Open any newspaper or website; you are sure to see an ad for something to boost your “immunity” – and protect yourself from Covid. It could be a vitamin, a supplement, a herb, some concoction, Kadha, Chavanprash… everybody is jumping on this bandwagon. But are these claims true? Can you really boost your immunity simply by popping a pill or swigging a potion?
What is immunity anyway? It’s a complex biological system – that can recognize and tolerate what belongs to the self – and reject what is foreign. That’s how a bacteria or virus that has entered our body gets targeted and destroyed - whereas a normal cell is unaffected. Our immune system knows the difference.
The immune system is incredibly complex. It involves many types of cells, organs, proteins and tissues. Just to give you an idea- the thymus, spleen, bone marrow, mucosal, and lymph nodes are part of the immune system. Antibodies and white blood cells – phagocytes and lymphocytes (B Cells and T Cells) are part of the immune system. The skin is part of the immune system. So is the digestive tract. So is the saliva. So is the acid in our stomach. So are our tears! (Foreign bodies that enter the eyes are washed out by tears. Tears also contain antibodies that act against both bacteria and viruses). Do we really think a single pill or potion can influence this complex system?
The immune system is an integral part of our entire body. How well our immune system functions is directly linked to our overall level of health. Immunity is an integral part of health ; not independent of it. Take care of your health and your immune system will take care of itself.
The best way to do that is to do that – (easier said than done, of course) – is to
(a) Give the body only what it needs – that too at the right times and in the right quantities
(b) avoid giving it or subjecting it to what it does not need or what is harmful to it.
So boost your immunity the healthy way by choosing a healthy lifestyle! Anything that contributes to your health contributes to your immune system.
Eat a balanced, varied diet, rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Maintain a healthy weight. Don’t over-eat.
Don’t smoke. Avoid Alcohol.
Spend some time outdoors to get fresh air & sunshine.
Get enough sleep.
Wash hands frequently. Cook/Clean foods thoroughly before eating.
Try to minimize and manage your stress.
If you are suffering from any deficiencies, as revealed by symptoms or medical tests, some vitamin or mineral supplementation may be called for temporarily, to correct the imbalance. But that is more to restore you to health rather than to boost your immune system. In the long term, however, it's best you get all the nutrients you need from your diet as far as possible. To quote Dr Michael Greger - “Mother Nature’s powers cannot be packaged into a pill”.
As always, whether for your immune system, your health, or your life – there are no shortcuts. There is no magic bullet or magic wand you can wave to get the desired results. Consistently following good habits (and avoiding the not-so-good ones) is the only thing that works.
Author of “I am NOT a DOCTOR”