Covid-19 and immunity

[ Dr Karto Ete ]

As the world is gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, lots are being discussed daily regarding the advances in treatment and vaccine trials, but we tend to ignore the most important aspect of our body to fight against this virus – our immunity.

Along with SMS sanitization, mask, and social distancing, more emphasis must be given to maintain our immunity. How do we do that? By eating a balanced diet. A balanced diet consists of one source of calories (either rice or wheat), proteins (pulses, egg, meat), steamed/not overcooked green leafy vegetables, seasonal fruits, and safe drinking water. Please avoid junk food.

Some important components in our diet which help us maintain our immunity are Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Omega 3 fatty acid, and probiotics. We tend to have the wrong notion that we are adequately exposed to sunlight and hence we won’t have Vitamin D deficiency.

However, many studies have shown deficiency of Vitamin D in the majority of Indian population. This is because our diet lacks Vitamin D. Also, due to obesity (fatty liver) and increased alcohol consumption in our state, chances of Vitamin D deficiency is more (hydroxylation of Vitamin D takes place in the liver and the kidneys). Most non-vegetarian diet contain a good amount of Vitamin D and vegetarian source of Vitamin D include mushroom, curd and yogurt.

Vitamin C is also required for maintenance of immunity. Rich sources include citrus fruits like lemon, orange and amla. Along with reduction in atherosclerotic risk, Omega 3 fatty acid also helps maintain immunity. Rich source includes fish and codliver oil.

Probiotics are bacteria which also help in maintaining immunity, and rich sources are curd and yogurt.

Safe drinking water also forms a part of a balanced diet, and an average of 2 to 2.5 litres of water must be consumed per day. Along with a balanced diet, moderate aerobic exercise for 30 to 45 minutes per day, five days per week is recommended for maintaining immunity.

We should also maintain a proper sleep hygiene. Six to eight hours of sleep is required for an adult. Also, stress reduces immunity; yoga/breathing exercises may help to reduce stress. Avoid excessive use of mobile, social media and TV as this adds to mass hysteria, fear psychosis, stress and panic. Avoid alcohol consumption and smoking. These small measures can help maintain immunity and keep us protected against this virus. (The writer is a senior resident in the general medicine department of the Medical College Manjeri, Kerala.)