Boost Your Immune System To Keep At Bay Deadly Viruses Like The Corona
We need to understand our body’s immune system before washing our hands, maintaining social distance or taking precaution before sneezing. We have our skin, snot (mucus in the nose) microbiome and helpful bugs (gut bacteria) which compete with pathogens for food and space. These, in totality, make antimicrobial products and anti-viral compounds that are quite hostile to deadly viruses, including coronavirus.
If the pathogens move beyond, then the white blood cells attack them. There are others, which we term as vaccine, which confront the germs without our knowledge. This happens when we get immunity, which is the base of vaccination. It bypasses the defence system and protects the body with its own memory system so that we don’t fall sick. At times, our immune system might get some blind spots, which means they don’t recognise the bugs or the bugs might have evasion strategies. A healthy body and system ensures a good defence system.
Our bodies contain more cells belonging to microbes, such as bacteria and yeasts, termed as microbiome – the gut bacteria. We live in a symbiotic relationship with our gut bacteria. Having the right ones around, that we evolved with, is best for our health. If we do anything that alters the ecosystem of these microbiome, it’s detrimental or bad for our immune system.
Not only do our microbes form protective barriers, they also programme our immune system. Older people, and those with diseases that are characterised by inflammation — such as allergies, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes — tend to have less varied gut microbiomes.
To feed our gut microbiomes, we need more varied diet with lots of high-fibre foods. Being vegetarian isn’t a pre-requisite for microbiome’s health, but the more plant food one consumes, the better. The gut microbiome likes fibre, pulses and fermented food.
Yoghurt (curd) and pickles are among common fermented delicacies which are coming back to the Indian plates and helping a healthy microbiome. It has to be a continuous process, and not for just a few days or as a fashionable touch. It should be a permanent fixture. We have our own fermented rice pancake (pitha), which has disappeared from the Odisha kitchen.