During present times when there is COVID-19 scare, the adage of 'prevention is better than cure' is more relevant than any other time. To know ways to prevent getting infections by naturally strengthening our immune system, please read this article.
Infections are nothing but a disruption caused in the normal functioning of our bodily systems by a foreign microorganism (coming from outside). When they disrupt the body organs, they cannot work optimally, leading to reduced capacity, which is termed as illness.
No. There are many types of microorganisms, and all are not disease-causing. Some are beneficial too. In fact, some are essential for our digestion and metabolism. Our digestive system, especially intestines, are host to trillions of microorganisms that aid in the digestion of the food that we eat. There are probiotic drugs that help in increasing the number of gastric flora (gut microorganisms). Some types of viruses, bacterias, fungi, and protozoa do cause disease and are not supposed to be present in our body.
No. Many a time, disease-causing organisms are just present in our body without causing disease. Such a presence is known as 'asymptomatic.' They are just present without causing any harm. Therefore, their presence only will not amount to an infection or a disease. After some time, they go away on their own, or in some cases, they stay in the body for a very long time, sometimes for years, without causing disease.
Here the role of the immune system comes in. We have been hearing about the word 'immunity' quite a lot for the last few months after the emergence of COVID-19. Immunity is nothing but the natural defense system of the body or the immune system that protects us from any foreign invasions. This means they guard our body just like our armed forces guard our country. If our immune system is strong, it means our immunity or capability of fighting disease-causing microorganisms is strong. People with strong immunity do not fall sick even if disease-causing organisms enter the body.
On the other side, people with weak immunity, or with a weak defense system tend to get infected and fall sick with the same microorganism.
Preventing infectious diseases is much better than getting infected and then trying to get it treated. To prevent infections and to keep our immunity strong, we need to keep our overall health in good condition. It means if we already have some disease, it becomes easier to get another disease. It could be an infective or non-infective disease. Even if one has a non-infective disease, such as diabetes (type 1 or 2), high BP (blood pressure), high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, digestive problems, weak liver, or any other lifestyle-related disorder, they become prone to catching infections.
Lifestyle-related diseases or chronic diseases (diseases that affect us for a long time) make our immunity very weak. The body is continuously spending a lot of energy to repair itself due to damages caused by these diseases. Such people with chronic diseases also catch infections very easily, be it seasonal flu, common cold, cough, fevers, digestive infections, etc. Therefore, it is important to keep total health in good condition to have protection against infections, including COVID-19.
Food is the most powerful medicine. If we eat the right kind of food, we will not develop chronic diseases, and our risk of catching infectious diseases also will be very low. Eating the right food involves:
Our body is an extension of nature. The more closer we are to nature, the healthier we are. A typical urban lifestyle is devoid of fresh air, sunlight, and greenery. One must try to get exposure to all the natural elements on a daily basis. Going for a walk, breathing in the fresh air, sunlight, and staying in close proximity with plants and trees helps maintain strong immunity.
Our body is not designed to lie on the bed and sit on a chair for long periods. It must remain physically active for at least 8 hours a day. But in modern-day city lifestyle, this rarely happens. Work is mostly desk-based that involves plenty of sitting and very less moving. In such a scenario, it becomes easier to get infectious diseases. To make up for this, one must exercise at least 30 minutes per day for at least five days a week. Pathogens do not survive when there is sufficient oxygen in our body cells. Therefore one must include aerobics, cardio, and breathing exercises (Pranayama) in their workout schedule.
Our mind has a strong influence on our bodies. Keeping a positive mindset with energizing and elevated thoughts go a long way in keeping a strong immunity. One must always have a feeling of gratitude towards everyone. One must train the mind to stay away from weak and negative thoughts such as anger, frustration, jealousy, resentment, guilt, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, worthlessness, etc. As these thoughts sap body energy and release harmful chemicals in the body, which weakens the immune system.
With these lifestyle strategies, not only the risk of getting infectious diseases gets minimized, but one can avoid lifestyle-related chronic diseases as well.
Vitamin C is the best vitamin that acts as an immune system booster. A deficiency of vitamin C can even make a person more susceptible to illness. Foods rich in vitamin C include:
- Bell peppers.
The following are the signs and symptoms that indicate primary immunodeficiency:
- Frequent and recurring pneumonia.
- Sinus infections.
- Ear infections.
- Skin infections.
The immune response to an ongoing viral infection primarily generates a type of white blood cell known as lymphocytes. These cells are mostly located in ‘lymphoid tissues’ of the lymph nodes or tonsils. These lymphocytes fight against the viral particles to get rid of the infection.
Yes, turmeric is known to have antiviral properties. Curcumin is a natural compound that is found in turmeric. It helps in the elimination of certain viruses, such as the transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV).
It is believed that the intake of lemon helps in fighting viral infections. But, there are no scientific pieces of evidence to prove the statement. Lemon is a rich source of vitamin C, which can boost the immune system. Experts suggest that this could be the reason behind the practice of consuming lemon during viral infection.
“Feed a cold, starve a fever,” is a saying which means that bacterial infection can get aggravated when the affected person is being fed. On the other hand, a viral infection can be cured by food and eating. So, when you have a viral infection, do not starve yourself.
The following are the lifestyle changes that can help in boosting up your immune system:
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise almost every day.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Avoid the consumption of alcohol.
- Get adequate sleep at night.
- Take hygienic precautions to avoid infection.
- Washing your hands frequently and cooking meats well are known to help.
The immune system is widely spread throughout the human body, and it involves a composition of various types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues. It is destined to differentiate one’s own tissue from a foreign tissue.
The following are the home remedies by which you can treat a viral infection at home:
- Take a good rest.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Gargle warm salt water at least twice a day.
- Drink tea or any warm health drinks.
- Take honey as much as possible.
The following are the foods that are found to be very useful in viral infections:
- Pork chops.
- Black-eyed peas.
- Pumpkin seeds.
These foods are rich in the mineral zinc that helps to prevent viruses from attaching to cells. It also helps in the prevention of a viral infection.
Antibiotics are the right choice of treatment for bacterial infections. However, it is essential to understand that antibiotics cannot treat viral infections because they cannot kill viruses. Antivirals are the choice of treatment for viral infections.
The virus attacks the immune system through cytotoxic cells. When a virus starts to infect a person, it initially invades the host cells for the purpose of survival and replication. Once they begin to replicate into multiple numbers, clinical symptoms show up in a person.
Yes, in stressful situations, the immune system's innate ability to fight against antigens is decreased. The affected person becomes more susceptible to infections. The stress hormone known as corticosteroid can suppress the effective functioning of the immune system.
The following are the impact on a person’s health in response to a weakened immune system:
- Increase in stress.
- Frequent episodes of the common cold.
- Digestion issues.
- Slow wound healing.
- Frequent episodes of infections.
- Loss of appetite.
Three common autoimmune diseases that affect a person’s own immune system are:
- Type 1 diabetes.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
Basically, with age, the number of T cells does not decrease, but T-cell function starts to decrease gradually. This causes the immune system to become weak. The immune system is generally ineffective in older people.
The most commonly used test for the diagnosis of immune disorders is the blood test.
It can determine the presence or absence of infection-fighting proteins, which are known as immunoglobulin. Abnormal numbers of cells, such as leukocytes, can indicate the presence of an immune system defect.
Last reviewed at:
22 Jul 2020 - 4 min read
Diploma in Holistic Nutrition, Diploma in Sport & Exercise Nutrition
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