In recent times, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic spread, we often come across the terms “immunity” or “immunity boosters.” People are taking a keen interest in protecting their health. The notoriety of the pandemic is such that the slightest symptom of even a common cold is now observed suspiciously.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to remain healthy in a polluted environment. And pollution need not necessarily be through contaminated air, water, or food. An improper living condition, even in a healthy environment, can be detrimental to your health.
In other words, any element that harmfully affects your life, or the environment, is considered polluted.
But do you have a choice of avoiding a polluted region? Nope, because there could be some or all the underlying conditions averse to your body and mind, wherever you go.
So, what is the remedy to remain unaffected and yet continue to live fearlessly in an unavoidable polluted place?
Immunity—the best protective measure to shield against sickness.
Diagnosing the ailment and getting the right treatment is the approach we usually take. But that is like waiting for a bolt of lightning to strike you. We seldom recover completely from old diseases, while new ones are created and their variants spread to all corners of the world.
Interestingly, there is a medicine for almost every illness. The only criterion is that you need to take it perpetually. The original sickness may subside, but the side-effects of the medications may cause other complications. And you end up taking new medicines and remain in a state of sickness all the time.
That is how the pharmaceutical companies do a thriving business. Nothing can beat them. It’s an unfortunate but true statement that is pertinent globally. It is an accepted fact that the pharmaceutical industry is a multi-billion dollar business.
Ideally, for all reasons, precaution is always better than cure. All you need is to be consciously aware of your physical and mental condition. Any probability of falling sick should alert you to take precautions. That does not mean you should be a hypochondriac. Being delusional about imaginary ailments is a mental disorder and not prudent.
A holistic lifestyle can significantly safeguard you from illnesses and also ensure good health and wellness.
While leading a disciplined life has many benefits, it’s difficult to sustain at all times. When there is an endemic in your neighborhood or a global pandemic like COVID-19, it may catch you off guard or leave you helpless. In such unforeseeable conditions, it forces you to take additional immunity measures to protect yourself and stop the disease from spreading.
Here are 5 important facts about immunity boosters to safeguard your journey through life. Let’s start with the basics.
What Is Immunity?
Immunity is the body’s ability to defend itself against infections. Pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, are foreign disease-causing substances that people are exposed to on a daily basis. Antigens are proteins that are attached to the surfaces of pathogens and stimulate an immune response in the host. An immune response is the body’s defense system to fight against antigens and protect the body. (Read More)
Antibodies to the disease can help you develop immunity to it. Antibodies are specific to a certain disease. These are cytokines, which are beneficial proteins produced by your body’s immune-fighting cells to kill toxins and disease-carrying organisms.
Although you may have innate immunity that you were born with, it has limitations in shielding against all types of pathogens. When such inherent immunity becomes incapable of fighting the antigens, your body will need additional immunity to produce an adaptive or borrowed immune response.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we can achieve this by two methods: active and passive immunity. (Read More)
When the immune system is exposed to a disease-causing pathogen, it produces antibodies. This is known as acquired (adaptive) or active immunity. Natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are two ways to develop active immunity.
- Natural immunity is obtained by exposing the body to the organism through infection with the actual disease.
- Vaccine-induced immunity is achieved by injecting a disabled or weakened form of the disease organism into the body. The vaccine imitates the disease, triggering an immune response in the vaccinated person without causing illness. For example, the COVID vaccination dose.
Passive immunity refers to when a person is given antibodies to a disease rather than producing them naturally through his or her immune system. It is like borrowing antibodies to resist pathogens. For example, antibodies can be given from a mother to her child through breast milk, or antibodies can be passed from one person to another by blood products containing antibodies, such as immunoglobulin.
Immunity vs. Resistance
Immunity refers to the body’s ability to protect itself against specific pathogens such as bacteria, toxins, viruses, parasites, or fungi. Resistance is defined as the ability to withstand pathogenic attacks while remaining relatively undamaged.
To understand the difference better, let’s consider a primary infection to be a combat between the virus and the immune system. A virus surpasses the body’s protective mechanisms and multiplies. Over the first few days, the innate immune response will resist, but not completely stop the pathogen’s growth.
As adaptive immunity improves, it will begin to eradicate the virus from the body while also strengthening itself. However, this elimination may happen partially, because, in many diseases, a rise in antibody levels does not necessarily indicate a patient is recovering.
How Much Immunity Is Needed For Human Body?
A well-functioning immune system is key to providing good defense against pathogenic organisms as well as providing tolerance to non-threatening organisms, food components, and to one’s own body. (Ref.: Feeding the Immune System)
Undernutrition can cause impaired immune function because of insufficient intake of calories and macronutrients, and other inadequacies in certain micronutrients. According to research, the immune system needs certain nutrients to function properly, including essential amino acids, the essential fatty acid linoleic acid, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, Zn, Cu, Fe, and Se. (Ref.: The immune system: a target for functional foods?)
