This Global Fitness Day, let's focus on bringing up our immunity, and being well-mentally, and physically!
Make Your Body Well Again
The pandemic has changed a lot for us, collectively as a society and for us on the individual level too.
Our immunity has taken a beating, because even though on one side we are far more aware today about the importance of a strong immunity and are trying to take steps to strengthen it, a lot of other factors are continually undermining it from all sides.
There is no doubt that we have weakened our immune response (acquired immunity) immensely over the last few years of the pandemic.
That is because our immune system thrives on community connect, time spent in the nature and frequent social contact.
The pandemic has interfered with all this drastically and with disastrous effect.
In addition, leading lives burdened with continued stress, poor nutrition, and disturbed circadian rhythm have messed up our gut brain connection, thus weakening the immune system further.
Unfortunately today as we lead lives that undermine our immune system at every level, every step, it has become almost mandatory to take counter actions simultaneously and continuously to not just maintain the status quo, but in fact to be able to stay on top of this ‘important for our survival’ system.
Certain behavioural changes, and a smart habit system can help us do this successfully.
There is no bypassing the importance of eating right. To have a strong immune system, the diet must contain ample antioxidants, micro-nutrients and all essential vitamins and minerals, and most certainly enough high quality protein.
Vitamin C is absolutely essential for a strong immunity. You can get enough for citrus fruits and amla.
Vitamin D has a significant impact on the efficacy of the immune system.
So go get enough sunlight every day.
Beta-carotene too is a valuable protector of the immune system as it strengthens white blood cell production, your disease fighters in the body and zinc and selenium are two minerals we must get enough of too.
Keep Your Friends Close
Want an immune boosting secret? Well, it is now clear that the value of nurturing, social support and camaraderie is phenomenal, and that friends can be good medicine.
Apparently, we need them not only to bring us chicken soup when we're sick, but to prevent getting colds in the first place.
Listen to Beethoven (or KK)
Listening to music can boost your immunity as long as it is music you like; and music that soothes your soul.
Listening to music has been found to lead to higher IGA (a protein from the immune system that helps fight infections) levels.
Stay Positive by Choice
The immune system takes many of its cues from what we are feeling, so keeping our outlook positive really helps!
People who are negative, moody, nervous and easily stressed tend to show a weaker immune response than their more positive peers.
Optimism, thus is a perfect tool to keep your immune system kicking alive!
Keep Stress at Bay
Ever noticed how you come down with a cold or flu when faced with stressful situations like final exams or relationship problems?
That is because a continual high level of stress jacks up your body's production of cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that lower immune response.
If practiced regularly, any of the well-known relaxation techniques - from aerobic exercise and meditation, reading a book, taking a walk, meeting friends or doing something you enjoy for just 30 minutes a day - help block release of stress hormones and increase immune function.
Move Your Body
Exercise is a big immunity booster! That’s because exercise helps the cardiovascular system, improves blood flow, flushes away toxins from muscles and organs, and helps keep the kidneys and endocrine system working well.
It helps remove germs and circulate antibodies. All these promote a healthy immune system.
It works both ways - not only does prolonged sleep deprivation wear down immune protection but getting adequate rest can really help boost the defences.
Sleeping is your body's way of repairing your defences so that you are always ready to fight infections.
To help give your immune system an extra boost during cold and flu season get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Can't drop off? Make sure you unwind and avoid tea, coffee and heavy meals before you go to bed.
Watch Your Weight
Every extra kilogram translates to one kilogram of tissue that the immune cells must defend and take care of - which is why over weight, is linked to reduced immune activity.
The good news? When obese people lose weight, their lymphocyte levels and function improve.
But at the same time it is important to understand that yo-yo dieting too can prevent lymphocytes from defending the body against invading bacteria or viruses.
So, it is best to try and achieve your target weight and then maintain it there.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa) and Fix it with foods.)