10 Aug 2021
Humanity has been facing a health crisis, so far unmatched by anything in history. We may have read about the plagues and the cases of flu of the earlier centuries, but the COVID-19 is a virus that has left everyone on the planet fearing for their health.
Thankfully, we are not in the Dark Ages anymore. We are not at the complete mercy of Nature; we have more control over our immune systems and our healthcare. We have centuries of wisdom and knowledge coupled with new-age medications that can increase immunity.
This article will acquaint you on how to increase immunity in lockdown, given that many of us are quarantining by choice or are living in areas under lockdown. So, try to forget what you cannot control (the virus), and what you CAN (your efforts to improve immunity), and join the world as it fights the virus.
Tips to increase immunity
When you wonder, “how to increase immunity”, the answer is not one simple strategy. It is a holistic mix of nutrition, exercise, lifestyle changes, and mental healthcare. Let’s take a more detailed look at these tips to increase immunity, starting with diet changes:
- Eat more Vitamin C- rich foods: You no longer have to make up excuses to stock up on your favourite orange juice. Vitamin C is known to naturally boost immunity. Other foods like green leafy veggies such as broccoli, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, berries, and fortified cereals are good sources of vitamin C. If the idea of fresh veggies and fruits is not appealing, then you can just rely on the classic favourite, lemonade, to boost your vitamin C intake as lemons are also a good source of the vitamin.
- Consume garlic: Garlic contains allicin, a compound popularly known to boost your immune system. Don’t worry, you only need to eat half a garlic clove to boost your immunity. So even if you are averse to the strong flavour of garlic, you are not ingesting a lot of it. It is best to eat the garlic raw, but you can roast it as well if you prefer.
- Prebiotics: The healthy bacteria in the gut help the body against infection. That’s why you need to keep it happy by feeding them some prebiotics. You can get a good amount of prebiotics from apples, tomatoes, soybeans, bananas, berries, chicory (innocent reason to drink instant coffee!), barley, wheat, green veggies, and onions. Some cereals and yoghurt are also fortified with prebiotics, so you can check those out as well.
Include more antioxidants: The constant pollution around us and our fast-paced lifestyle contribute to our high-stress levels, whether we are aware of it or not. This stress leads to lower immunity. However, antioxidants help to counter this. Foods that are rich in vitamin A, C, E contain antioxidants. Berries, beans, beetroot, spinach, dark chocolate, whole grains, garlic are good sources of antioxidants.
It is also important to note that oxidative stress has been linked to diabetes, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cardiovascular conditions. These health conditions have, in turn, been linked to poor outcomes for someone infected by COVID-19. Hence, it is important to include antioxidants in your daily diet.
Now that you know how to increase immunity using home remedies in terms of foods, let’s take a look at some lifestyle changes you can incorporate to boost your immunity.
- Get adequate sleep: Most research suggests that an average adult needs 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Does this mean that you will have to reduce the number of episodes you binge-watch each night? Probably so. But the compromise is worth it because it means your body will get more rest to recover from the stress of your everyday life. This will result in your body having more energy to fight off infections. If you struggle with insomnia, you can try some sleep hygiene tips such as staying off your electronic devices at least an hour before bed; taking a warm shower; listening to calming music or reading a non-thriller book before bed; drinking chamomile tea, or meditating.
- Quit smoking: Yes, this can be a difficult one, especially if you have nicotine dependence. However, this COVID time is as good an incentive as any to quit smoking. Smoking has been linked with cardiovascular and respiratory issues. As mentioned earlier, these conditions are linked to poor outcomes for those infected by COVID-19. Hence, it is a good idea to start your journey towards quitting smoking. You can enrol in any tobacco de-addiction programs or even ask a fellow smoker to quit along with you so that you have accountability and solidarity in your journey towards bettering your immune system.
- Moderate alcohol consumption: While alcohol isn’t inherently bad for your health, it can be detrimental if taken in excess. When you drink alcohol, your body prioritises its metabolizing over other more important tasks. Think of it like this- your body is so caught up in trying to metabolise alcohol that it doesn’t pay enough attention to the everyday infections that afflict your body. Hence, to keep your immune system ready to fight infections, limit your alcohol intake to one drink a day, if not lesser.
- Regular exercise: The human body needs to be resilient to fight off infections, whether it is the sinister COVID or the simple flu. One of the ways to build this physical resilience is through regular exercise. Even 10-30 minutes of exercise every day, a mix of cardio and strength training, is good enough to keep your body fit, and increase immunity. Who knows, maybe when the COVID pandemic is a thing of the past, your regular exercising regime will have resulted in you becoming fit enough to run a marathon!
You are up to speed on how to take care of your body to naturally boost immunity. Next, we consider the often-overlooked part of our lives that also influences our immunity- our mind and mental health. When you are hopeful, engaged, and leading a meaningful life, you are less stressed. This helps preserve your immunity and regulates your nervous system’s response to stressors such as infections. Let’s see what you can do for your mental health, despite the limitations imposed by the lockdown.
- Stay connected: Most of you may have preferred meeting your family, friends, and colleagues in person, but social distancing has changed the way you connect with your loved ones. Monthly visits to your parents have been replaced by video calls, and weekend party nights with friends have been replaced by online Ludo nights with them. Humans are social beings, and we thrive on connections. Talking about our day, venting to a friend about a crappy colleague, or talking about our aspirations are ways in which we regulate our emotions, and de-stress. Less psychological stress means less stress on our immune systems. There is ample research that determines a positive correlation between poor mental health and infections. That’s why, make sure you reach out to your support systems, talk about what is on your mind, and share your deepest fears and hopes.
- Meditation: No wellness article is complete without the mention of this quintessential strategy. In this day and age when all we do is run around and multitask, COVID has compelled us to take a pause and breathe…and this is what meditation is about. Sit by yourself, close your eyes, and just focus on your breathing. Practise mindfulness. Do some guided meditation if sitting by yourself makes you uncomfortable. Practise progressive muscle relaxation. Meditation of any form helps to regulate the nervous system and builds immunity response. You can start with 5 minutes of meditation every day and increase it as you get more comfortable with it.
At the of the day, we can only focus on our efforts to increase immunity. Apart from incorporating the tips mentioned above, continue to maintain social distancing protocols, wear a mask, and sanitise your hands frequently to prevent getting infected.
Even if you do get infected, it is crucial to understand that you are not alone in your journey of fighting COVID-19. With good health insurance, you can rest assured that you can get the best medical treatment possible without worrying about the financial implications of it.
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