Here is a recommended list of nutrients and the amount our body should consume per day.
Carbohydrates: 40-60% of your total calories.
Protein: 0.8-1 gm. per kg. of body weight.
Fat: 15-25% of your total calories.
Vitamin A: 700-900 micrograms
Vitamin D: 15 micrograms
Vitamin E: 15 micrograms
Vitamin K: 120 micrograms
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): 0.8-1 mg.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 1.1-1.3 mg.
Vitamin C: 70-90 mg.
Iron: Men 8 mg. Women 18 mg. Calcium: 1000 mg.
What Are Some Immunity Boosters?
Your immune system is a control network of cells, chemicals, and processes that protects your body against pathogens such as viruses, toxins, and bacteria. Making good lifestyle choices, such as eating nutritious meals and getting enough sleep and exercise, are the most basic ways to enhance your immune system. (Ref.: An introduction to immunology and immunopathology)
Here are a few supplements that have the potential to boost your immune system.
Because of its vital role in immune health, this is one of the most popular supplements. It helps keep your immune system healthy by clearing out old cells and replacing them with new ones. Vitamin C also functions as an antioxidant, preventing oxidative stress, which happens when reactive chemicals known as free radicals accumulate in the body. (Ref.: Vitamin C and Immune Function)
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that is required for your immune system to function properly. Supplementing with vitamin D has been shown to reduce the incidence of respiratory infections in persons who were deficient in this vitamin. In a review of randomized control studies conducted on 11,321 participants in 2019, it was found to reduce infection risk in those who had adequate vitamin D levels. (Ref.: Vitamin D and Immune Function)
Zinc is an essential mineral for immune system function. It’s commonly included in immune-boosting vitamins and other health products like lozenges. Zinc is required for immune cell development, communication, as well as inflammatory response. Zinc also aids in the defense of the body’s tissue barriers and the prevention of microbial attacks. (Ref.: Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function)
Many types of medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their therapeutic potential. Since ancient times, it has been used to prevent and treat infections and sickness. Cordyceps supplementation significantly reduced bacterial load in the lungs, increased immune response, and reduced inflammation in tuberculosis-infected mice when compared to a placebo group in a research. According to research, Turkey Tail is another medicinal fungus that has profound effects on humans and may improve immune responses to certain types of cancer. (Ref.: Medicinal mushrooms as an attractive new source…)
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) extract has been demonstrated to have antiviral and antibacterial properties against pathogens that cause strains of influenza virus and upper respiratory tract infections. It boosts the immune system’s reaction and may help lessen the duration and intensity of colds, as well as alleviate viral infection symptoms. (Ref.: Anti-influenza activity of elderberry)
Turmeric’s major active ingredient is curcumin. It has potent anti-inflammatory qualities, and animal studies suggest it may aid in immune function improvement.
Garlic is an excellent anti-inflammatory and antiviral agent. It has been shown to improve immunological health by boosting immune cells, such as NK (natural killer) cells and macrophages.
Licorice contains many substances, including glycyrrhizin that may help fight viral infections. Glycyrrhizin has been shown to have an antiviral effect against the coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome. (Ref.: Glycyrrhizin, an active component of licorice roots)
Selenium is a crucial mineral for immune health. Results in animal studies have been shown to improve antiviral resistance against influenza viruses, including H1N1, with selenium supplements.
Echinacea is a daisy-family genus of plants. Certain species boost immunological health and may have antiviral properties against a variety of respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus and rhinoviruses.
Propolis is a resin-like substance produced by honeybees for use as a hive sealant. It has excellent immune-enhancing effects and might have antiviral capabilities.
Is Immunity Booster Good For You?
There is nothing to be afraid of as long as you take appropriate precautions and maintain a proper balance of vitamins and minerals in your body. However, at times, immune boosters can make you sick than protect you from sickness. This is because of a condition known as an autoimmune disorder.
Problems with the acquired immune system’s reactions are referred to as autoimmune disorders. Immune cells erroneously attack the body’s healthy tissues, prompting the body to attack. It can affect almost any part of the body; and, in some cases, multiple parts of the body.
Although there are no scientific explanations for the exact causes of such disorder, in most cases, a combination of factors is probably the cause. Genes, for example, may increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Or it could be the environment, such as a virus that triggers the disease if you have the gene(s).
When babies are born, their immune systems are undeveloped, but they develop fully during the first few years of life. The immune competence can decline as people get older.
Your innate immunity can resist the first level of infectious attacks. When that is insufficient, you have to rely on adaptive immunity. To increase the general strength of your immune system with no additional boosters, you should eat healthy foods, especially proteins, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
You should also avoid a stressful lifestyle, limit alcohol, and avoid harmful substances so that it does not destabilize your immunity.
Such a lifestyle will improve your immune system and minimize the probability of falling sick by 50%. Even if there are newer diseases like the novel coronavirus, the defense mechanism of your body will resist such attacks and help you recover faster even if you fall sick.