Immunity- The domestic perspective
By: Mohammad Hafiz Ganie
You may wonder how to help your body fight illnesses. Body automatically fights the incoming pathogens that protrudes it and eliminates them. It doesn’t happen all the time as sometimes our body skips or fails to recognize any foreign particle as non-self that invades successfully into our body and makes us sick. We wonder sometimes that is it possible to intervene in this process and boost our immune system, not clinically but domestically, by following several dietary and lifestyle changes. Here are six basic golden life style and dietary changes we need to adopt:
7 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep and immune system have a bidirectional relationship. Immune response, like that caused by a viral infection, can affect sleep. At the same time, consistent sleep strengthens the immune system, allowing for balanced and effective immune function. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, can throw off the immune system. Evidence indicates that in both the short- and long-term, sleep deprivation can make you sick. During sleep, your body releases cytokines, which are essential for the regulation of the immune system. Cytokines are required in increased amounts when you are attacked by a pathogen or are under stress. The level of cytokines increase during sleep, and therefore lack of sleep hinders the body’s ability to fight infections. This is also a reason why the body tends to sleep more while suffering from any infection. Hence a minimum of 7 hours sleep is all we need for better immunity.
Exercise initiates changes in the antibodies and WBC (white blood cells) by helping them circulate more rapidly during a workout or a physical activity session. WBCs are also known as leukocytes or leucocytes, which protect our body against infectious diseases and foreign invaders like virus and bacteria. The rapid movement of antibodies or WBCs helps to detect the ailments before it turns out to be severe. Exercise releases various proteins (cytokines) like IL-6, IL-7, and IL-15. IL-6 that help in maintaining immunity by directly transporting the immune cells to the infected areas, while IL-7 promotes the production of new T-cells, and IL-15 maintains the T-cell in the border and NK-cell section. All the elements work in coordination to increase our resistance towards infection and make us super immune.
Stress levels management
During the stress, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections. The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes). Stress can also have an indirect effect on the immune system as a person may use unhealthy behavioral coping strategies to reduce their stress, such as drinking and smoking. In addition, stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes — the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for viruses, including the common cold and cold sores. To prevent stress we can meditate, pray in order to maintain the strength of our immune defense.
Prevention of dehydration
If we are dehydrated, the whole system of immunity could start breaking down, proper hydrationis an essential component of a healthy immune system.Our immune system is highly dependent on the nutrients in our blood stream, and our blood stream is made mostly of water! If we don’t have enough water, we cannot properly transport nutrients to each organ system. Staying well hydrated is also very important for detoxification pathways, increasing lymphatic draining and making sure we are clearing out any foreign invaders and other waste materials. Dehydration can contribute to muscle tension, headaches, low serotonin production and digestive issues. Hence water consumption is highly recommended in boosting our immune system.
Limited sugar consumption
Sugar may act as an immunosuppressant, depending on different conditions in the body. As a general rule, excessive sugar consumption depletes the body’s nutrient balance, which triggers a cascade of inflammation and metabolic disruption. A study reports phagocytes, a type of white blood cell that kills bacteria and pathogens, were less active in people who had recently consumed straight sugar or sugary foods, including honey and orange juice. The measurements were taken within 5 hours of sugar consumption. A limited sugar consumption can protect us from a breach in our immune system.
Probiotics may help give your immune system a boost and inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria and some probiotics have been shown to promote the production of natural antibodies in the body. They may also boost immune cells like the IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Yogurt, Buttermilk, Cheese, Pickles are very rich in probiotics and cheaply available.
The writer is from Department of Biochemistry, Cluster University Srinagar