Covid-19 is an ongoing pandemic disease caused by a novel coronavirus. Children and people of older age and those with pre-existing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, asthma, bronchitis, and etcetera are highly at risk and are very likely to develop symptomatic, severe disease, if proper care and attention are not paid.
And it is not sufficient with just care and attention. Every human being at this point needs to improvise and enhance his immunity. It is the need of the hour, given the current crippling situation caused by Covid-19.
To understand this need better, let’s get to know about our body’s immune system and how we can strengthen it against Covid-19.
What is the immune system?
The immune system is the host defence system of the body made up of tissues and cells, which protects us from pathogens (parasites, viruses, bacteria, etc), while it differentiates the body’s healthy tissue from them.
How does the immune system work?
The immune system is spread throughout the body and involves many types of tissues and cells and can be activated by things that our body doesn’t recognize as its own. These foreign things are called antigens. An example of antigen includes protein on the surface of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. When antigens attach to receptors present on immune cells, the whole body’s process gets triggered. And when antigens enter the body for the first time, the immune system stores the information about it for future references. Then, antibodies (immunoglobulins) are released by the immune system to fight against the antigens. These proteins lock onto specific antigens and get rid of them eventually. Once these antibodies are made, they usually stay in our bodies in case we have to fight the same germ again. That's why someone who gets sick with a disease, like chickenpox, usually won't get sick from it again.
Why is it important to strengthen our immune system?
A completely functioning strong immune system means going about your normal life even as you come in contact with germs and bugs from pets, other people, and the environment.
An unbalanced, weak immune system fails to protect the body and can even attack it, by mistaking ‘self-cells’ for pathogens, resulting in autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Allergies also happen when the immune system mistakes an innocuous particle (such as pollen) for an invading parasite. Another risk factor of the low immune system is chronic low-level inflammation which can contribute to diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Hence, it is extremely important to look after your immune system because it looks after you and your body.
Why do we need to strengthen our immunity against Covid-19?
As everyone is aware, Covid-19 is an infectious virus, which transmits from one to another in the form of saliva through mouth or nose, when one coughs or sneezes. To prevent yourself from Covid-19, one needs to have a strong immune system to fight against it. Usually, by the help of a strong immune system, one can get cured of mild symptoms of Covid-19 just by taking necessary precautions and care. This is because there is no medication present for Covid-19, and hence immune system is the best defence against it because it supports the body’s natural ability to defend against the invading antigens.
What are the signs and symptoms of a weak immune system?
1. Frequent stomach complaints consisting of constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence, etcetera.
2. Slow-healing wounds as your skin is unable to heal or regenerate quickly.
3. Getting frequently infected with ear, respiratory, coughs, colds, and influenza.
4. Feeling low and fatigued all the time as your body tries to conserve energy to fuel your immune system to fight germs. This simply means when your immune system struggles, your energy also struggles.
What are the repercussions of a weak immune system?
The following are the chronic diseases and infection one can suffer through if having a weak immune system:
4. Skin Infections.
5. Autoimmune disorders.
6. Inflammation in the internal organs.
7. Blood disorders or abnormalities, such as anaemia.
8. Digestive issues, including loss of appetite, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramping.
9. Growth and developmental delays in infants and children.
How to strengthen the immune system?
1. Get enough sleep – Sleep and immunity go hand-in-hand. Inadequate or poor quality of sleep is directly linked to higher susceptibility of illness. Lack of sleep leaves you tired and impairs brain activity. Thus, it is essential for adults to sleep for 8 hours while teens need 8-10 hours and children need up to 14 hours.
2. Intake proper diet – The food we eat plays a key aspect in our overall health and directly affects the immunity of our body. Take a low carb diet as it helps in controlling high blood sugar and pressure. It also slows down diabetes. Intake vegetables and fruits rich in Beta carotene, ascorbic acid, and other essential vitamins and minerals. To build resilience in the body- tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, etcetera are good options.
3. Natural supplements and herbs – Turmeric, ginger, and gooseberries (amla) are natural immunity supplements while basil leaves, garlic, and black cumin are natural herbs used to boost immunity.
4. Exercise regularly – Regular exercise keeps the body healthy and goes a long way in releasing the toxins from your body. Exercise for at least 30-45 minutes, depending on your stamina. It also improves metabolism, which has a direct correlation with body immunity.
5. Release stress regularly – Stress is known for not being good for health as it leads to many health problems like depression, high blood pressure, and heart problem. Meditation and yoga are solutions to release stress. So practice meditation and yoga regularly as these are tried and tested methods to calm the nerves.
6. Avoid smoking, alcohol, and other addictive substances – Habits like smoking, vaping, drinking and substance abuse weakens the body’s defences and increases respiratory illnesses.
7. Stay hydrated – Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day, as water helps in flushing out the toxins from the body and prevents it from catching the flu. Citrus juice and coconut water are also good to beat the heat in summers and to stay hydrated.
8. Supplements and immunity-boosting foods – Boosting immunity is extremely essential right now and so one can also take supplements in addition to a healthy nutritious diet. Some supplements are - vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, etcetera.
9. Colostrum – It is a milky fluid that comes from the breasts of humans, cows, and other mammals the first few days after giving birth before true milk appears. It is commonly referred to as “baby's first milk”. It contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and proteins (antibodies) that fight disease-causing agents such as bacteria and viruses. Colostrum contains a large number of growth factors, antimicrobial (lactoferrin- a protein that transports iron to red blood cells) and immunomodulatory substances, such as colostrinin or proline-rich-polypeptide, and nutrients (vitamin A, E, B12), but, most of all, it is rich in Y-globulins (or immunoglobulins or antibodies). Thus, it is essential to intake colostrum to strengthen immunity and the immune system.
At last, don’t forget to maintain hygiene like washing hands regularly, using hand sanitizer while travelling, maintaining social distancing from people, and wearing a mask whenever stepping out of the house. These are trying times and one should take all the precautions because precaution is better than cure.