Right now, the immune system is the best defence against the coronavirus because it supports the body’s natural ability to defend against pathogens. Physicians must help public to improve immunity and immune response by changing their lifestyle.General immunity protects us from any threat to our body, whereas specific immunity protects us from a particular bacteria or virus. The immune system works via certain cells and antibodies. These cells are scavenger cells called phagocytes, which devour microbes; T cells, natural killer cells that attack microbes with poison and B cells produce antibodies, which are like microscopic weapons attacking microbes and allergens. Our body produces less quantity of protective cells as we age, so our fighting power to counter infection diminishes as we grow older. Comorbidities like diabetes, obesity and heart disease also reduce production of these cells. That’s why most patients who succumb to COVID-19 infection are elderly with comorbidities. We can make our immune system strong at any age with certain changes in our lifestyle. Easy to do practices are to drink warm water and do steam inhalation daily.Nutrition: A well-balanced diet with natural, complex carbohydrate products, protein, fresh vegetables – especially bright-colloured, leafy vegetables, fruits, probiotic-rich yogurt and plenty of water can definitely increase our immunity and we can better prepare ourselves to face the threat of Covid-19 with preventive measures and improved immunity. Certain foods like blue and black berries, tomatoes, broccoli, citrus fruits, bell pepper, turmeric and garlic are also known to boost immunity and help body fight against infections. We need to include multivitamins, multitrace elements, antioxidants, multi essential supplements daily. Probiotics improve gut bacteria and help in building up immunity. Saturated fat, red meat, more than 5g salt per day and industry processed food should be avoided.Include in your diet, plant foods rich in Vitamin A. Drink 8-10 cups of water daily.Exercise: Regular and moderate exercise can improve immune function, whereas lack of it can diminish it. Exercise and massage improve the movement of lymph through our body, which also improves the transport of body protectors, that is, T cells and anti-bodies. Fifty minutes of walking, three times a week, increases T cell activity, adding more fighting power to the body. During this pandemic, we have seen people face this threat with the help of good nutrition, exercise and preventive methods.Sleep: If you do not get sufficient sleep, it weakens your immunity. Although we know that good sleep is necessary for good health, most of us sacrifice this for late nights. Insomnia is closely associated with mortality. Eight hours sleep is a must for good health and strong immune system. The American Cancer Society conducted a study on the effects of lifestyle on health, on one million Americans and it showed that sleep loss was associated with morbidity and mortality. This is important to remember now.Stress: It affects our immune and endocrine systems; both are crucial to ensure good immunity. Hans Selye, stress expert, believes that stress is so powerful that it eventually shuts down major immune defences. You can deal with stress with positive thinking, regular yoga and daily meditation. Avoid harmful substances – tobacco and alcohol abuse directly affect our immune system. Smoking weakens our lung strength.By V K Nigam
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