In times when an all-pervading spectre is doing the rounds, looking to compromise the health and lives of those it encounters, a robust immune system is what could come to your rescue, writes Behnaz Sanjana.
The body is an intricate amalgamation of processes and functions, equipped with ‘immunity’ to ward off the bad bugs and stay healthy. Immunity is a complex system, rather than one single organ or entity, and is defined as the network of organs, cells, tissues and substances that protect the body from pathogens (viruses, bacteria or fungal microorganisms), and thereby, disease.
So, what comprises the body’s immune response?
The skin’s lipid layer is the first line of defence against pathogens, restricting their entry into the body.
The mucous membranes in the respiratory system secrete mucus to trap pathogens and dust. Their small hair-like structures usher them towards the throat where they are coughed or sneezed out, or swallowed and excreted.
The gut is said to make the majority of the body’s immune cells and is home to around 10,000 different species of good bacteria. A less-than-lush gut flora can lead to digestive issues and low immunity.
A type of white blood cell called Phagocytes, made in the bone marrow, engulf and destroy foreign pathogens before they do any harm.
If the body’s immune system is functioning optimally, it can defeat the pathogens it is exposed to.
The intelligent mechanism that is the human body produces memory cells that remember the microbe which has caused a disease. They quickly make the correct antibody if the body is exposed to that particular infection again, preventing any symptoms of the disease occurring.
An insidious pandemic-causing virus may be beyond human control, but what is in our hands is keeping our immune systems prepped and primed to fend it off or at least sustain as little damage as possible. Here’s the plan of action:
Take Immune Boosting Supplements: If you think you do not get the required nutrition from the food you eat, vitamins C and D, zinc and probiotics can improve overall immunity to disease. A daily multi-vitamin can provide the cells with essential micronutrients, which are critical for the immune system to be at the top of its game.
Eat Fresh: Making a habit of avoiding packaged, processed, sugar-laden foods most days of the week allows you to get creative in the kitchen and feed your body fibre- and nutrient-rich foods that can only have a positive result on your health.
Exercise: Besides making you do the happy dance, feel-good chemicals after exercise can also help you sleep better. Something as simple as a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week can help flush out toxins and reduce inflammation. By increasing the circulation of immune cells and making them roam the body in higher numbers and at a higher rate, exercise helps them find and crush any pathogens.
Sleep: All the above are in vain if you do not thank your body with eight hours of restful sleep. While asleep, the body can undertake primary cell repair functions and decrease inflammation. Each stage of sleep plays an important part in restoring and boosting immunity.
Vitamin D takes care of more than 200 metabolic processes in the body. It is critical for immune function. Studies have shown that a small daily dose is more effective in the long term, versus a mega dose for a short period of time.