Improving Immunity

IMPROVING IMMUNITY – FACTS

Improving your body’s immunity is much simpler than we thought and most importantly it doesn’t require you to consume high doses of expensive supplements or decoctions that taste like sand. Here are simple ways to ensure that your immunity is at its best.

  1. HEALTHY EATING PATTERNS

Ensure that you have a balanced intake of all the essential nutrients. Insufficient energy intake can also affect the body’s immune responses. Adequate protein intake and healthy fats are essential for optimal functioning of the immune cells. Micronutrient deficiencies can also contribute to reduced immunity. Improve intake of antioxidants and Vitamin C through colorful fruits and vegetables; whole grains, nuts and oilseeds are good sources of calcium, zinc, selenium, Vitamin A and E, which are important for good immunity. Reduce consumption of refined grains, processed foods high in sugar and salt all of which can increase inflammation inside the body and this can contribute to reduced capability to fight infections. Indian cuisine has an advantage on immunity with its use of spices and condiments which contain functional components that can support immunity. Do not over do on spices, the quantities we usually use for cooking is sufficient.

  1. MAINTAINING A HEALTHY GUT

The health of our gut has an influence on our body’s immune system. Ensuring naturally fermented foods like curd, yogurt, overnight soaked grains (pazham kanji, ragi koozh), fermented vegetables can contribute to the population on good bacteria in our intestine. A diet rich in fiber also facilitates growth of these beneficial bacteria in the gut, and therefore intake of fiber through whole grains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and oilseeds can have an effect on your immunity.

  1. MAINTAINING BODY FAT LEVELS

Body weight is a concern for a lot of people. The excess body fat % contributing to excess body weight is the core reason behind all the health effects associated with obesity, and this can be prevented by taking up lifestyle modifications that can support reduction of excess body fat. This would include an appropriate nutrition, physical activity, adequate sleep, and reduced use of alcohol and tobacco.

  1. PROPER SLEEPING PATTERN

Adequate sleep, in addition to contributing to better fat percentages, can also help reduce stress and thereby can have an effect on effective functioning of your immune system. Adequate rest , recovery and stress management are important aspects of a healthy immune system.

  1. APROPRIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION

A reduced immunity can also be a result of an underlying physiological condition. If you notice frequent bouts of fevers of infections even after ensuring the above points, its important to seek professional advice.

Building a healthy immune system is a long term process and requires all the above factors to be in place. No one food or combination of foods can instantly make your immunity improve. Therefore, it’s important to equip yourself with the right knowledge, and protect yourselves from falling prey to products which pose unrealistic claims around immunity.

SUJATHA S

Registered Dietitian, Chennai.

REFERENCES:

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Hale MW, Spencer SJ, Conti B, Jasoni CL, Kent S, Radler ME, Reyes TM, Sominsky L. Diet, behavior and immunity across the lifespan. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Nov;58:46-62. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.12.009. Epub 2014 Dec 15. PMID: 25524877; PMCID: PMC6248333.

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Wypych TP, Marsland BJ, Ubags NDJ. The Impact of Diet on Immunity and Respiratory Diseases. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2017 Nov;14(Supplement_5):S339-S347. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201703-255AW. PMID: 29161092.

Alkhatib A. Antiviral Functional Foods and Exercise Lifestyle Prevention of Coronavirus. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 28;12(9):2633. doi: 10.3390/nu12092633. PMID: 32872374; PMCID: PMC7551447.

Dobner J, Kaser S. Body mass index and the risk of infection – from underweight to obesity. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2018 Jan;24(1):24-28. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2017.02.013. Epub 2017 Feb 20. PMID: 28232162.

Irwin MR, Opp MR. Sleep Health: Reciprocal Regulation of Sleep and Innate Immunity. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Jan;42(1):129-155. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.148. Epub 2016 Aug 11. PMID: 27510422; PMCID: PMC5143488.

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