Let’s address the elephant in the room — coronavirus. COVID-19 has hijacked public conversation the world over. Whether you’re talking face-to-face (and if you are, you should probably stop), chatting over WhatsApp, or shouting it out on twitter, it seems like there’s no end to the discussion, or the tips to help combat it. But one good thing has come out of this time: we as a society have begun to pay more attention to our immunity, or lack thereof.
The question is, do we need to face a global pandemic to start thinking about our immunity? Of course not!
Immunity is something we can cultivate and build over time through our lifestyle choices. More importantly, it’s something we should start paying attention to long before we fall sick, and continue to build after the threat of illness is gone. After all, they say the best offence is good defence.
What is immunity?
Unlike other bodily processes such as digestion, immunity isn’t just one function. Rather, it’s a lot of different elements and processes coming together to boost your body’s ability to protect against pathogens. A lot of our immunity comes from the gut, specifically the microbiomes housed within it. Our stomachs and intestines are home to a culture of good bacteria and fungi that work with our immune system to fend off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Like any healthy biome, the more diverse these bacterial cultures are, the better. And we build these microbiomes throughout our lives through where we live and what we consume. Small children build their immunity by playing in the mud and exploring their world through touch and taste. Supplementing this with a varied diet of whole plant foods, lentils, and spices will continue to build these microbiomes through adulthood.
The other part of immunity is the body’s capacity to recover and regenerate after activity. Everybody has this capacity, but it can be hindered by the following things:
- Lack of sleep — irregular sleep cycles slow our regenerative processes and leave us with less energy to fight infection
- Stress — periods of high stress have the body working overtime to keep healthy
- Poor nutrition — diets consisting of a lot of processed or sugary food slow the body’s natural detox processes
- Over-training — working out too much or too frequently puts more strain on the body’s natural capacity to recover from wear and tear
How can you boost your immunity in the long term
Relax and sleep on it
There are a few simple ways to boost your immunity in the long term. The first is to regulate your sleeping pattern. Going to sleep and waking up at a reasonable, consistent time helps your body maintain equilibrium and allows for a deep regenerative sleep. And while it’s okay to stay up late once in a while, doing so for days at a time can really harm your immunity. Stress management is also key. Exploring techniques for mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing can help you stay calm and prevent your body from expending extra energy to deal with stress.
Mind your meals
One of the easiest changes you can make to your lifestyle is watching what you put into your body. Colorful fruits and vegetables are great sources of natural fibre that build up the microbiomes in your gut and lentils provide invaluable protiens. The greater the variety of foods you consume, the healthier your microbiomes and the stronger your immunity. And of course, you can’t forget the masala.
Here are some of the herbs and spices that you probably have in your home right now that can really give your body a boost:
- Fennel (saunf)
- Cumin (jeera)
- Nigella seeds (Kalonji)
Even in small quantities these herbs and spices can be potent — they are rich in antioxidants and have anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
On the flip side, sugary or processed food can slow down your body’s ability to detox and regenerate on a cellular level, which can cripple your immune system if you eat too much. So maybe swap the pastries for a bowl of fresh fruit instead!
What can I do if i feel a cold coming on?
If you start to feel a tickle in your throat, don’t worry, there are some precautions you can take to prevent it from growing into a full-fledged cold. Herbal spice teas are a great starting point. In fact many of our traditional remedies rely on them. If you were ever sick in childhood, your mother may have offered you hot rasam or a ginger or masala tea to help you feel better. The pepper in the rasam and the masala in the tea are chock full of the antioxidants needed to fight an oncoming infection. Light, easy to digest meals like dal and kichidi can help too. In addition to bed rest and stress mediation, they can go a long way to killing the cold even before it begins.
Immunity building is a lifelong process that comes about naturally so long as you take care of your body. So now, while you practice washing your hands and not touching your face, you can add other elements to your healthcare routine to keep you safe now and in the future.
Before we go, we’ll leave you with one more suggestion: if you feel under the weather, sip a hot tea or Kadha made with ginger, pepper, cloves, and turmeric to boost your spirits.