You notice your child sneezing or on the throes of catching a severe cold. Ah! change of season is the culprit. If it worsens, the doctor suggests a course of antibiotics as s/he sagely comments, “You must build up his immunity.” This natural progression leads to the question that what the hell is this immunity which needs to be boosted all the time.
The immune system is a combined functioning of many organs, structures and substances within the body that detect and kill invading foreign elements. Well, visualise your body as a fort. It is armed with soldiers to protect it from germs and microbes. These vigilant soldiers are your body’s immune system. If they become weak, the body becomes susceptible to a variety of infections like cold and upset stomach to major illnesses like HIV and Cancer.
A strong immune system means a healthier body free from infections. Imagine going through winter without the perpetual sniffles and cold.
It is also important to notice the symptoms of a weak immune system. Do you catch cold at the first blast of chilly air? Are such colds and coughs frequent? Do you require more than the normal dose of antibiotics to cure it? Do you take longer than normal to recover from everyday infections? Are there recurring instances of yeast infections, bronchitis, pneumonia or stomach problems? If the answers are yes, your immune system needs boosting.
So what do you do to boost your immune system? You will be surprised how small changes in your lifestyle can make a huge difference.
The fighter cells in the body take the cue from your moods and feelings. A research by Mayo Clinic has proved that optimistic people tend to live about a decade longer than pessimists. People who have a negative attitude and are easily stressed have a weaker immune response. So keep your mood upbeat. You can employ whatever it takes to achieve that. Surround yourself with your favourite music — it is said to boost immunity too.
As Munnabhai's mom puts it, a "jadoo ki jhappi” is a cure for many ailments. Research has shown that people who go out and mingle, have a stronger immune system. Friends are a natural safety valve for the daily stress and help in alleviating the mood when you are "down in the dumps". An easy camaraderie, hugs, nurturing, friendly touches and social contacts go a long way in fighting invading germs. When you are pleased with yourself and your life, you are less likely to fall ill.
A body under severe stress releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. They work towards lowering the immunity of the body. It is often seen that people go down with a cold or upset stomach just before important events. Stress also causes anxiety that inhibits the disease fighting cells of your body. So keep stress at bay. Employ whatever technique you deem fit to fight stress – yoga, aerobics, chants, meditation, breathing exercises or prayer – they all help to relax a stressed mind and increase immunity. It is important that you practice them regularly, especially before situations that may increase stress — exams, presentations or competitions.
Move your butt
Doing moderate exercises regularly boosts your body’s defence system. It improves your mood and helps relieve stress. Regular exercise also elevates the activity of the disease-fighting cells in the body. An exercise routine releases endorphins that go a long way in improving your health and happiness.
Get the required nutrition from all food groups. It has been noticed that losing weight speedily with crash dieting, lowers immunity. Crash diets impair the immune system as calorie restriction suppresses the activity of natural killer cells — a type of white blood cells that guard against viral infections and abnormal growths. Ensure that you eat five servings of fruit and vegetables. Flush your body with fluids as dehydration lowers immunity. Blueberries, broccoli and whole grains naturally boost immunity. Reduce the level of white sugar and increase the proteins in your diet. Avoid excessive caffeine and chocolates.
There are some foods that naturally help in boosting the body’s immunity. Vitamin C is the most easily available and effective immunity booster. It increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and prevents the entry of viruses by increasing the pH. It is found in citrus fruits, guava, papaya, kiwi and strawberries. Vitamin E is another anti-oxidant that encourages production of fighter cells. It is found in vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals. Zinc increases the production of white blood cells and increases their activity. Oysters and beans are rich in zinc. Opt for the darker coloured vegetables [berries, kale, and broccoli] as they are high in flavonoids, polyphenols and other anti-oxidants.
The devil is there luring the poor folks with a million things. It is time you start standing up to the horned horror. Too much alcohol or nicotine pulls down the immune system, making it easy meat for the invading germs. So keep them in moderation. It also goes for other vices like late nights, spicy food and sprawling in front of the TV. Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Any machinery needs tuning up for proper functioning and your body is no different.
A little care goes a long way in maintaining a healthy body. So it is time you took a little trouble and nurtured yourself. After all you expect it to last you, a lifetime!