The advent of Coronavirus pandemic shook up our world and changed many things from the way we work to the way we interact with people. It has also made us more conscious about our overall health which for many people had seen a rapid deterioration in the post pandemic world due to sedentary lifestyle and after recovering from Covid. Our immune system took a beating as well as our body fought the infection with great valiance.
According to a study, Covid-19 reduced the number and functional competence of certain types of immune cells in the blood and this could affect responses to secondary infections. Apart from the physical causes, our immunity may also get affected if our mental health is not right. According to a report by American Psychological Association, long term stress can weaken the response of our immune system. This is because stress can reduce body’s lymphocytes or white blood cells that fight infection. The lesser white blood cells you have, the more you are at risk of catching diseases and infections.
Practicing Yoga regularly can play a great role in strengthening the immune system. There are several studies to support this. A study has found that regular yoga practice can increase the number and activity of immune cells, such as natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-cells, which play a key role in fighting off infections and cancer. Additionally, yoga may help reduce stress which can suppress the immune system. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the specific mechanisms by which yoga may improve immunity.
According to another study conducted by the University of Florida and published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal’, eight days of intense meditation can cause robust activation of the immune system. While the positive effects of meditation are well documented, far less is known about its molecular and genetic effects, said Vijayendran Chandran, PhD, an assistant professor of paediatrics and neuroscience in the UF College of Medicine.
Here are some yogasanas that can help boost immunity:
Also known as Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar is a combination of seven different yogic postures and is done in a 12-step pattern. The asana is considered great for the body and brilliant for mind. The best time to practice Surya Namaskar is dawn and if done in the correct sequence, it can help improve heart health and boost immunity, preventing from infections and diseases. The combination of movements and breathing techniques can help improve circulation and oxygenate the body.
Other benefits of Surya Namaskar include weight loss, better muscle and joint health, sound sleep, improved menstrual health, better digestion. It is also a very good asana for people with diabetes as it helps improve blood sugar control. Additionally, Surya Namaskar is also effective in cutting belly fat and toning muscles. However, people who have weak muscles or weak bones should avoid doing this asana or do it only on advice of a health expert. People who have back pain should not do this asana. Bollywood actors like Kareena Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez and Shilpa Shetty include Surya Namaskar in their fitness routine and reap great benefits from it.
Sarvangasana or Shoulder Stand is a yoga pose which is basically inversion of body and plays a great role in improving blood circulation. The pose inverts the body and allows blood to flow to the thyroid gland and the thymus gland, which are important for immune health. Sarvangasana also helps in aiding digestion, strengthening the muscles of neck, shoulder and spine. It also plays a role in calming the mind and relieving stress.
Considered a full body workout, Sarvangasana is also beneficial for lung health, respiratory issues and reproductive health. The shoulder stand also improves the functioning of the endocrine system and balances hormones. The asana is also helpful in getting sound sleep at night as it helps release of happy hormones like dopamine which helps relieve stress and anxiety and improves moods.
- Matsyasana (Fish pose)
Matsyasana also known as Fish pose is a reclining back-bending asana. This is one of the asanas that helps improve immune function. The asana opens up chest and throat and helps in stimulating immune system by promoting blood flow to the thymus gland. It also helps in releasing stress which is again beneficial for your immune system. Additionally, the asana is great for flexibility and muscle strength and also contributes in improving posture.
It helps to keep spine strong and flexible. This is also one of the poses that could help in cutting abdominal fat. Matsyasana can also help in relieving constipation. There are certain asanas that can help improve the function of your thyroid gland and Matsyasana is one of them as it improves blood flow to the thyroid gland. People with high or low blood pressure or migraine should however avoid doing this asana. Also, people who have had some kind of back or neck injury in the recent past must not do this pose. Heart patients, pregnant women and spondylitis patients should steer clear of performing this asana.
Bhujangasana or Cobra pose helps strengthen the immune system by stretching the muscles in the chest and throat, which can help stimulate the thymus gland. The cobra pose opens up your lungs, and relieves stress and tension from the back. It also helps tone down abdominal muscles and strengthen spine. The pose can especially benefit those who complain of a stiff back by improving body flexibility.
Also, bhujangasana is great for improving blood circulation and helps one stay active and energized. It also helps in improving oxygenation and helps the cells to get enough oxygen and nutrients. The asana is considered great for mental health and can help one fight depression and anxiety. According to studies, practicing bhujangasana can also help with headaches and fatigue. If you have a tendency to suffer from low moods, bhujangasana can work wonders for your moods too and help you feel good. Bhujangasana is not advised for those who are pregnant, have wrist or rib injury, asthma or have had abdominal surgery.
Paschimottanasana or seated forward bend can help stimulate the immune system by stretching the spine and opening the chest. It also stretches the hamstrings and lower back muscles and improve flexibility of the body. Great for mental health, paschimottanasana can help calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. If you have a weak digestion, doing this bend can help improve your gut health and keep issues like acidity, bloating and indigestion at bay. The asana helps in stimulating liver and kidney.
