Immunity check: An expert dispels all myths connected with immunity and immunity boosters

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By Dr Kajal Pandya Yeptho

We have been inundated with immunity boosting pills, supplements and foods these past few years. What part do these play in actually boosting immunity and how much is genetically driven?

According to many studies, it is proven that genetics plays an important role in immune response and has evolved to reject some pathogens and cancers too. With age, the defence mechanism of the body slows down and immunity may also get compromised. Products that claim to boost immunity like boosting pills, supplements and foods may only help in warding off the disease and other health problems only if the person is severely malnourished. In healthy people, a healthy diet helps in staying healthy.

What are the things that one shouldn’t do to maintain natural immunity?1) Avoid smoking2) Avoid alcohol consumption3) Avoid exposure to environmentaltoxins (smoke and other particlescontributing to air pollution)4) Avoid not sleeping enough5) Avoid any type of mental stress6) Avoid consumption of unhealthy food.Can we get stronger to fight disease with food and supplements?Certain dietary patterns and supplements can prepare the body for microbial attacks and excessive inflammation, but it is unlikely that they can offer special protection.

How do mental well-being and physical fitness affect immunity directly?Our immunity has a great correlation with our mental and physical health. It’s always the way we feel that is reflected in our health. For this reason, experts globally recommend healthy living by good metabolic practices (for a healthy gut) and physical exercises.

Leading an active life checks the release of stress hormones and as a result, we feel healthy internally and our immunity remains stronger. Moreover, our immunity is a lot more dependent on our gut. A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses and fungi. A healthy gut also communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones, which helps maintain general health and well-being.

Give us five broad tips to get our immune systems working to full potential.1) Exercise daily2) Be mindful of your eating choices3) Be mindful of your mental health and indulge in some yoga and meditation4) Get enough sleep5) Expose your body to sunlight (to soak in vitamin D).

There are certain prescription medicines/ injectibles that boost overall immunity. Can these be administered to general populations as replacement to vaccines?No. The role and purpose of a vaccine is completely different than an immunity booster.

The author is chief dietician at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi