Hello TNH readers, here is a piece of essential information regarding immunity and immune system that will take your immunity awareness to the next level. Everyone must be aware of our immune system not only due to coronavirus crisis but also for their general well being too.
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Let us understand the anticipated reasons for high demand of immunity and why your next step must be to boost your immune system against COVID-19.
Why do we need to boost our immune system against COVID-19?
Research has shown that people with weaker immune system are more susceptible to novel coronavirus infection.
Generally, old age people, diabetics, smokers and people suffering from long term medical conditions like cardiovascular diseases are found to have weaker immune system compared to healthy peoples. Therefore, boosting our immunity should be our first priority to protect ourselves against COVID-19.
Our immune system attacks and kills infectious germs to keep us healthy. Poor health and nutrition habits can potentially weaken your immune system and this in turn raises your chances of getting sick, alarmingly.
That’s why it’s so important to get on a nutritious diet regimen with enough calories and nutrients to meet your body’s defense needs.
The best way to boost our immune system is to have regular healthy meals so that our body can fight off infectious disease caused by viruses and bacteria. A nutrient rich diet includes fruits and vegetables, which contain vitamins and antioxidants to promote good health.
Though there’s currently no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, therefore social distancing and proper hygiene are one of the most effective preventive measures that can help us to protect from developing the disease.
What is your immunity?
Immunity is the balanced state of your body with many adequate defenses like antibodies and white blood cells to fight against infection or any unwanted disease within or from outside your body.
Types of Immunity
I. Active immunity
Active immunity is created by your own immune system when you come in contact with a potential disease causing agent, namely a pathogen.
Many a times, throughout the course of your day, the body is exposed to these potential pathogens naturally; for example, through the air when you breathe or from the things when you touch.
Fortunately, your body doesn’t catch illness because most of these exposures are from weak and harmless pathogens. And your immune system works full time in the background to neutralize these harmless as well as the stronger pathogens.
People are more dependent on their active immunity than the passive immunity in the real time conditions.
II. Passive immunity
Passive immunity is created artificially in a couple of ways. This type of immunity can be potentially life saving in special cases and considered when one’s immune system is not sufficient to fight off illness on its own.
However, acquired immunity is short-lived because the antibodies aren’t continually replenished as they might be in a person whose system is responding directly. As the body recovers, the immune system is supposed to achieve its optimum state within a specific period depending upon the patient’s conditions.
Passive immunity can occur in a couple of ways:
(i) Maternal antibodies
Unborn and newly born babies are protected by antibodies from the maternal immune system.
These antibodies are shared with the baby in two ways:
(a) Across the placenta and circulation during pregnancy:
When a woman is pregnant, her antibodies within the blood circulate through the placenta to deliver nourishment and protection to the developing foetus.
(b) Via colostrum in breast milk:
Babies also get antibodies from breast milk, particularly from a protein-rich version of breast milk supplied within the first few days after birth referred to as colostrum.
(ii) Immunoglobulin treatments
When the immunity is gained artificially through antibody injections other than one’s own immune system then it is known as Passive immunity through immunoglobin treatments.
Passive immunity through immunoglobin treatments may prove life-saving in special cases of infants and weak or old person, when the patient’s body is unable to form its own antibodies against pathogens within his or her immune system.
However, passive immunity through immunoglobin treatments is short-lived because the antibodies are not continually replenished as they would be in an individual whose immune system is responding directly.
III. Community immunity
Community immunity occurs when people with weaker immunity are surrounded and protected by the already immune people around them.
General assumption regarding community immunity is that a pathogen is less likely to infect a susceptible person because of the high numbers of immune people around him.
This is an indirect kind of immunity as it does not involve any physical components of immunity such as white blood cells and antibodies.
Therefore, Community immunity is the last option but may prove helpful to those who are too young to be immunized or those with weakened immunity due to any illness or treatments like cancer.
(i) Herd immunity
According to the research, when approximately 55 to 82 percent people in a community have been exposed to a pathogen, it becomes difficult for the pathogen to spread easily.
As more people become immune to that particular pathogen with their active immunity, the pathogen gets restricted to infect a smaller pool of people.
This phenomenon is known as herd immunity.
Herd immunity is often observed in case of contagious pathogens like measles.
When everyone is already exposed to such pathogens either through disease or with vaccine and their body becomes actively immune to that particular pathogen with antibody production, only fewer people remain at risk and they can be easily treated.
Cocooning is especially aimed to protect a particular individual rather than a community.
During cocooning it is ensured that patient is surrounded by only those individuals who are good in health or have already acquired immunity to that particular disease from which the patient is suffering.
Cocooning is often observed when in-patients during special care at the hospitals are allowed to meet only specific individuals.
What is your immune system and how does it work?
The immune system is your body’s defense system comprising many biological structures and the processes within that protects you against disease. There are many cells and organs that work together to protect your body.
Your immune system comprises of various kinds of antibodies and white blood cells. White blood cells, also called leukocytes, play an important role in your immune system.
