How to Support Your Immune System During Seasonal Changes
Rainy days can be fun or frustrating, depending on how you like to enjoy them. Some people love to splash in the puddles, while others prefer to cozy up indoors and listen to the raindrops. But no one likes the sniffles, sore throat, stomachache, and fatigue that often come with the monsoon season. The weather can affect your body and mind in different ways. For example, less sunlight can make you feel sad or depressed, while more humidity can create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and viruses. These can cause various diseases such as colds, coughs, fevers, typhoid, malaria, and diarrhea. Similarly, cold weather can increase the risk of heart problems and joint pain. So, what is the link between seasonal changes and immunity? Let’s find out more.
How does our immune system function?
Our immune system is our body’s defense system that protects us from any possible invader. It does so with the help of white blood cells (leukocytes) that act as soldiers and fight off infections on the battlefield. There are two main types of leukocytes: phagocytes and lymphocytes (T cells, B cells, and NK cells). Phagocytes destroy the infection-causing foreign material by engulfing it. B lymphocytes act by producing large amounts of antibodies against the pathogen, and T lymphocytes kill infected cells and help the B cells function optimally, suppress the immune response, and prevent autoimmune disease. NK cells, or natural killer cells, on the other hand, kill the virally infected cells directly by targeting them.
High temperatures, reddish eyes, vomiting, or skin reactions are all signs that our body generates when our immune system is at work. These signs are a proactive mechanism to inform and act against the invader. For example, the immune system will raise your body temperature to give you a fever in order to stop the bacteria and viruses from spreading, as they cannot survive in high temperatures. Similarly, vomiting is the body’s way of eliminating harmful substances.
How does seasonal change impact immunity?
Seasons tend to influence illnesses. Seasonal influenza (a common type of flu) peaks twice in India: in January and March and in the post-monsoon season. And that’s because certain bacteria and viruses are better able to survive and spread in certain seasons due to variations or fluctuations in humidity, temperature, and other environmental factors. Research shows that seasonal changes in temperature and humidity lead to reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to infections. The host’s immune system is also affected and adapts to changing seasons. The host’s immunity is influenced by the circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that regulates our eating, sleeping, and waking cycles. This circadian rhythm is regulated through light cues that it receives from the environment. Due to seasonal changes, alterations in the length and duration of the day may either enhance or suppress various aspects of immune functioning. This leads to seasonal cycles of illness. For instance, 40% of all colds take place due to human rotavirus in the colder season, as the shift in temperature helps it grow, flourish, and spread, making it contagious.
Supporting the immune system during seasonal changes
While we may not have control over weather changes, we can help strengthen our immune response to the sickness that they bring. Let's learn how we can build a stronger immune system that is ready to face all the seasonal challenges.
1. Eat right
Eating a healthy, balanced diet along with limiting junk and processed foods can go a long way toward keeping us healthy and fit. However, there are certain important components of food that can prevent us from falling sick often and help in quick recovery; let's get through them one by one.
Let it zinc in.
Zinc is a trace mineral, mostly found in animal products. It is vital for the growth of a number of immune cells, including neutrophils, lymphocytes, and macrophages, and it is important for adaptive immunological responses (reactions that are triggered by memories of previous invaders). Even a modest zinc shortage in the body can interfere with the body's line of defense by decreasing the immune cells' activity, including wound healing and skin health. Some of the richest sources of zinc are animal-based products like meat, fish, and seafood, along with lentils, chickpeas, beans, etc. If you are a vegan and have trouble digesting lentils or pulses, you may opt for zinc supplements to fill in the gap.
"C" the bigger picture
Vitamin C acts as a natural immune booster by aiding in the healing of wounds and the prevention of infections. Being a strong antioxidant, it aids in reducing the harm caused by free radicals to immune cells and increases the activity of white blood cells, further enhancing immunity. Additionally, vitamin C speeds up collagen formation, which is crucial for healing. Most of your seasonal fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes and cruciferous vegetables, along with citrus fruits, are great sources of vitamin C. You may take vitamin C supplements if you do not prefer citrus foods or have any dietary limitations.
Look out for greenery
When it comes to providing nutrition, green vegetables are tops. From improving vision and aiding the gut to boosting immunity. Green vegetables, from bok choy to broccoli, have been proven to boost immunity by helping immune cells of the gut and skin known as intraepithelial lymphocytes function properly. So, make sure to get your daily greens regularly through diet and supplementation.
Our very own kitchen spices are filled with immunity-boosting ingredients like black pepper, turmeric, coriander seeds, ginger, etc. A host of diseases accompany the monsoon season, the most common being the common flu. And the first thing we would do to beat it would be to make a kadha for immunity. This age-old kadha for immunity could be your one-stop solution for the seasonal flu. By possessing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, these kitchen spices serve as the best ingredients for your desi cold concoction or kadha for immunity-boosting.
Prep up with pre and pro
70% of our immunity comes from the gut; hence, it's imperative to have a healthy gut. A colony of bacteria called the gut flora lives in your digestive tract. A healthy gut is characterized by a perfect balance of more friendly microorganisms than unfriendly ones. An imbalance of this gut flora could lead to the onset of many autoimmune diseases like thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Autoimmune disease is a condition in which our body attacks our own healthy cells, mistaking them for invaders. Providing the gut with prebiotic and probiotic foods may help maintain this equilibrium and thereby reduce the incidence of autoimmune diseases. Probiotics are foods that contain beneficial microbes, whereas prebiotics are fiber-rich meals that aid in the development and growth of probiotics. So ensure you consume prebiotics and probiotics in your meals regularly or have a combination of both known as synbiotics. Yogurt, wheat, and sauerkraut are some examples of synbiotic foods.
2. Get up and get moving
Exercise is known to improve general health by decreasing blood pressure, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, reducing body weight, and preventing various other diseases. Exercise plays a key role in enhancing immunity, too. Research indicates that people with sedentary lifestyles showed improved responses to vaccines once they increased their physical activity levels. Exercise also helps reduce or delay the onset of immunosenescence (the body’s susceptibility to infections), especially in the elderly population. Findings also suggest that exercise may increase T lymphocyte output and eliminate exhausted ones, preventing their overcrowding in the immune space and thereby improving immune functioning.
3. Sleep tight
If you want to boost your immunity, one of the best things you can do is sleep well. A good night’s sleep helps your body fight off infections and inflammation by strengthening your white blood cells, especially the natural killer (NK) cells that destroy harmful invaders. On the other hand, lack of sleep can weaken your immune system by increasing the levels of cytokines, a protein that causes inflammation. Research has also shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours per night are more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep 8 hours or more.
4. Stop stressing
We all know it's important to manage our stress for our mental health. This psychological stress, however, may even impact your immunity. Stress may reduce the number of natural killer cells, or lymphocytes, in the immune system, thereby weakening it. A weakened immune system may serve as a host for multiple infectious diseases. Thus, stress management is an important factor in boosting immunity.
5. Drink kadha for immunity.
While our immune system is at work, providing it with additional help by ingesting immunity-boosting supplements during seasonal changes, can be of great help. If you do not have much time on your hands to prepare a kadha for immunity, you may resort to buying immunity booster supplements like tablets, powders, or syrups. Some of these immunity-boosting supplements also come in effervescent tablet forms, which, when dissolved in water, form a kadha for immunity. Before taking any immunity-boosting supplement, get it approved by your physician.
Seasonal changes impact our immunity. The right nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep, stress management, and immunity booster supplements, or kadha for immunity, can help you build a stronger one.
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