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Boosting immunity naturally

The air is thick with viruses and bacteria and there is little you can do about it, except wash your hands with Lady-Macbeathen zeal in the hope that you get the virus before it gets you or scurry away at the first sign of a cough or a sniffle. Sanchita Sharma reports.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 22, 2012 02:05 IST
Sanchita Sharma

The air is thick with viruses and bacteria and there is little you can do about it, except wash your hands with Lady-Macbeathen zeal in the hope that you get the virus before it gets you or scurry away at the first sign of a cough or a sniffle.

But if that coughing someone is your boss who insists she doesn’t have the flu, you have the option of keeping all communication strictly online or working a little harder at keeping your immunity fighting fit.

If you choose the latter, here’s how to go about boosting the body’s natural immunity. Begin with some sort of exercise plan. Moderate exercise — walking at a speed of 100 steps per minute, or 3,000 steps in half an hour at least five times a week — can help your immune system run like clockwork.

Apart from lowering the risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers, moderate intensity exercise boosts the body’s immunity against harmful bacteria and viruses in many ways. Physical activity rids the lungs of airborne bacteria and viruses that cause throat and chest infections. Exercise also increases blood flow, which helps in the circulation of antibodies and white blood cells that fight infection, while simultaneously lowering the secretion of stress-related hormones that suppress immune function. Exercise boosts the production of macrophagus, the cells that fight bacteria.

Those with intensive exercise schedules need to be cautious, though. Acute bouts of vigorous activity cause lower immune function for 3 to 24 hours after exercise, depending on its intensity and duration. Post-exercise immune function depression, however, is most pronounced when the exercise is continuous, prolonged (over 1.5 hours), of moderate to high intensity (55-75% of aerobic capacity or maximum heart rate), and done without eating, reports a study by Dr Michael Gleeson in the journal Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.

Gyms, too, are a hotbed of infection — closed, moist spaces with sweaty, immune-depressed people — so make sure you wipe surfaces of gym equipment before use. Once you’ve got an exercise plan, re-examine your diet — are you eating healthy? It’s very likely that you’re not. “Eating out too much also results in having poor quality fats, found in baked and fried foods. You have to compensate by making your home meal healthy,” says nutritionist Ishi Khosla, director, Wholefoods. Most people in India tend to be deficit in proteins, which are found in meats and legumes, B-complex vitamins found in yeast, liver, meats, whole cereals and nuts, and anti-oxidant found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Of course, precautions such as avoiding eating and drinking raw, uncooked food in places where hygiene is suspect goes without saying. That done, you’ll be fighting fit to any superbugs that come your way.



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