Boost your immune system

The two strongest lobbies today are the arms lobby and the pharma lobby; the former does not allow peace to prevail in the world, and the latter does not allow us to lead a natural healthy life. Corona has taken us all, including the pharma lobbyists, by surprise. While the lobby is busy inventing ways to profit from the adversity, we, the hapless victims, suffer on both counts. It is time that we take charge of our health, try to stay fit, and guard ourselves against the pandemic and all other diseases. Instead of creating panic, we should come out with natural and organic solutions for the betterment of the health of the people in this worsening situation.

Legend has it that Hazrat Lukman, the most celebrated Hakim, who could treat any disease in human body, did not find answer only to two questions. One, why a dead body does not revive after it was given a warm water bath, and the second, how a person survived after consuming curd at night. That shows the importance of warm water, which should be used frequently. To keep one’s body hydrated one need not wait to be thirsty. Thirst, in fact, is a sign of dehydration. Warm water dissolves fats that get stuck in the food pipe and the stomach. In that sense it is as good as nectar.

The world renowned nutritionist of Pakistan, Dr. Azmat Majeed, is of the firm view that our food choices are responsible for our good health, or otherwise. Almost eighty percent of our immune system is located in the gut. Both constipation and diarrhea weaken the immune system of the body. If we take proper care of our digestive system, eighty percent of the battle is won. Regular bowel movement is a sine quo non for this purpose. Making yogurt a part of our regular diet goes a long way in improving our digestion. Yoghurt contains friendly enzymes that help in the digestive process apart from neutralizing acidic traces in the system.

The first line of defense against the pandemic, or any other virus for that matter, comprises what we call Innate Immunity, which is normally hereditary. Research has, however, shown that sufficient levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin D in the body greatly help in keeping the virus away. While Vitamin A is found in apricot, orange and mango, one can have any amount of Vitamin D just by exposing oneself to sunshine. If some dry fruits like cashew, peanuts and pistachio and fresh water fish is added to the diet, the ingredient zinc in these edibles takes the immunity to a much higher level.

Use of ginger and garlic (Lehsan and Adrak) not only boosts our immune systems but also cures us of many diseases and even aging. Ginger is said to have as many as 23 anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic nutrients that boost immunity and hold the virus and cancer at bay apart from being anti-aging. Ginger can be consumed by taking a small piece and adding it to water before boiling. Once the water is reduced by half, the ginger kahwa is ready. Garlic is next only to ginger with similar properties. Cooking, however, diminishes its medicinal properties. For best results garlic should be chopped into small pieces and exposed to the open air for a few minutes and then gulped down with water. The beauty is that these two foods repair and help restore the immune system.

Clove (long), Turmeric (Haldi or Kurkaman), Cinnamon (Dhaar cheeni ) and Mulathi are other spices that help boost the immune system and also have favorable effects on one’s health.    Clove, Mulhathi and Cinnamon have a great nutritional value and can be used as additives to the Ginger Kehwa making it more potent. Turmeric, again an immunity booster and an effective anti-inflammatory agent can be taken in milk. It helps in losing body fat too. Taking turmeric with milk is desirable because the fat in the milk helps in its effective absorption by the body.
Olive leaves (zaitoon ke pattey) also have immense nutritional value and can be used either in dry powder form or could be boiled and used as tea.

Increased use of fresh fruit also helps considerably in enhancing immunity levels. Dr Azmat recommends use of apricots, mangoes and citrus fruits for this purpose. In fact, he says that orange is the best fruit to build our immune system. It is the white material around its skin – also known as orange pith – which is very beneficial. Its skin could also be dried and made into a powder and then consumed. There are flavanones in the peel of citrus fruits which have various added health benefits.

Among fresh vegetables beetroot (Chakunder) and bitter gourd (Karela) come for fulsome praise by Dr Azmat Majeed. Both of these have preventive as also curative properties and are full of vitamins and minerals and packed with powerful antioxidants. Beetroot is of exceptional nutritional value, especially its greens, which are chock-full of nutrients like iron, manganese, copper, potassium, and magnesium – all of which have their individual benefits. Raw beets also have terrific benefits – one of them being the ability to prevent cancer. Bitter gourd promotes the secretion of insulin in the body and is very useful for the diabetic. Neither of the two vegetables is a treat in taste but their nutritional value more than compensates for that. Beetroot can be taken raw as a salad, or roasted whole and blended into a classic soup or drink as juice like the Olympians do; bitter gourd juice is of immense medicinal value.

Sleep is most important because it is during the sleep that body-repair work takes place. The better the sleep, better the repair work including improvement of immunity. Lack of sleep can adversely affect our immune system. Studies have shown that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. During sleep, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep. Eight hour sleep during night is best recommended.

Last but not the least is to remain physically and mentally active. Gardening, dancing, running around and some aerobic activity keep one’s muscles in shape, one’s heart rate elevated, and one’s neurons firing. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, bridge and other card games; research has shown that such brain teasers and exercises keep it sharp and prevent Alzheimer’s.

Pasteurized cow milk, white or refined rice, refined sugar, refined salt and white flour (Maida) are five white poisons most of us consume in our daily meals unmindful of the fact that far from getting any nutrients from these, we end up troubling our health. Their use impairs the immune system and also leads to increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, cancer, bone health and other common diseases. Similarly, cold drinks which are rich in sugar and other processed and fried foods better known as junk foods like pizzas, burgers, noodles, momos and other addictive junk food items should be avoided because these don’t have any worthwhile food ingredient in them but only lead to obesity. Plain nimboo-pani and a wholegrain snack are much better options.

Avoid as far as possible, the use of phenyl, mosquito and cockroach repellents and other antiseptic liquids used for mopping floors. These lead to the weakening of the immune system. Their use should certainly be minimized, if not given up altogether.

There is an annual conference in Madrid where the latest research findings on the nutritive properties of ginger and garlic are discussed among the international nutritionists. It may be of interest to know that so far 7.2 million nutrients have been identified by the nutrition scientists, many of which are yet to be named. Most of the research is carried over the ways and means that will help prolong human life to an average of 120 years, but the Pharma lobby does not allow the research findings being actually used on the ground. In fact, very beneficial research findings of the past over fifty years have not been allowed to percolate down to the masses by this lobby.

A leaf from author’s own life: When sometime in 1980, as a young officer, I was deputed as a leader of a search team. The target was a 72 year old practitioner of alternate medicine. We found huge quantity of undisclosed jewelry and it took a lot of time and effort to have it valued and inventoried past midnight. The entire team felt exhausted but not the old practitioner. I still recall his five sentences in response to my query, how he felt so energetic at that age. Said he: Jeeb hamari dushman hai (Our tongue is the enemy); pet sab bimarion ki jad hai (Root of all diseases is our belly); Jab hamein kisi cheese mein swad aata hai to hum bina zaroorat ke bhi khaate chaley jaate hain (When some dish tastes good we keep on eating even when not required); Kam khane se koi nahin mara lekin zyada khane se hi bimariyan ghar kar jaati hain (Nobody died because of less eating, it is overeating that leads to diseases). His advice: Chaar roti ki bookh ho to sirf do khao aur agar aur kabhi kabar man zyada khane ko kare to teen se zyada kabhi mat khao (If your hunger asks for four rotis, eat only two; still, if at some point of time you want to have more, don’t ever exceed three). I accepted the mantra and reduced  my food intake. Result: At 70, I am as healthy as I had ever wanted to be; no blood pressure; no blood cholesterol and no blood sugar. What more would one want!

Bhushan Lal Razdan, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh, is a plantation enthusiast.