Dr M K Mam
The whole world is fighting a war against Corona pandemic and as yet we do not have an approved treatment or a vaccine to prevent it, even though lot of work is being done all around in that direction. As such, staying at home- maintaining social distance, frequent hand washing , not touching the face especially mouth, eyes and nose are certainly the most essential steps to defeat the Corona. While following all the preventive guidelines, it is also imperative that we at the same time take utmost care of our health. We should do everything possible to stay not only safe but also active , fit and healthy. As such, it is very appropriate to maintain / enhance body’s defence mechanism involved in the fight against infection i.e. immunity or immune system. Capability and strength of immune system differs from person to person. A robust immune system does give body the best chance at fighting off the infection. On the contrary , a person with a weak immune system is more susceptible to infection. It is well known that people with an underlying disease- medical problems or weakened immunity are more susceptible to worst outcomes following an infection. Immune system works round the clock and can be a complement in the fight against the infection. Strengthening our immune system can help slow down the infection and may make it somewhat milder. We also need to keep in mind that there are no quick fix solutions, it is always regular ongoing efforts that really work and so is it with the immune system also.
Regular exercise is certainly beneficial in keeping us active and healthy. It prevents and helps in management of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes mellites, obesity etc. Numerous studies have shown that regular moderate and daily exercise is good for immune function. It improves immune regulation and delays the onset of age related dysfunction of immune system, thus reduces the risk of infections. Half an hour daily brisk walking ( 150 minutes a week) is always good ( do keep in the mind the lock down guidelines). Climbing stairs, rope jumping, dancing etc. can be done staying at home Research shows that daily and regular exercise is an immune system adjuvant that improves defence activity and metabolic health.
Yoga, no doubt is very useful for overall physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of a person. Studies show that yoga has an influence on immune system. A systematic review showed that yoga practice may exert beneficial effects by enhancing cell mediated and mucosal immunity and may be implemented as a complementary intervention for populations at risk or already suffering from diseases with an inflammatory component. Good thing about yoga is that, it is doable, safe, effective and involves hardly any expenditure. At a time when we all are staying at home, it is all the more important that we regularly do exercise and yoga, depending upon one’s capacity, health status and biological age. In fact, it has to be one of the” MUST TO Do” activities of our daily routine.
Eating a well-balanced diet with proteins, vitamins, mineral etc. is essential for overall health and building an effective defence mechanism against the infection. Malnutrition and undernutrition impairs the immune system, results in its dysfunction and makes us prone to infections. Proteins are important for body’s immune system, especially for healing and recovery. Vitamins like C, D, E are essential, they modulate immune system and their deficiency can impair immune function resulting in poor resistance to infection. Zinc is also known to be essential for the functioning of immune system. A word about our traditional spices, it would be in the fitness of things to mention that our elders knew very much about the health benefits of the spices like turmeric, black cumin seeds, coriander, ginger etc. The good thing is that all this is now being validated by research. Studies show that turmeric with its active compound curcumin besides being an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, plays a role in the modulation of immune system. As such, it is important that we consume a well-balanced nutritious diet.
Sufficient good quality sleep – seven to eight hours sleep is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing. It is certainly necessary for recharging our batteries, it really rejuvenates. Studies show that sleep exerts a strong regulatory influence on immune functions, it affects a wide variety of immune functions. Prolonged sleep curtailment has shown to produce immune deficiency, that is detrimental for the health of the person, makes a person susceptible to infections. As such, it is necessary to have good sleep habits for overall health of a person that includes immune system as well. It is always good to avoid exposure to any gadget- smart phones, laptops , television etc. at least an hour before we are about to sleep.
Stress especially chronic stress is not good for the physical and mental health of a person. Stress does weaken our immune system and makes us vulnerable to frequent infections. We should consciously avoid taking any stress. Yoga- meditation, regular exercise, positive thinking and listening to music are some of the things that certainly help to calm down the mind.
Genetics and heredity also plays a significant role to determine our immune system and somehow it is beyond our control.
Supplements or so called immune boosters of various kinds with all the advertisements are there in the market. In fact, there is lot of hype about them- their efficacy, however the evidence backing them is scanty and they could at times be harmful. Yes, if there is a deficiency of any of the vitamins or nutrients., that should to be supplemented and it shall help
Regular daily exercise and yoga, nutritious diet, sufficient good quality sleep, avoiding stress and staying away from alcohol and smoking is must to maintain/ enhance the immunity, thereby giving the body its best chance at fighting off the infection, and help keep us healthy today and in future also.
(The author is Former, Vice Principal, Prof. & Head of
Orthopedics, C M C, Ludhiana)
Dr M K Mam