If there’s one place where you can apply the adage “Better safe than sorry”, it would be your own health.
Immunity means that our body can resist infections and toxins naturally by activating specific antibodies or sensitized white blood cells. This wonderful thing, immunity, acts as a barrier against diseases and infections- yes even viral infections!
Unknown to us, the immune system cells are constantly fighting bacteria and keeping viruses from invading our bodies. Just as we have no control over our breathing or digestion, we cannot control our immunity in any direct way. Having said that a healthy lifestyle that focuses on nurturing rather than abusing is useful when it comes to fighting diseases. There’s a lot we can do to help stay out of the way of our immune system and let it do its job.
First off, we need to understand that our immunity is a system- a complex network that needs to be in balance in order to work. This intricate system is interconnected and so complicated that it is an ongoing matter of research for scientists. They are still learning about how diet, physical activity, stress, and age affect immunity.
Of course, when exposed to a viral infection that is going around, maintaining good hygiene practices such as washing hands often and keeping distance from an infected person are most important, but there’s a lot we can be mindful of in general so that when the next virus attack comes along our bodies are battle ready.
A healthy diet goes a long way in preventing diseases. When we nourish our body with well-balanced meals that are rich in nutrients and provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and micro-nutrients, we are setting up an army in your defense against infections and diseases. It is a well-studied fact that economically weaker sections of society are often malnutritioned and thus more vulnerable to infectious diseases. If you feel like your diet is lacking because for e.g.: you don’t eat enough vegetables, do take multivitamins. While this might help in case of deficiencies, know that taking excessive supplements will not necessarily have additional benefits. Instead eat a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, less red meat and stay hydrated.
Stay away from stress
Modern science recognizes the correlation between the mind and body. Effects of stress on the immune system are also well documented. When faced with an unpleasant or perceived harmful event, our primitive brain goes into a physiological response of “flight or fight”. This trait was useful in the past when humans needed to flee a predator. In times of danger, nature’s inbuilt fundamental defense mechanism puts our neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal systems into action to enable survival. Short term stress does not suppress immune function as at the time it may be critical for survival. However, the stress we face in our modern lives is not from terrible predators but from long working hours, financial strains, and social and relationship complications. When stress is long-term or chronic, as it can be in our times, it can suppress the immune function, making one more vulnerable to infections and diseases. It is important to relax, unwind and focus on constructive, positive thoughts to ensure that our body knows that there is no imminent danger.
Physical activity is the keystone in maintaining overall good health.
Staying fit isn’t just about inches. Exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, and helps control body weight. All of these are essential in keeping non-communicable such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity at bay. As the recent Coronavirus situation has taught us, diseases make us more vulnerable to viral attacks.
Get enough sleep
Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep or good quality sleep are more susceptible to falling sick when exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
While we have to make peace with the fact that we live with bacteria and viruses that can and do try to make home in our bodies, it is our duty to do all we can to put up a strong defense so we are not hosts, carriers or victims of infections.