On a broad scale, there are two types of leukocytes known as phagocytes and lymphocytes.
Phagocytes and lymphocytes
Just like you ingest your food, the phagocytes ingest the harmful and infectious invading foreign particles and the lymphocytes help the body to remember these invaders and destroy them.
One of the most important phagocyte is neutrophil which fight bacteria during bacterial infections in the body. That’s the main reason for blood test reports of sick patients showing increased number of neutrophils.
There are two kinds of lymphocytes in your body. One is B-lymphocyte (or B-cells) and the other is T-lymphocyte (or T-cells).
Lymphocytes originate in the bone marrow. When lymphocytes develop and get mature within the bone marrow, they become B-cells and when the lymphocytes develop and mature in the thymus gland, they turn into T-cells.
B-lymphocytes are like the body’s military intelligence system. B-cells locate and identify their targets and send defenses to stop their target’s activity in the body.
T-lymphocytes are like the military soldiers. T-cells destroy those infectious invaders whom the intelligence system of B-cells checks and locates in your blood.
Antibodies are the special proteins produced by your body to neutralize or destroy toxins or disease-carrying organisms (pathogens). Antibodies are disease-specific.
For example, chicken pox antibodies will protect a person who is exposed to chicken pox disease or its pathogens through vaccine previously, but will have no effect if he or she is exposed to measles.
These major specialized cells and parts of the immune system offer the body protection against disease. This protection is called immunity.
How to boost immune system naturally?
Keeping your immune system healthy throughout the year is key to preventing infections and diseases.
Making healthy lifestyle choices by consuming nutritious foods, getting enough sleep and exercise are the most important ways to strengthen your immune system naturally.
To get the plenty of immune strengthening nutrients in your diet, make sure you’re eating a variety of fruits and vegetables on regular basis.
There are also certain prominent changes applicable in special cases to strengthen your immune system during lockdown:
(A) Lifestyle changes applicable on certain people:
1. Managing your stress levels
Try this: You may adopt a new regular fitness exercise, yoga or meditation routine.
2. Quit smoking
Smoking increases higher susceptibility to potentially dangerous infections such as pneumonia and influenza. Regular smoking alarmingly raises the chances of severe damage to lungs as well as long term auto-immune disorders during old age.
3. Maintaining good social relations
Try this: You may use live camera calls to stay in touch with old friends or popular social media platforms to keep your happiness index high. Happiness is proven to raise immunity with the release of stress busting hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
4. Gaining more intelligence to boost your confidence
Try this: You may learn some new skills or pursue any incomplete indoor project that you couldn’t finish due to earlier busy routine. Higher confidence in life is also proven to raise happiness index.
(B) Dietary changes applicable on certain people:
1. Reducing your sugar intake
High blood sugar level raises the chances of being pre-diabetic and diabetics are more susceptible to developing infections. Also, sugar is a well known weight gaining element and its excess levels trigger inflammation in the body.
2. Reducing your fat intake
High fat diets increase the susceptibility to more infections as it disturbs the microbiome in the gut and raises cholesterol levels in blood.
3. Reducing your processed food intake
Processed foods are well known to increase oxidative stress in the body by raising the free radical concentration in blood which ultimately supresses the immune system as well as other vital body functions.
4. Reducing your alcohol intake
Regular higher alcohol levels in blood damages liver as well as cardiovascular system. Alcohol also supresses immune cells’ activities and concentration which temporarily shuts down the immune system during excess alcohol levels in blood.
5. Moderating your caffeine intake
Try this: You may replace your excess tea & coffee intake with other healthy and immunity booster beverages like smoothies, green tea or giloy water every morning.
Why can’t we completely rely on supplements to treat or prevent COVID-19?
Currently, no research supports the utilization of any supplement to guard against COVID-19 specifically. But supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances with good hygiene and health practices can improve immune reaction and potentially protect against illness.
Many supplements available in the market such as Zinc, Vitamin C, D and E may possess immune enhancing potential to promote good health but they should not and cannot be used as a replacement for a healthy lifestyle.
Instead of taking additional supplements, focus on other aspects of supporting your immune system such as exercising, hydrating, getting enough sleep, and getting enough fruits and vegetables.
Due to the prevailing circumstances without any vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic caused by novel coronavirus outbreak the society needs to be patient and follow the government and reputed health facilities guidelines.
It is the high time for the mankind to resurrect self as well as environmental awareness.
It’s especially important to understand that social distancing and proper hygiene practices may prove most effective to protect us from COVID-19 other than any supplement, diet, or other lifestyle modification.
It is quite understandable that our society needs to do whatever they must to prevent getting COVID-19 or spreading the novel coronavirus. Variety of foods is the key to realize the optimum benefits of the nutrition hunt.
Other best ways to keep your immune system strong include practicing good hygiene, staying hydrated and exercising frequently.
I hope this post suffices to cater the needs and queries of our TNH community.
Please comment in the box below to share your views on what measures you are personally taking to protect yourself and your family from the ongoing novel coronavirus crisis to boost your immune system against COVID-19.
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