8 Ways to Boost Your Immunityuser
We’re midway through 2020, and by now everyone is wishing this year were already over. The entire world is in the grip of a pandemic – worse than what we’ve ever seen and close to the horrors we’ve read about in history books. Covid-19 is here to stay, for the rest of 2020 at least, and maybe beyond that.
The Indian version of the pandemic is peaking, the graph sloping dangerously high. A few keywords have emerged since the start of the spread of the virus. “Staying Home” is now a slogan instead of just something introverts do. “Wash your Hands” is now a mantra instead of an admonishment from parents. “Stay Safe” now has a much darker implication than a general wish. And “Keep Your Immunity High” has taken on a much deeper meaning than just keeping yourself healthy.
Staying healthy has never been so important as it is today. Staying healthy has become synonymous with staying safe and your body’s immunity has a key role to play in this. From eating a healthier diet to stocking up on amla juice, people are doing everything they can to keep their bodies fighting fit. (Yes, all those clichés about ‘fighting fit’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ have taken on literal meaning this year!) In these times, these are the 8 essential things to incorporate in your lives on a daily basis:
1. Don’t Stress
Covid-19 has complicated our lives. Who thought staying at home would be this stressful! We’re working from home, cooking for ourselves, doing our own housework and dealing with life in the limited confines of our homes. There are no stressbusters – no outings, no vacations, no visits with friends, no catching up over a drink and barely any ordering out. Some of us are binging on junk, some on Netflix. But we, as a race, have never been more stressed out in a time when stress is the worst thing we could do for our bodies.
Stress has the power to suppress our immune system. It can lead to an increased heart rate and a disturbed digestive system. The stress hormone majorly interferes with the body’s immune system. Stress can also lead to unhealthy habits like binge eating, smoking, drinking or not getting enough sleep, all of which, in turn, adversely affect our immune system.
So take a deep breath in and use whatever coping strategies that suit you best. Reserve your evenings for a walk, or a chat with a friend, or snuggle up with your favorite book. Breathe out all the worry and tension and your endless to-do list. Meditate, watch a movie, watch the sunset, watch puppies play – do whatever is required to calm yourself down and keep yourself smiling – even if you don’t really feel like it. It’ll do you a world of good!
2. Get Moving
The gyms are shut and parks are an iffy place in the current scenario. For those of us who had a regular exercise routine, this pandemic has meant struggling to reach our target step count. A lot of us are piling on the kilograms and inches. But being stuck at home does not mean you can’t get in some exercise during the course of the day. Some people can be seen walking out on the road with their masks on. Some are doing moderate stretches and weights at home. Some have taken to yoga, some to dance – following Youtube instructors or their own whims.
It’s easy, though, to slip into lassitude and make excuses for yourself. “But I did so much housework!” “I’m too stressed to exercise regularly!” “I swear I’ll join a gym when Corona goes away!” – these are some of the things we’ve been telling ourselves.
But regular, medium intensity exercise is something that we absolutely need right now, and not just to look fit. Regular exercise clears out our air passageways, inhibiting the build-up of mucus, and dislodging germs and bacteria. Exercise also promotes the generation of white blood cells, which are the disease-fighting warriors of our body. Studies have shown undeniable links between exercise and a healthy immune system. To top it all, exercise also battles stress – so you’ll be reaping both physical as well as mental benefits. And of course, feeling and looking fit never hurt anyone! So get off that couch and get dancing, or walking, or lifting, or whatever your drug of choice is.
3. Eat Well
No, by “eat well” we don’t mean that you sit down with a feast of kachoris, halwa and your favorite foods in front of you. Eating well means that you make conscious food choices; that in each meal you pick out/cook/eat things that are beneficial for your body and can contribute to your overall well-being. Of course, junk food does make you feel good, but keep it limited to once or twice a week and you’re good.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – these provide a daily dose of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that boost immune function. Know exactly what you’re eating and what it will do for you. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant. So are Vitamin C and E. Each of them increase the immune function of the body by reducing inflammation and upping the production of disease-fighting cells. Carrots and green leafy vegetables are a great source of beta-carotene. Citrus fruits, amla, mangoes, broccoli and red peppers are powerhouses of Vitamin C (which, incidentally, also helps fight common cold and cough). Nuts, seeds and broccoli are a rich source of Vitamin E.
