Coming soon is a weather that is as beautiful as scary. When the warm sunshine falls on your face and you feel calm, at the same time the chills in the air make you shiver. You want to go out, yet stay at home covered.
Yes, I am talking about WINTERS. It affects every family member whether an infant, a teenager, pregnant female or grandparents.
Winters don’t seem to affect certain kids or people while others regularly carry a handkerchief or medicines in their pockets.
That’s because our Immune System plays a vital role for us in this weather. And thus, it becomes necessary to boost our immune system to stay healthy in winters.
There are natural ways and foods to boost immune system of your entire family! But, let us first understand:
How does Immune System Work?
Immunity is the body’s defence system that helps us fight common infections and stay healthy. There are two types of immune responses: inborn (one you are born with) and adaptive (one you acquire in life)
In people with low immunity, the pathogens/germs enter the body easily and multiply inside. This eventually leads to Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs) or infections in other body parts.
Over 200 types and subtypes of viruses contribute to infections daily. Since their genetics changes frequently, hence treating them also becomes difficult at times. They weaken our immune system, especially in infants, elderly or people with medical conditions.
Infections spread through contact with an infected person like exposure to cough, sneeze, saliva or even their breath Contact through skin via shaking hands is also common. Therefore, they spread easily in the schools, offices, subways, hospitals, etc.
Factors associated with decreased immune function
Obesity is characterised by a state of low grade, chronic inflammation besides disturbed levels of circulating nutrients and metabolic hormones. These inflammatory responses decrease the body’s immune system to fight infections. Obesity has been linked with the development of flu regularly.
Have you ever noticed when you don’t get enough sleep for some days, you fall sick? Sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system function. The decreased function of T cells or disease fighting cells and an increased number of inflammatory cytokines result from the lack of sleep. This decreases the body’s immune response to infections.
Excess dietary fat
A diet with excess saturated and trans-fats leads to obesity. Increased levels of LDL and cholesterol in the body decrease the immune responses to an infection. Disturbed hormonal levels also contribute to the same.
Hormones released in the bloodstream as a response to mental stress decrease the body’s immune function. Adrenaline and cortisol hamper the level of WBCs in the blood and the person falls sick often.
A small amount of exercise help in increased circulation of WBCs and is good for immunity. But too much of anything is a poison. Cortisol and adrenaline, also known as the stress hormones, secreted during exercise raise the blood pressure and cholesterol levels and decrease the immune system functioning. This temporary change makes the individual more susceptible to diseases.
Nutrition and Immunity
The most common practice every mother suggests for preventing such infections is to maintain a good personal hygiene and keep a distance from the infected person.
Fortunately, the world of Dietetics has opened new parameters to keep your distance from such infections.
As per a study, T cells are more active in people with a vegetarian diet rather than non-vegetarian. Another study enhances the role of fruits and vegetables in a diet. Those who eat more fruits and vegetables have 39% reduced risk of RTI. Low intake of fruits and vegetables might lead to an 8% increase in flu hospitalisations.
At- risk Individuals
- Students in the vicinity of infected kids
- People with medical conditions
- Pregnant females
Foods to Boost Immune System in winters
They have introduced a WFPB (Whole Foods, Plant Based diet) which contains all the important nutrients for a a healthy immune system. The diet includes 6 main components:
Low fat and high carbs
Avoid processed foods and unhealthy fats in animal products, added salts, oil and sugar to boost the body’s immunity system. Also, binge eating leads to obesity. A healthy immune system benefits from omega-3-fatty acids.
Carbohydrates contribute to 60% of our energy level. A high-carb diet ensures that proteins and fats perform their functions and maintain a level of balance amongst the nutrients. A low-carb diet makes us hungry and invites infections.
You all know Vitamin C and immunity are related. Several cells of the immune system can accumulate Vitamin C and use it to perform their daily tasks like phagocytes and T cells can engulf the foreign matter.
Deficiency of Vitamin C reduces the resistance against infections. High intake of Vitamin C also reduces the duration of the illness.
Not only for bone health, Vitamin D has proved its significance in immune function as well. It can modulate both inborn and adaptive immunity responses. B cells, T cells and antigen-presenting cells have Vitamin D receptors on their walls which are activated in the presence of this multi-purpose vitamin.
Deficiency of this vitamin is associated with increased autoimmunity and increased susceptibility to infections.
Minerals and other trace elements
Trace elements like zinc, iron, selenium etc. also play an important role in immunity. Whole grains (wheat germ and wheat bran), seeds and nuts, celery, mustard and legumes are rich in zinc. Iron sources are legumes, tofu and green leafy vegetables. Selenium can be found in whole grains, mushrooms, and nuts, particularly Brazil nuts.
Since it is difficult to absorb zinc and iron from WFPB diet, include the above sources in your diet. Vitamin C increases their absorption in the system.
‘Phyto’ means ‘from plants’. These nutrients are only found in plant foods. Phytonutrients are antioxidants that have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. They enhance immunity and intercellular communication and repair DNA damage from exposure to viral toxins.
Phytonutrients-rich foods are the best foods to boost immune system. They include colourful fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, tea, whole grains and different spices.
When we eat food containing fibre, the bacteria digest them and produce short-chain fatty acids as a by-product. These short-chain fatty acids are beneficial for our immune system.
Fibre rich foods are whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
“An Apple a day keeps the Doctor away”.
If you think about it, it is not wrong, where apple represents good nutrition and healthy nutrients.
Immunity is not just the mere absence of a disease, but a protective wall that gives you everyday energy to fight them. With a constant rise in pathogens in air with pollution, it is time we highlight the importance of whole foods to boost immune system.
Protect your family this winter by including more and more of these immune boosting foods in your diet.
What do you think about these foods to boost immune system of your family?
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