For people who are constantly reading up on how to build strong immunity in the times of a pandemic, it is important to understand that a good immune system requires a holistic lifestyle change, shared Luke Coutinho, holistic lifestyle coach-integrative medicine.
One needs to realise it is a “system”, which means that “no one single approach or food works well for immunity”. “We need a holistic approach that focuses on feeding ourselves with the right kind of nutrition, giving adequate amounts of movement and activity, resting well enough, and keeping a check on our emotions and quality of thoughts,” he said.
In an interview with indianexpress.com, Coutinho pointed out how since the “outer environment is in little or no control”, what needs to be done is to have “control of our inner environment through one’s lifestyle”.
The good news is – immunity building doesn’t need you to buy expensive supplements (although that might be necessary in cases where food isn’t enough), you can build your immunity with natural foods that might actually be already lying in your kitchen. “Simple, balanced meals cooked the right way with the right quality of ingredients, oils, a variety of spices is an immunity-boosting superfood in itself,” he mentioned.
Talking about which foods suppress immunity, he asserted how “sugar is the number one killer of immunity” and this is for kids as well as adults. “Not only sugar, but any processed food happens to be the biggest enemy when it comes to the health of your child,” he said.
According to Coutinho, here are the top immunity-boosting foods
*Spices: ginger, garlic, turmeric, black pepper, cumin, fenugreek, fennel
*Herbs: oregano, tulsi, lemongrass, rosemary
*Fruits: Pomegranate, guava, mango, grapes, lemons, oranges
*Vegetables: Drumsticks, pumpkin, sweet potato, chemical-free- leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables.
*Micronutrients: Zinc, selenium, vitamin D3, vitamin E, iron, B- vitamin, vitamin C
*Probiotics: Yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, rice kanji, kombucha, pickles
*Prebiotics: Apple, apple cider vinegar, garlic, asparagus
*All nuts and seeds
*Coconut oil, A2 cow ghee
You need simple movement, through which you enable circulation, and thus, enable transport of blood to trillions of cells in the body. Blood carries oxygen, nutrients, immune cells and movement allows its reach to every cell in the body. Similarly, the movement also boosts lymph circulation which is our body’s own garbage disposal unit that helps clear our body of toxic wastes. “To add to this, our body needs movement throughout the day, and not just for that one hour you exercise in the morning. So, exercise with movement is necessary. It could be through short walks, standing up and touching your toes, doing backbends and forward bends, five squats every one hour, taking calls while walking,” he shared.
Even a one night of sleep deprivation can suppress your immunity to 60-70 per cent, Coutinho said. Sleep has a major impact on immunity, which is why people who pull in all-nighters tend to fall sick more often. Sleep is the rest mode of our body when our immune system recharges. Our body like any car or machine needs maintenance and sleep is the phase that takes care of maintenance and clean-up. Screen and gadget exposure can also hamper their sleep patterns and the body’s natural ability to fall asleep. Lack of sleep can suppress immunity in a huge way for them. Kids need more sleep than adults to grow and heal. “When we are sleep deprived, T-cells go down and inflammatory cytokines go up. This potentially predisposes us to a great risk of acquiring a cold, cough, flu, infection, or disease,” he said.
It’s been proven beyond doubt that a chronically-stressed state of mind affects one’s health on all levels: physical, mental and emotional, while lowering and suppressing immunity. Chronic stress produces several unwanted changes in your body’s natural rhythm, lowers immunity, and can even be a root cause of serious medical illnesses. Heart conditions, hormonal imbalances, obesity, and polycystic ovarian syndrome are a few examples of such stress-related illnesses.