Human being has the ancestral origin from a eukaryotic (single) bacterium which then got multiplied into many bacterial cells and hence we could be called as a bacterial mega genome. Our body has evolved from a single cell called as zygote and each zygotic cell is unique in its structure. There are no two zygotes that are identical in all aspects. This cell then multiplies and forms 120 trillion human cells which also hosts 360 trillion bacterial cells. This explains why human body has to be treated as a whole and not in parts. This is why the “wholesome” concept used in traditional medicine has gained so much popularity. Our immune system can be either innate or acquired. Innate immunity is defined by natural killer cells, mast cells, eosinophils, basophils; and the phagocytic cells and their functions within the immune system. When a person, develops a disease as a result of coming in direct exposure or contact with a live pathogen, the response of the primary immune system helps in building or acquiring what is known as naturally acquired active immunity. A kid’s immunity is also majorly built by the bacteria they ingest while passing through the birth canal and the breast feeding after.
It has been demonstrated by scientists that our genes could be influenced by certain environmental factors including our lifestyle. Unfortunately, our mind-sets in the present culture is that every ill has to have a pill or surgical interventions to bring the body back to normal. However, the truth is that there is no single pill for every ill, but there is an ill that follows every pill. The current practice of unnecessary use of antibiotics for every cough and cold has proven this fact time and again. Many times, we forget the fact that the human system has developed from a consciousness as viewed by Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Yoga and other traditional beliefs and not only based on a reductionist theory as science advocates. Every human body has an ingrained doctor that we call as immune system. The science today has conveniently forgotten this inherent capacity of the human body to heal by itself.
Eastern drugless philosophies such as Ayurveda, Naturopathy and yoga systems are built to fit into this “wholesome” health model proposed by evolutionary biologists globally these days. The understanding is that human physiology is a self-correcting system that does not tolerate outside interventions in minor illness syndromes.
The natural measures on how to increase immunity and prevent infections are:
1. Personal Hygiene
The main entry of germs into the body are nose, mouth, eyes or skin. Maintaining a strict discipline in one’s personal hygiene helps to prevent our immune system to be overwhelmed by the entry of such disease agents. As the saying goes “a seed can grow only in a fertile soil; infectious agents can grow and multiply in the human body if we provide a favourable medium”. However right measures taken to look after one’s personal hygiene is important and crucial at these times. This include hand hygiene, regular showers and other hygiene practices to be followed while sneezing, coughing etc. when in groups. Avoid socialisation when you are not well. This can help you not being susceptible to any infections due to accidental exposure.
2. Maintain Optimum Gut health
Our gut contains more than 100 million neurons more than either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. Anti-inflammatory foods containing omega 3 fatty acids such as flax seeds, spirulina and chia seeds helps to reverse the inflammation. Enzyme bromelain found in pineapple has anti-inflammatory properties, also has a mucolytic property that helps to break the mucus and expel them out of lungs. The quercetin which is present in apple, berries, broccoli, green tea etc. has anti-inflammatory properties.
Gut Microbiomes are responsible for immune system functioning, reduce lung inflammation, improve digestion, combat obesity, and numerous other health benefits. A good intake of pre and probiotics help to rebuild or strengthen the microbiota in our gut which contribute majorly to boost immunity.
A low FODMAP diet helps cut down on small carbohydrates that are responsible for gut irritation and digestive problems. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Mono-saccharides, And Polyols. Oligosaccharides are found in Wheat, Rye, Legumes, asparagus, garlic, onions etc. Disaccharides are the carbohydrates found in Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese. Monosaccharides found in sweeteners like agave nectar and honey. Also some of the dairy products and beans also contain these simple sugars. Polyols are low calories sugar replacers such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and Fruits like lychee and blackberries etc.
A low histamine diet can help in improving lung functions and reduce mucosal inflammation. Food rich in quercetin i.e. leafy vegetables, red onions, grapes, broccoli, peppers etc should be included in the diet.
Anti-oxidant rich diet is recommended to fight through the free radicals and counteract their damaging effects. Consider adding pomegranate, guava, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, etc and green tea to your diet for preventing oxidative stress.
Parasite infestation can lower the immunity considerably. Avoid eating undercooked meat (if can’t stop eating) to save from immature flukes from entering the body. Eat anti-parasitic food like Noni juice, pumpkin seeds, turmeric, neem, etc to save from parasitic infections.
Increase the intake of vitamin C rich fruits (e.g. amla, lemon, guava, kiwis, litchi) as it helps to build resistance power to fight infections
Stay hydrated – helps to boost your metabolism, maintain your body temperature, facilitate a proper drainage of waste products and thus contribute to immunity.
3. Fasting therapy
Short fasting and intermittent fasting has proven benefits in promoting autophagy (self-eating/ auto-cleaning) thus clearing most toxins in the body. Fasting also activates the stem cells of immune system and helps them to regrow and repair. Fasting helps in the production of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) and helps in neuro re-generation. Intermittent fasting helps to activate the acute immune response which is very much important for fighting infections
4. Herbs that heal
Tulsi (Ocimum Sanctum) – Tulsi in the form of extracts, inhalations, herbal teas helps to restore the respiratory health and build the immunity. Cough, cold, asthma, sinusitis and many different lung disorders can be prevented or treated by consuming this herb. Tulsi is also good to treat parasitic infestations and also fungal infections. Concoctions made with Tulsi, Ginger and Honey are also used to treat fevers and allergies.
Turmeric – Turmeric is one of the herbs that has the highest anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Turmeric is an antidote for many of the monsoon illnesses including asthma, cough, allergies, running nose, rheumatism, sinusitis etc. Turmeric is best consumed with black pepper for building immunity.
Licorice: Licorice is a respiratory friendly herb. It has both anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. It is beneficial in people with asthma, bronchitis, throat irritation or chest colds with coughs or problem in breathing. Mulleti also has great expectorant properties.
Garlic: Garlic helps to boost the immune system and one of the best herbs that is good to prevent and treat infections. Including garlic in your daily diet can help you fight with cold, flu and other seasonal disorders.
Exercise in moderation is excellent routine for keeping the immune system at its optimum levels. Overtraining at the same time cause burn out syndrome. Regular exercise result in increase in white blood cells and other antibodies in the body which are meant to fight infections.
Breathing has a direct effect on lowering cortisol and also to balance the autonomic nervous system. Thus it helps to fight against the physical and mental stress and also to modulate immune functions. Breathing exercises such as Nadishudhi pranayama, Ujjayi pranayama and Bhastrika are beneficial to boost immune system.
Vitamins such as Vitamin C, D and E are extremely beneficial. Minerals that are important to keep a strong immune system are magnesium, zinc, selenium, potassium and calcium.
8. Quality Sleep
Sleep beyond doubt helps to boost immunity. Sleep deprivation is directly linked to cortisol spikes and reduced production of cytokines that are responsible for maintaining a healthy immune system. Adequate sleep is also proven to be increasing the natural killer cells activity and modulating natural immune response.