Wisdom of food
For COVID-19, prevention is definitely better than cure and traditional Indian food wisdom has much to offer in the way of immunity-boosting during this period of lockdown
The rapid spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide, with India being no exception. State governments here are taking apt measures to ensure mass awareness, systematic surveillance and provisions towards isolating and testing those diagnosed with the infection.
In the wake of pandemics like the Coronavirus, it is important to operate from a space of awareness and knowledge than to panic and be misinformed. All medical agencies working towards combating this contagious virus strongly support prevention, to delay the peak of infection, which could reduce the burden in health care facilities. Slowing the spread of COVID-19 is a promising strategy. World Health Organization has issued simple guidelines for practising good hygiene, which is primary to arrest the spread. I strongly believe that this delay strategy, when combined with individual measures taken towards boosting immunity, could be very effective in the prevention of COVID-19.
Our bodies fight infections through the action of our immune systems. Our immune system is our body's defence against infections and other harmful invaders. Without it, we would constantly get sick. It would not be wrong to say that immunity is our first and last line of defence.
In times like these, the conversations around building a rock-solid immunity become very important. Ancient wisdom inherent in our Indian culinary and cultural practices lists many foods for their potent immunity-boosting and infection-fighting properties. A conscious inclusion of these foods in our daily routine can work wonders towards strengthening our immune response to external infections.
The main source of curcumin is traditionally used for many health remedies. This is due to its broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity including anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-malarial. Consume it as Haldi milk which is our gift to the world, currently trending as #TurmericLatte.
This fruit has 20 times more Vitamin C than an orange. It is our indigenous fruit and has traditionally been used across all regions of India in a variety of regional recipes. Vitamin C plays a vital role in building our body's natural defence mechanisms. The most significant quality to take note of here is that the Vitamin C of amla does not get destroyed on boiling, heating or exposure to sun rays for drying, hence it has been used as pickles, 'murrabbas' and chutneys. In fact, the ancient immune booster, Chawanprash has amla as an inherent component.
Neem is popularly referred to as nature's drug store. Various preparations of neem obtained from its different parts (roots, bark, leaves, fruits, seeds etc) have been found to exhibit antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antimalarial, anticancerous properties. Soak neem leaves overnight in a bucket of water and bathe using this water. You may also make a bouquet of neem leaves and hang it on windows helping to purify the air in the house. Additionally, you may gargle with neem water. Boil a bunch of neem leaves in 3-4 cups of water. Reduce it to half and use for gargling.
Tulsi is well known for boosting defences against infectious threats by enhancing the immune response. Regular consumption of tulsi not only helps protect and detoxify the body's cells and organs, but it also helps reduce toxic stress by relaxing and calming the mind. As such eating two or three leaves daily can be beneficial.
Giloy, also known as Guduchi, is an ayurvedic herb that has been used and advocated in Indian medicine for ages. It is a well-known immunomodulator. It helps increase the antibodies in our system that identify and neutralise foreign agents of infections like the viruses. Boil crushed Giloy stems in 2 cups of water. Allow to simmer and reduce to half. Drink it as tea. Alternatively, chew the fresh leaves of Giloy every day.
To conclude, many lifestyle habits come in the way of boosting and maintaining enhanced immunity. Carrying on mindlessly with such habits will come in the way of your efforts to strengthen the immune response to external agents of infections. Awareness is the key and so is being responsible towards one's health and wellbeing. Lifestyle is a magic pill but only if diet, exercise, sleep and activity act as its pillars. Keeping a holistic approach will give us definite results in time. If we can work towards living a simple and disciplined life, we would surely succeed towards building a strong immune system, which would not just defend in this crisis but also reduce our susceptibility to infections in future.
The author is a nutritionist & certified diabetes educator