10 simple ways to boost your immune system
by Dr. Surya Bhagwati on May 12, 2020
The importance of strong immune function can never be overstated. Ayurved has long regarded immune function and disease prevention as the key to good health. Disease prevention is after all more effective than any cure. This has never been truer, than with our present coronavirus crisis. The cost of infection can be high; even if you recover, loved ones and elders could get infected and succumb to the disease.
This makes it important for us to follow social distancing measures and other efforts to prevent infection in the first place. Aside from following Ministry of Health recommendations, one of the best things you can do is to strengthen immunity. This is best achieved with a combination of diet and lifestyle changes.
10 Tips to Boost Your Immune System
1. Eat Natural
Yes, vitamin C is important for immune function, but it is not the only ingredient you need. All of the essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, and healthy fats play a role in immune function. Studies show that deficiencies in either macronutrients or macronutrients can impair immune system. The primary cause of such deficiencies is not just poor food intake, but bad food choices. Processed foods are nutritionally poor and calorie dense. They are loaded with sugars, saturated fats, and artificial ingredients that trigger chronic inflammation. In this state, the immune system is known to be less effective at fighting infections. The best thing you can do would be to switch to an Ayurvedic whole foods diet.
When it comes to immunity, we rarely think of hydration. This is a mistake that many Ayurvedic experts highlight. They stress the importance of water in almost all cellular and metabolic functions. The risk in terms of weakened immune response and vulnerability to infection should be obvious. When hydration levels are low, it has a direct impact on mucus membranes in the respiratory and digestive tracts. The mucus layer in your respiratory tract helps trap and filter germs before they have a chance to cause infection. Any impairment to the mucus membranes can therefore increase your risk of infection.
3. Get Enough Sleep
The importance of disciplined sleep timing is emphasized in Ayurved. Unfortunately, this is advice that most of us have chosen to forget. It is worth paying heed to now, especially when faced with the risk of COVID-19. Adequate sleep is proven to have a direct impact on immune function in several studies. Some of them show an increased risk of airborne and respiratory infection among sleep deprived individuals. If you have trouble sleeping, you can use natural Ayurvedic sedatives or relaxants like brahmi and jatamansi.
4. Quit Smoking & Avoid Alcohol
You’ve heard it a million times before, but it’s worth repeating now. Cigarettes are bad for you and they could be even worse with the coronavirus risk. Medical experts suspect that smoking increases the risk of life threatening COVID-19 complications like pneumonia. Studies over the years show that smoking (including e-cigarettes) damages the lungs and reduces antibody formation. This increases the risk of infections, particularly respiratory infections. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to increased inflammation and weakened immune system.
5. Stay Active
Physical activity has always been recognized as a prerequisite for good health in Ayurved. Now, although your gym, parks, and swimming pools may be shut, this requirement cannot be ignored. Make it a point to exercise at home, as even light activity doing squats, skipping, or dancing can yield benefits. The best practice of course would be yoga. There is plenty of research to show that regular physical activity improves antibody production and immune response.
6. Use the Right Supplements
Not all natural supplements are going to help boost immunity, but some certainly can. It’s also important to remember that not all vitamin and mineral supplements are natural; most contain synthetic ingredients. Ayurvedic immune boosters are regarded as highly effective as they are made exclusively from herbs. You can use common herbs like ginger, garlic, tulsi, amla, and pudina to boost immunity. Others with proven immunomodulatory effects include jyesthimadhu, guduchi, and ashwagandha. Although some herbs are not easily available in their raw form, you can get these benefits from supplements containing herbal extracts such as Imnunoherb Capsule - Immunity booster.
7. Lower Stress Levels
This advice certainly isn’t easy to follow, especially in these stressful times. Unfortunately, stress has a huge impact on health. In addition to increasing the risk of chronic inflammation and lifestyle diseases, it also weakens immunity. Meditation is the most effective strategy to lower stress levels. It can be used in any setting at any time to provide quick relief. You should also put aside some time to engage in other calming activities that you enjoy. If needed, Ayurvedic adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and brahmi may also be used to relieve chronic stress and anxiety.
8. Try Jal Neti
Jal neti does not provide a direct boost to immunity, but it helps indirectly. The ancient Ayurvedic practice of nasal irrigation has proven benefits for respiratory health. It can reduce the risk of respiratory infections, which would help in the current crisis. It would also be helpful to practice nasya after doing jal neti.
9. Breathe In
Ideally, pranayamas should be incorporated into your yoga and meditation routine. These yogic breathing exercises have proven benefits for protecting against respiratory and airborne infections. Pranayama exercises like kapalabhati and brahmari are known to strengthen the lungs, improving resistance to infections and disease. As an added benefit, these breathing exercises also work to lower stress levels.
10. Think Positive
The power of positive thinking is easy to dismiss, but there’s wisdom in this advice. Sages and gurus have long stressed the importance of positive thoughts, but there is now proof of its health benefits. Researchers found that people who are optimistic in their youth tend to have longer lifespans than pessimists. Negativity has also been linked to higher anxiety and stress levels, and most importantly, a weakened immune response. On the other hand, research suggests that laughter actually boosts immunity. This lends strength to the old cliché – ‘laughter is the best medicine’.
Keeping all of this in mind it should be clear that worry and panic does us no good. Follow the advice you receive from doctors and try using these tips to boost immunity. Use this downtime to explore the rich traditions of Ayurved – to boost your immunity and also for your own personal growth.
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