Fight COVID with Internal Immunity | Photo credit: iStock Images
- Vaccines are absolutely non-negotiable unless your doctor has ruled it out in your specific case.
- If you want to have a healthy and fighting immune system, you need to work on building it.
- Who better to advise us than Harvard Health experts on what steps to take to ensure a better immune system?
With the third wave of COVID-19 already here, people are relying on methods they learned in previous waves to tackle the viral scourge. The availability and administration of vaccines has changed the development this time around. But that did not end the pandemic, it only took the bite out of the disease to a small but decisive extent.
So, apart from medical procedures, this time around, people are betting a lot on their immunity to fight off a possible infection. There are different reports, some say that the Omicron variant causes milder (milder) symptoms compared to earlier variants like Delta etc.
What remains at the bottom line, however, is that it is one’s immunity that lets one sail through. Take a look at these 8 steps that according to experts at Harvard Health (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/) we must follow to keep our immune systems strong and in top fighting shape keep.
8 steps to stronger immunity:
- Eating a balanced diet: Add a platter of rainbow colored fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of water. A Mediterranean diet is an option that includes these types of foods. You don’t have to look for exotic species. Regular tropical fruits available in India have powerful antioxidants. Slice them instead of juicing them, keep the fiber and keep them fresh.
- Ask your doctor about nutritional supplements: A lack of individual nutrients can alter the body’s immune response. Animal studies have shown that deficiencies in zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C, D and E can alter the immune response. These nutrients help the immune system in a number of ways: they act as an antioxidant to protect healthy cells, support the growth and activity of immune cells, and produce antibodies. Lack of nutrients from food puts us at greater risk of bacterial, viral and other infections. If a balanced diet is not readily possible, a multivitamin that contains the RDA for multiple nutrients can be used.
- Do not smoke (or stop smoking if you do): Research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352117/) shows that cigarette smoking is linked to numerous diseases and poses a serious challenge to the current health system around the world. Smoking affects both innate and acquired immunity and plays a dual role in regulating immunity, either worsening pathogenic immune responses or weakening immune responses. Why smoke or keep the habit if doing so puts you in direct danger?
- Moderate your alcohol consumption: If you are already a drinker and your doctor recommends that you keep drinking, reduce your consumption. Research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/) has shown that there is a link between excessive alcohol consumption and negative immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. In recent decades, this association has been expanded to include a greater likelihood of acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), and certain cancers; a higher incidence of postoperative complications; and slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma, including poor wound healing.
- Perform moderate regular exercise: Research shows that acute respiratory infections (ARIs) are caused by respiratory viruses and bacteria and are the most contagious disease in humans. Despite the lack of accurate data on how physical activity improves the immune response to the new coronavirus, there is evidence of lower rates of ARI incidence, duration and intensity of symptoms, and the risk of death from infectious respiratory diseases in those who are at high levels appropriate move . In addition, various studies suggest that regular exercise is directly related to lower mortality from pneumonia and influenza, an improvement in cardiorespiratory function, vaccination response, and glucose, lipid and insulin metabolism.
- Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Try to stick to a sleep schedule, waking up and going to bed at around the same time each day. Our internal clock or the circadian rhythm regulates the feeling of sleepiness and alertness. Work-from-home and the continuous use of digital screens have disrupted our boys’ watches and brought them out of rhythm. The Harvard Report says that having a consistent sleep schedule can help balance the circadian rhythm so we can sleep deeper and more restfully.
- Strive to cope with stress: According to SimplyPsychology (https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html), the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens decreases when we are stressed. That is why we are more prone to infection. The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lower the number of lymphocytes) and also drive us to unhealthy behavior such as drinking or smoking. It is said that you have to learn to deal with stress, but honestly, it’s easier said than done. Even so, Harvard experts advise that you need to try to find some healthy strategies that will work well for you and your lifestyle – be it exercise, meditation, a particular hobby, or talking to a trusted friend. Another tip is regular, conscious breathing throughout the day and when feelings of stress arise. Learn Pranayam – the yoga of breathing techniques – available from certified experts online on videos. It doesn’t have to be too long – even a few breaths can help. For guidance, try this short, mindful breathing exercise.
- Wash hands all day: Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, most of us have consciously adopted healthier lifestyles. Disinfect your hand with a doctor-prescribed alcohol swab if soap and water are not available. Otherwise, it is best to wash your hands several times a day, especially if you come from outside, before and after preparing food and eating, after using the toilet, after coughing or blowing your nose.
Disclaimer: The tips and suggestions mentioned in this article are for general information only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting any fitness program or changing your diet.
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