It even improves menstrual health and reduces discomfort during your monthly cycle. The bend is great for reducing fatigue and in staying stress-free. The asana provides good stretch to nearly all the muscles of the body and improves flexibility. If you are suffering from diabetes, you can include this stretch in your daily routine to achieve better glucose control. People with back pain, sciatica, high blood pressure, heart issues should not attempt this asana. Pregnant women in their second or third trimester must avoid this asana. Those suffering from slipped disc should not do this pose.
Diet to boost immunity
Food plays an important role in boosting immunity as it has many nutrients that help in more efficient working of the immune system. While many people resort to supplementation for fulfilling their nutritional requirements, there is no substitute for, say, green vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, dietary fibre that provide your body with necessary fuel to maintain its various function and keep it disease free.
Green leafy vegetables
You plate should have all colours, but green seems to be the most prominent of all when it comes to boosting immunity. This is because what are green leafy vegetables have in common is folate, one of the essential Vitamin B, which can give our immunity a huge boost considering it is responsible for producing anti-bodies that fight viruses and infections. Spinach, Mustard greens, fenugreek, Moringa, Bok Choy, Kale are all the veggies that are great additions to your daily diet. There are many ways people can include these healthy vegetables in their diet from making a curry, turning them into smoothies, stuffing them in sandwiches, using them in soups and even in their omelette.
Dietary fibre plays an essential role in your diet as it increases the weight and size of your stool making it easier to pass. It thus prevents constipation and even solidify stools in case of watery stools. A high-fibre diet is even beneficial for our immune system and it helps to boost production of beneficial microbes and thus support the immune cell activity. There is no dearth of fibre sources and they include oatmeal, barley, beans, fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits among others. Switching to whole grains, eating more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis (not the juice) as a snack, having plenty of salad, including nuts and seeds in your diet, hummus can all help increase your daily fibre intake.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a storehouse of many essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that also helps in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. They also help in regulation and maintenance of our immune system. Apart from this, they are also an excellent source of protein, healthy fats and fibres. They also help in weight loss and regulating blood sugar levels. While many people take vitamin supplements to meet their nutritional needs, nuts and seeds are healthy alternatives that also offers loads of additional benefits. According to studies, almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts have vitamin E that aids in boosting T-cell count – the cells that kill infected host cells and regular immune responses.
While nearly all fruits have some or the other benefits for our overall health, citrus fruits being high Vitamin C offer the maximum benefits for our immune system. Vitamin C helps in production of white blood cells that are important for fighting infection. In addition to this, citrus fruits are known to lower risk of kidney stones, give protection against cancer and improve heart health. Certain flavonoids found in citrus fruits can help fight chronic inflammation and cut risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Vitamin C in citrus fruits can also boost your skin health and prevent it from sagging. Lemon, grapefruit, orange, kinnow, mandarin among others are high on Vitamin C. However, one should avoid going overboard on citrus fruits as eating too much of them can lead to side effects like vomiting, nausea, bloating, cramps etc.
Ginger not only lends a unique flavour to the curries, snacks and soups we relish, but also has powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Ginger has been traditionally used as a medicinal herb to boost immunity and treat various health conditions. It contains compounds such as gingerol and shogaol, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These compounds help to boost the immune system by reducing inflammation and fighting off harmful pathogens. Ginger has been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system by increasing the activity of white blood cells, which play a crucial role in fighting off infections. Additionally, ginger has been found to have antimicrobial properties, which can help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses.
The spice also has the ability to reduce fever and relieve pain, which can be helpful in treating cold and flu symptoms. Some studies have also suggested that ginger may have the potential to prevent or reduce the severity of certain types of cancer by strengthening the immune system. It is best to consume ginger in its raw form or as a supplement or tea, to get the most benefits. However, it’s always best to consult with healthcare provider before including it in your diet, especially if you’re pregnant or have a medical condition.
A rich source of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut, yoghurt plays an important role in maintaining the immune system. Yogurt is made with fermentation process of milk. The probiotics in yogurt help to boost the immune system by strengthening the gut microbiome, which is the collection of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. A healthy gut microbiome can help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses, and it can also help to stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections. Yogurt is also a good source of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin D and Calcium that are essential for a healthy immune system.
Yogurt can be consumed as part of a balanced diet, and it can be enjoyed as a snack or used in cooking and baking. It’s important to choose plain, unsweetened yogurt, as sweetened varieties can be high in added sugar, which can have negative effects on overall health.
Turmeric or haldi is a magical immunity superfood that can keep at bay an array of deadly illnesses from cancer to Alzheimer’s. Turmeric has been found to have antimicrobial properties, which can help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses. It also has the ability to boost the production of antibodies and cytokines, which are essential for a healthy immune response. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. Curcumin has been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a key factor in the development of many chronic diseases.
Adding this wonderful beverage to your daily routine can play wonders with your immunity. Popularised in recent decades green tea is fast substituting regular tea. Green tea is rich in a group of antioxidants called catechins which have been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system.
One of the main catechins in green tea is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has been found to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. EGCG can help to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses, and it can also help to stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections. Green tea has also been found to have the ability to boost the production of antibodies and cytokines, which are essential for a healthy immune response. Green tea can be consumed as a beverage, and it can also be found in supplement form. It’s recommended to consume 2-3 cups of green tea daily, and to avoid adding sugar or milk to it to get the most benefits.