Life in a lockdown is not easy and we all can agree to that. Changing our routine can be difficult and could take time. We still have weeks to go before it is safe to go out. While we are keeping ourselves safe at home, it is important to ensure that we are healthy and prepared – by boosting our immunity.
Here is how you can make the best of your time during home isolation and enhance the protective abilities of your immune system.
Staying at home protects us from the different antigens (bacteria or virus) present in the environment outside that could affect us. Our immune system is our body’s defence mechanism. When these antigens enter our body, our immune system recognises and kills them. Lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells when triggered, play a very important role to form antibodies. These antibodies remain in our body to identify the antigens if they attack us again in the future.
The First Line of Defence Is to Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
The state of your mind affects the state of your body and it is known that high levels of stress weaken the immunity. Don’t look at this as distancing yourself from everyone, but as keeping yourself safe. Yoga, meditation and exercise definitely help with anxiety and stress during such a pandemic.
Physical activity releases serotonin that makes you feel better and happier, while increasing your immune regulation. It also decreases the inflammatory response by flushing out the pathogens.
This helps in faster circulation of the WBCs to the farthest parts of our body. Exercising also reduces the release of the cortisol hormone (stress hormone) which inhibits our immune functioning. Hence, try exercising for 30 min every day to feel energised and happy!
If you are someone who consumes alcohol or tobacco, now is a good time to quit as they have a definite adverse effect on your immunity. Excessive consumption of these, reduces the immune system’s response to invading pathogens.
Research shows that good quality sleep of at least 7-9 hours helps to build our immunity.
Alongside these lifestyle changes, you must be mindful of your eating habits by prioritising nutrition.
Nutrition not only supplies building blocks for your immune system but also affects your gut microbiome. The gut microflora sets a communication link between your immune system and your brain.
Make Each Meal a Balanced Meal!
- Let half your plate be vegetables and fruits. They are major sources of fibres, micronutrients and minerals important to build immunity. Vegetables like bottle gourd (lauki), bitter gourd (karela), cauliflower, beans, broccoli, ladyfinger; green leafy vegetables like spinach (palak), fenugreek (methi), amaranth, colocasia, drumstick leaves, coriander, mint and yellow orange and citrus fruits like guava, papaya, mango, orange, amla, are rich sources of Beta Carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Folate and minerals like potassium and magnesium. They also contain fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients which help in increasing resistance against diseases, protecting against cancers and chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and regulating blood pressure.
- Spices form an integral part of our Indian dishes. Spices such as peppers, ginger, garlic and turmeric contain chemical compounds which have antibacterial, anti-fungal, antimicrobial and antiviral properties that can help to fight-off infection.
- Snack on nuts and oilseeds when hungry in between your meals instead of fried snacks. These are rich sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, the best source of plant proteins and a storehouse of flavonoids, antioxidants and minerals.
- Let a quarter of your plate be proteins. These help in building antibodies. Go for eggs, milk, paneer, pulses, fish, meat, soyabean, dals and quinoa.
Balancing your meals does not just mean including all these foods in your plate. It also means consuming the optimal quantities/portion of these foods. Use a simple katori (bowl) to measure the amount of food that you consume and make every meal a balanced meal.
Try and reduce the consumption of salt, sugar, refined foods and fried foods. These weaken the immunity and digestive system.
Increase the intake of whole grains and complex carbs. Also, keep yourself hydrated. Drink at least 8 glasses of water and include coconut water, lemon water, milk, and buttermilk in your meals.
Look forward to the end of this lockdown by adding these little efforts and tweaks in your daily routine. Build a healthy immune system with these foods that will reduce the toxins in the body and provide the needed nutrients which are essential for your health. Not only will this boost your immunity but also prevent you from going into the clutches of non-communicable lifestyle diseases.
Eat healthy, exercise, and stay safe!
(Dr Meghana Pasi is a nutrition consultant with Arogya World's MyThali program)