supporting rather than ‘boosting’ our immunity. Recent research has proved that that the gut microbiomes can be controlled with a good food regime and a healthy diet.

There are many uncertified and unverified claims made on supplements to boost immunity. Instead of following those prescriptions which do not have any scientific evidence, we should consider eating time-tested foods routinely consumed by us.

We are all very well aware that our home made food recipes that had been passed on to us through many generations are definitely capable of providing and sustaining all that is essential for us to strengthen our immunity. They have been found to have the most desirable and positive impact on the gut microbes.

Recommended foods rich in antioxidants and minerals to improve immunity:

Rich in Vitamin A:

Cereals, legumes, yellow and orange coloured vegetables and green leafy vegetables

Rich in Vitamin B (B6, B9, B12) :

Cereals, legumes, green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, soy milk, dairy products fish, chicken and egg

Rich in Vitamin C:

Orange, lemon, guava, kiwi, gooseberry, cauliflower, tomato, capsicum and mint

Rich in Vitamin E:

Nuts, green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils

Rich in Vitamin D:

Egg, fatty fish, milk and its products

Exposure to sunlight is also help improve Vitamin D levels.

Rich in iron:

Cereals, legumes, dry fruits, fish, and chicken

Rich in zinc:

Wheat germ, dried beans, nuts, tofu and Sea foods

Rich in selenium:

Cereals, nuts, mushrooms, meat and chicken

Rich in antioxidants, condiments and spices:

Garlic, onion, ginger, pepper and green tea.

It is preferred to include fish, chicken and egg instead of red meat.

Apart from including the above, it is important to follow a healthy lifestyle which involves, consuming nutritious foods, abstaining from alcohol and smoking or moderate indulgence, de-stressing /unwinding with hobbies, having adequate hours of undisturbed sleep, exercising regularly, walking inside your home, in the terrace or even in the balcony of your home and doing simple floor exercises. Static jogging is also recommended

Home and healthy

Consider this as an opportunity to:

Eat freshly-cooked home made food, which is the most safe

Have a fixed meal time which is impossible while at work for many

Develop the habit of eating fruits and vegetables which are an important source of minerals and antioxidants

Learn healthy cooking and new recipes

Learn about food safety techniques and healthy food choices,

Get into the habit to avoid baked and fried foods, pre-packaged snacks high in salt and fat

Try to cut down on salt and sugar intake for at least 2 weeks, leading the way for it to become a habit

Try not to buy or store sugar rich candies, sweets, chocolates, ice creams, fizzy drinks, energy and sports drinks

Keep yourself well hydrated. Get into the habit of drinking more water than usual, at least 8-10 glasses

Have a positive mind

Handle stress in a positive way through meditation, yoga, breathing exercise, listening to music, reading or developing hobbies missed out during hectic work schedules

Indulge in physical activity to lower stress, boost energy, improve digestion and thereby reduce the risk of some chronic disease that could weaken your immune system further. Conserve your energy for essential activities.

Ensure having a consistent sleep schedule that helps in maintaining your cardiac rhythm. Try to have a restful quality sleep time.

This in turn helps to manage mood and appetite which in turn facilitates to improve immunity. Seven to eight hours of sleep is essential for us as sleep deprivation significantly weakens our immunity.

Food safety

Concerns with regard to transmission of virus via food are being rampantly spread across all sections.

There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is transmitted through food and water but considering the fact that food and containers we use may hold and transmit the virus to others, it is essential that we are cautious.

Sharing food by eating out of the same plate and sipping out of the same cup are undesirable and dangerous too.

Anyone with suspected symptoms like cough and cold should avoid cooking food for others

Food safety measures for refrigerated foods:

1. Separate the raw from the cooked foods to avoid contamination

2. Cook the meat thoroughly

3. While reheating cooked food double check if it is still fresh and suitable for consuming

4 . Rinse the chopping board, knives and utensils used while cutting raw meat, chicken and fish.

5. Practice hand hygiene especially after handling fish, chicken and meat

6. All vegetables and fruits to be washed thoroughly

Nutrition tips for athletes during this time at home:

For many athletes who are used to doing a lot of physical activities like sports training and weight bearing exercises, the same may not be possible now. They might have been on a high calorie diet also. It is important to prevent fat gain during this period — so the guidelines for them and those who regularly excercise are:

- Avoid foods high in sugar and fat

- Reduce portion size

- Consume fewer calories than required

- Include adequate protein to maintain muscle mass – soy chunk, tofu, unsweetened soy milk sprouts, nuts, egg, meat, fish and chicken

- Switch to low fat milk, curd and buttermilk

- Include 4-5 servings of vitamins and mineral rich fruits and vegetables

- Snack on low calorie nutritious foods like salad, sprouts and roasted unsalted channa

- Drink adequate water to keep yourself hydrated all the while

- Avoid tetra pack juice, fruit juices, sugary carbonated drinks

- Avoid consuming pre and post workout drinks if not presently keeping up with routine practice sessions

- Avoid deep fried foods

- Do regular routine floor exercises, walking inside home or on the Terrace and skipping

- Keep yourself active throughout the day, learn to do household chores

Stay home, stay fit and stay positive and spread the positivity.

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