A diet rich in fat plays havoc with your immune system, so keep that fact in mind before you decide to follow a keto diet. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, will provide enough fibre and enough nutrition for your body to stay fight-ready. That is not to say that you should eliminate animal protein or healthy fats from your diet. Moderation in everything is the key if you want to keep your immune system healthy. Stay away from processed and packaged food.
4. A Healthy Gut
Scientists have long established that almost 70 percent of our immune system resides in our gut – or at least in the bacteria that inhabits our gastrointestinal tract. The bacteria that live there maintain a neutral or slightly acidic environment which enables our body to fight off foreign objects which include germs, bacteria and viruses. So one of the most important things you can do to boost your immunity is to keep your gut healthy.
A healthy gut is a gastrointestinal tract which has enough of good bacteria or probiotics. While eating a well-balanced diet contributes to a healthy gut, taking some probiotics will help immensely and will keep your digestive system, ergo, your whole body, healthy. Our Indian diets already include a lot of traditional probiotics like curd and pickles. Curd is already a part of most Indian meals and pickles can be included in your daily meals too. A delicious way to add a probiotic to your diet is the Avakaya pickle by Ammiji’s.
Other probiotics are also available in the market – kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir – all these also help to keep the gut healthy. In fact, most fermented foods are a rich source of good bacteria.
5. Soak up the sun
Vitamin D is essential for our immune systems and we, in India, have remarkably low levels of it. Vitamin D enhances the function of immune cells and has vital regulatory properties. Doctors are advising taking a Vitamin D supplement to all those affected by Covid-19. So how do you acquire adequate levels of Vitamin D? Either ask your doctor for a supplement or make sure you spend enough time in the sun during the day. Food-wise, fatty fish like salmon and tuna are great sources of Vitamin D. It is also present in marginal amounts in eggs and cheese.
6. Sleep it off
Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep fall sick more easily. Not getting enough sleep inhibits the body’s immune system. When you’re sleeping, your immune system produces proteins called cytokines. Lack of sleep could translate to a decreased production of cytokines which may inhibit your body’s responses to disease. An adult ideally needs about eight hours of sleep every day. Make sure that you get those eight hours! Put those screens away and drink something warm and comforting at night to aid a good night’s sleep. The stay-at-home routine has messed with our body clocks and sleep patterns but with a little effort and will power, you can regain lost ground. Sleep, after all, is the panacea for all evils and the corona virus is sheer evil! (Feel how frustrated we are about it?)
7. Garlic Breath
Speaking of evil, garlic is long-believed to ward off evil – yes, including vampires. A lot of physicians believe that a raw garlic pearl, when consumed with water, can give the immune system a tremendous boost and keep the body free from disease. Yes, it can lead to a somewhat unpleasant smell in the mouth for the rest of the day, but there are lots of ways to counter that.
Whole garlic contains compounds that are released when garlic is crushed or chewed. These compounds have been shown to enhance the disease-fighting properties of some white blood cells, especially when they counter viruses. So get chewing on that clove of garlic first thing in the morning and drink green tea or munch on an apple to get rid of that garlicky smell later.
8. Traditional Wisdom
Our nani’s and dadi’s force fed us a lot of icky stuff – with good reason. Our traditional “totke” have a wealth of wisdom in them. Most of our grandmothers’ recipes are based on traditional wisdom, prompted by long held beliefs which are inspired by Ayurveda principles. So when dadi fed you that haldi waala doodh or shoved a spoonful of chyawanprash in your mouth or made you munch on masala gud or panjeeri in the winters, she definitely knew what she was doing.
The Government of India has popularized advisories published by the Ministry of Ayush which promote traditional, healing home remedies to boost immunity. These include consumption of chyawanprash, herbal teas and certain spices and herbs – exactly what Ammiji’s range of wellness products provide. Ammiji’s Chyawanprash is homemade from pure amla and jaggery and contains more than 30 spices and herbs. And yes, it can be consumed in small quantities in summer too. Ammiji’s range of kaadhas, prompted by a grandmother’s traditional kaadha, are excellent herbal teas that boost immunity. Ammiji’s Immunity Kaadha contains vasaka, that magical herb that keeps the respiratory tract healthy and boosts immunity. Ammiji’s Monsoon Magic harnesses the power of giloy and lemongrass that gives you the perfectly light seasonal kaadha. Ammiji’s Winter Comfort is what haldi waala doodh would be if made by a knowledgeable sage.
All you have to do is follow these eight basic, common-sense guidelines and not only will you be enhancing your immunity, but you’ll be inundated with a sense of well-being too. Stay home, stay safe – and cheer up, that’s not a prison sentence!