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Immunity, health and nutrition | Narayana Health

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Nutrition is considered an important determinant of waning immunity. The human immune system is designed to provide protection against all types of organisms or toxins that tend to damage tissues and organs. The immune system destroys them with enzymes or other detoxifying means. It is our duty to improve and maintain our immune health.

Feeding our bodies with certain foods can help keep our immune systems strong. But overnutrition, malnutrition, and obesity can also damage our immune systems.

There are many factors related to immunity:

To enhance immunity, the inclusion of macronutrients and micronutrients is required and must be included daily in the diet. Maintaining a healthy gut also helps improve immunity.

Gut health and immunity:

Our intestine is considered the number one defense mechanism in the fight against disease. Therefore, taking care of intestinal health helps maintain immunity. Research results say that “the microbiome” in our gut is essential. This microbiome is made up of more than 100 trillion different little creatures that live and thrive in our digestive systems. This composition of the gut microbiome changes throughout the life cycle, in response to dietary components and environmental factors. Some of the bacteria are not that good and can cause problems, but beneficial bacteria (known as probiotics) play an important role in your health. One of the most important areas for people to understand is that eating a healthy diet rich in foods with probiotics can help maintain or improve the gut microbiota. Foods like sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, kefir, curd, etc. all contain more beneficial bacteria than some of the probiotic supplements, so incorporating them into your daily diet will help maintain gut health and immunity.

Stress management and sleep habits:

  • Improve your sleep pattern: Sleep 7 to 8 hours. Get in the habit of going to bed at the same time every day. While we sleep, our immune system works to heal and repair the body. Ensuring adequate restful sleep is essential to restore, repair, and heal.
  • Exercise: One of the best ways to manage stress and maintain a healthy immune system. Moderate physical activity / yoga will reduce stress and build immunity. This will speed up circulation and blood flow will deliver nutrients and oxygen to your entire system, helping your physical and mental well-being.
  • Mediation: Helps reduce stress levels and strengthens the immune system. At least 10-30 minutes a day.

Maintain hygiene:

Most infections can be prevented by practicing good personal hygiene, such as:

  • Wash your hands before preparing or eating food.
  • Wash your hands after cleaning vegetables or meat.
  • Clean vegetables well before cooking.
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables with clean water before storing them in the refrigerator.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or cloth while coughing or sneezing.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has come up with some guidelines on how to clean fruits and vegetables. They suggest:

  • Keep fruits and vegetables purchased from vendors in the package in an isolated location.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well or put a 50 ppm drop of bleach in warm water and soak in it.
  • Wash them with potable or clean drinking water.
  • Do not use disinfectants, cleaning wipes, or soap on fresh produce.
  • Keep the fruits and vegetables necessary to be refrigerated in the refrigerator. Keep the rest at room temperature in baskets or racks.
  • Do not use cleaning wipes, disinfectants, or soaps on fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean the sink and shelf where the food was washed. Do not let the drip fall to the ground or you should clean it up immediately.

Some dietary guidelines to follow:

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and the phytonutrients that are available primarily in fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts, and whole grains play an important role in several metabolic pathways that aid in optimal immune function.

The guidelines are:

  • They improve both native and adaptive immune function and prevent infection.
  • They regulate immune function, keep inflammation under control, and prevent tissue damage.
  • It helps the formation of immunological memory that helps prevent reinfection with the same pathogen.
  • They help to cleanse / eliminate oxidizing species (toxins) that are produced in large quantities in the body during infection and the immune response.
  • They increase beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut that support good immune function and reduce inflammation.

Micronutrients such as vitamins A, E, and D, the three fat-soluble vitamins; Vitamin C and B and minerals like zinc, selenium, iron, copper, etc. and phytonutrients, amino acids, and fatty acids are necessary for optimal immune function. In addition, there are many other functions related to the immune system that these nutrients and phytonutrients carry out. For example, vitamin A maintains the structure and functions of the epithelial cells of the mucosa of the respiratory tract and improves the immunity of the mucosa (essential for the prevention of respiratory infections), vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamins C and B, zinc , selenium act as powerful antioxidants and reduces oxidative stress in the body.

To provide your body with all these nutrients, balance your diet with 4-5 servings of vegetables and 1-2 servings of fruits in the diet. Limit consumption of highly processed foods and prefer whole grains. Include milk and dairy products daily in your diet. Avoid carbonated beverages and packaged juices that are high in sugar and poor in other nutrients. Well-cooked meats or poultry can be included in moderation. Avoid too much fat (3 teaspoons / day, preferably more than 2 varieties of oils), salt (no more than 5g / person / day) and sugar is just calories with no nutrients, therefore keep it to a minimum. Maintain the ideal body weight. Being underweight or overweight / obese: affects immunity and increases inflammation. Keep your body hydrated with adequate water intake for a good immune response to any infection.

Remember: too little and too much can increase susceptibility to infection. Therefore, following a healthy and balanced diet helps maintain immunity.

* Smoking and alcohol negatively affect immunity and increase the risk and severity of infections, so they should be avoided.

Dr. Nishitha Krishnan T | Clinical and dietary nutrition | Narayana Medical Center, Langford Town, Bangalore

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