Immunity – this is a buzz word during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has led to many health product producers touting the immunity-boosting properties of their respective products.
There are scientific evidence showing that some ingredients do have immunity boosting properties but because of the swarm of claims by so many producers and sellers, including many that are questionable, this space has become quite a landmine. It makes it more difficult for buyers to learn and decide on the right products/ingredients and therefore doing some own research will be necessary.
Having said that, boosting immunity is more than what we eat and if we are keen to find a better total solution, we need to know what contributes to strengthening our immune system.
Our Immune System
Our immune system is our only defense against the coronavirus, bar a working vaccine. Before the vaccine arrives, what we can do is to help our body by strengthening our own defense system.
But first, what is our immune system?
It consists of our Innate Immune System which comprise of our skin, nasal hair, tears, saliva (first level defense) and our digestive fluids in our stomach (second level of defense).
The third and last line of defense is our Adaptive Immune System. These are our White Blood Cells (WBCs), antibodies, T-lymphocytes, bone marrow, spleen etc. They are our offense part of our immune system that fight and push back pathogens. There are many battles that are fought daily and were mostly won.
But when a new virus comes into our body which has never been encountered by our immune system, it tricked our system into response. Sometimes, our immune system over-reacts and that phenomena is called a cytokine storm, a potentially life-threatening event related to Covid-19.
For now, before a vaccine arrives, we have to look at what we can do.
Can we boost immunity?
The only controllable way in which we can boost our immunity is by ensuring that our system isn’t always busy fighting low-level chronic aggressors because it depletes the resources that is required to fight novel threats.
Some of the things we can do are:
- Minimise external insurgents – which is why washing hand is important
- Keep stress at bay – in the long run, stress increases inflammation and messes with your hormonal balance and immune cell function
- Reduce inflammation – by reducing sugary foods and consuming anti-inflammatory foods
- Reduce free radicals – take antioxidants or eat whole plant foods which is high in antioxidants
- Ensuring enough sleep
- Exercise, which help immune cells to regenerate
From a diet perspective you can:
- Eat lots of whole plant foods such as vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit which provide natural antioxidants, fiber (that feed your gut microbiome) and vitamin C.
- Consume healthy fats such as omega-3 fats (with anti-inflammatory properties) such as olive oil, salmon, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds.
- Have more fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and natto to improve your gut health, which we learnt now is intertwined with our immunity.
- Reduce the intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Drink enough fluids as dehydration increases your susceptibility to illness.
- Supplement wisely. They are not a replacement for a well-rounded diet but they can give your immune system a helping hand. Some suggestions are Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Zinc
All these are good at helping to ward off virus and bacteria and to strengthen your immune system but for Covid-19, you should still need to practice social distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently.
Improvising your lifestyle and making better dietary choices can help strengthen your immune system to fight off harmful pathogens and keep you healthy and well.
- andnothingelse.in – Shashank Mehta
- The Star – Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar