Why immunity boosters are a must in monsoon

This monsoon season has been a battle not only with the virus & changing weather, but also with misconceptions and misleading information which are regularly being busted by our healthcare professionals.

From all the efforts of taking WhatsApp-approved kadhas, popping in pills and something as insane as squeezing lemon ginger juice through nostrils, I hope everyone has realized that our health and our Immunity cannot be built overnight. Especially not by some forwarded messages which are not backed by scientific research. It is a long process which is built over the daily habits we practice for years which is why it should be taken care of from our childhood. So it is safe to say that apart from the agony, this time has also taught us several important life lessons.

Let’s understand why our immunity is not up to the mark and what will help to strengthen it. 

But before we begin:

What is Immune System

The immune system is made up of white blood cells, lymph nodes and antibodies that work together in the body to maintain health and protect against external infections. In simple words, our immune system produces antibodies which are our personal bodyguards to protect us from antigens (viruses, bacteria and other substances that enter the body through our food, water and breathing)

Right now, at this very moment, our immune bodies are detecting viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens and fighting against them!

This system is very complex but also unique at the same time, it fights back rapidly and effectively against an invader which has been encountered previously by keeping a record of every antigen it has ever defeated.

Why care about Immunity now? 

Given the pandemic, we have come to realize the importance of immunity. All we hear is people raving about immunity being the need of the hour which is true. But there is no magic pill that will help us attain it quickly. As we mentioned earlier, it takes years and years to build strong immunity. 

Maybe some of us didn’t pay much attention to this earlier in childhood but we still have time. Better late than never right?  

While our population is rapidly growing there are also substantial changes happening in our lifestyle and the environment. Several studies claim that humans are not equipped well enough to multi-task. This explains why our fast-paced life has made it difficult for us to keep up, leading to greater stress, taking a toll on our mental health, thus resulting in problems with sleep and indulgence in alcohol and smoking.

The food we eat is also not as rich in nutrients as it used to be due to overcropping and unethical farming methods.

Let’s not forget that our food habits have also gone for a toss due to a lack of time to prepare a wholesome meal and order in instead of giving in to junk food cravings.

All of these factors must be nurtured if we want to keep ourselves healthy and running in our old age. Hence making it essential for us to start attending to our health cues, starting with our immunity.

Signs that your immune system is affected

When your immune system is weak, it becomes less efficient in order to protect you from health conditions. How do you track it? Just wake up your inner Sherlock and observe these common signs of a weakened immune function –

 

  • Low energy – Despite eating a well-balanced diet and having a good amount of sound sleep, still spending the entire day feeling lethargic & sluggish? This can be an indication that your immune system is weak, it requires extra support. This exhausts the body’s energy to fight infections. 

 

  • Digestive issues- According to several types of research, our Gut houses around 70-75% of our immunity. There are good bacteria present in the gut which play a huge role in regulating our immune system by sending signals to fight off infections. But when these microbes reduce and the bad microbes over-populate, this irregulates the signaling process, confusing the gut causing diarrhoea or constipation and increases the risk of chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders. 

 

  • Recurrent infections and rashes- It is normal to catch a cold at least 2-3 times a year which usually recovers in 5-7 days. If you’re suffering from recurring colds more than 4 times a year, it’s clear that your immune system is hampered which also causes delayed recovery from cold.  

 

  • Slow wound healing- Soon after getting a burn or a cut your skin begins the wound healing process, but due to a weakened immune system this process becomes slow and this also increases the chances of infections which in turn increases the wound healing time.

 Have you noticed any of these symptoms earlier? Take some time to think about it. Read on to learn how to tackle this

Top 7 Immune boosting supplements 

There are several factors which work integrated to boost our immunity. One of these factors is our supplements which help address the nutrient insufficiency in our diet. There is no single nutrient alone that can work on your immunity. Each has a unique role when taken together ultimately helps to improve our immunity level.

 

  1. Protein 

 

Role- Your immune cells are made of protein, which also aids in the production of antibodies and gives your body’s T-cells the energy to go out and fight any infection-causing invaders that could enter your circulation.

 

Dosage- The basic recommended dosage for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight—however the dosage changes based on your activity levels. If you are into high-intensity training, such as athletes/ bodybuilders then the protein needs might go up to about 1.4 – 2 g / kg body weight. You can add a scoop of whey protein during the day to meet your protein requirements (1).

Contraindications- Whey protein might decrease how well some antibiotics work. To avoid this interaction, take antibiotics at least 2 hours before or after whey protein.

  1. Vitamin D- 

Role- Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient which has a direct impact on both Innate immunity (which we are born with) and Adaptive immunity (which we acquire after exposure to disease) (2).  

Dosage- Recommended Dietary Allowance of Vitamin D as per Indian Council Medical Research is – 600 IU/day. Better absorbed when taken post-meal

Contraindication- Avoid taking these supplements with Blood pressure or Cholesterol-lowering medications (3). Keeping a gap of at least 2 hours is recommended. 

  1. Vitamin C

Role- Vitamin C helps promote the production of White blood cells which helps ward off infection (4). It decreases the duration and severity of cold and cough. It also reduces inflammation in the body due to its antioxidant property.  

 Dosage- Recommended Dietary Allowance of Vitamin C as per Indian Council Medical Research is – 75mg/day for females and 90 mg/day for males. Any time during the day.

Contraindication- Avoid taking vitamin C supplements with antacids and blood-thinning medications (5)

  1. Omega 3

Role- We know Omega 3 for its role in heart, eye and brain health but along with this it has an effect on enhancing the immune system too by influencing the white blood cells (6)

Dosage- 300mg/ 600mg/ 900mg of Omega 3 (EPA +DHA) daily as per individuals health requirement. Best absorbed with meals

Contraindication- Make sure to keep a gap of 2 hours from Blood pressure medications.

  1. Zinc

 

Role- We are very well aware of the function of Zinc ever since covid has surged. Other than its role in the immune system it also helps in wound healing and is involved in the activity of more than 300 enzyme reactions in the body for the growth and development. (7)

 

Dosage-  The RDA for Zinc is 55 mcg/day for men and 13.2mg/day for women.

 

Contraindication- Avoid taking this supplement with antibiotics, diuretics and birth control pills. Excess of zinc can also compete with other supplements for absorption with calcium, iron, magnesium and copper.

  1. Selenium

Role- Selenium is one of the trace minerals which is a powerful antioxidant that can help increase the formation of White Blood Cells, particularly lymphocytes and neutrophils, which are known to strengthen the body’s ability to fight infections (8)

Dosage-  The RDA for Selenium is 40 mg/day for both men and women.

Contraindication- Avoid taking this supplement with anticoagulant drugs, birth control pills, cholesterol-lowering and sedative medications. 

 

  1. Probiotics

Role- Probiotics are live bacterias which are similar to the ones present in the gut. They not only help to enhance digestion and nutrient absorption but also contribute to 70% of our immunity (9).

Dosage- 10 to 30 billion CFU/day for adults. Should be taken on an empty stomach with a meal gap of 1-2 hour

Contraindication- There are no contraindications found with probiotics. 

How else can we strengthen our immune system?

Vitamins and Supplements help bridge the gap of nutrients in your diet, however, they won’t work alone. They work in synergy with other factors of lifestyle. Here are some simple and highly effective ways listed below to gush up your immunity levels. 

  • A well-balanced diet strengthens you to fight against infections. Make sure to fill your plate with all your macro and micronutrients with Carbs, Protein, and a source of good fat in each meal that you eat. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, dals, pulses, milk and milk products
  • Drink optimum water every day- the colour of your urine should be clear without any tinge of yellow every time you pee
  • Taper down the habit of smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Make it a point to work out every day. Something as little as 100 steps ½  hour post meals can make a significant difference. 
  • Get adequate sleep as it helps with recovery
  • Manage Stress. Stress induces inflammation which is one of the leading factors in poor immunity. Spend at least an hour doing things which make you happy. 

Bottom line: 

The truth is having a robust immunity does not mean you’re never going to catch any infections and health issues, but it definitely gives you the best chance of reducing the severity of illness and boosts recovery.

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2105184/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738984/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25157026/
  5. http://webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1001/vitamin-c-ascorbic-acid
  6. https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/20/20/5028/htm
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6548996/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3723386/