Aug - 2020
During these critical times, we are all supposed to protect ourselves from the virus and other ailments by not only practicing social distancing, but also strengthening our immunity. Various factors like healthy eating, hygienic habits, exercising, maintaining good emotional and mental health, and having adequate sleep can have a positive impact on our immune system.
Foods rich in anti-oxidants & minerals are recommended to improve one’s immunity. However, the typical Indian diet is high-fat, high-salt and high-sugar, with low fiber intake and a sedentary lifestyle. A large number of Indians have a lower intake of vitamins and other micronutrients than what is needed. For example, our intake of Vitamin C and Zinc is generally lower than what is required for optimal immune function. These nutrition gaps lead to a rise in lifestyle diseases, as well as lower immunity levels.
Focusing on nutrient-rich foods and a well-balanced diet is the best way to obtain these desired nutrients. However, given that this is not always possible, nutritional supplements offer a reliable and safe option to help support the immune system.
A balanced vitamin C level (i.e. a good supply of vitamin C) contributes to the healthy function of the immune system. Once the cold viruses have reached our mucous membranes, vitamin C becomes active in various places. It induces the formation of white blood cells, adheres to free radicals, neutralizing them and regenerating more of the body's own antioxidants. In this way, it keeps our immune system going and reduces oxidative stress. When a cold starts, the vitamin C level occasionally falls drastically owing to the increased expenditure.
Zinc is effective in fighting colds because it prevents the adherence of cold viruses to the host's cells in the nasal mucosa – it simply drives them out due to the fact that it occupies their docking location. Additionally, it inhibits the growth and stops the reproduction of these germs. Finally, zinc helps to alleviate the possible inflammation reactions caused by a cold because it prevents the release of histamine and stops the prostaglandin metabolism. Thus, the nasal mucosa does not swell as much, allowing the person to breathe easier. Owing to these findings, zinc should be taken in the form of a lozenge or gurgled as solution from an effervescent tablet before being swallowed. Although many complain of the taste, this is the only way that zinc can have a direct effect on the mucous membranes, fighting the viruses where they are instead of having to take the detour through the digestive tract.
To lower the risk of catching a cold, it is advisable to pay attention to the vitamin C and zinc balance. Together with other biofactors, zinc and vitamin C help us to have a healthy immune system and to reduce the risk of disease. As per ICMR guidelines, Indians must have a daily intake of 40mg of Vitamin C and 12mg of zinc every day.