Immunity can be called as the capacity or the ability of the human body to resist some of the organisms or toxins that tend to cause damage to tissues or organs.
Our immune system is made up of complex network of cells, tissues and organs, comprising mainly of antibodies and lymphocytes.
A weak immune system or impaired immunity causes the body’s natural defenses to deteriorate leading to illnesses and infections.
Nutrients for immunity
Some of the micronutrients that are associated with immunity include -Zinc, Vitamin A, C & E, Selenium, iron, etc.
Zinc: An important aspect for immunity system as it functions as an antioxidant and its deficiency adversely affects the secretion and functions of cytokines, the basic messengers of the immune system. It decreases the susceptibility to infections. Eggs, dairy products, almonds, kidney beans and peas, etc, are rich sources of zinc.
Vitamin A: Has anti-inflammatory properties and it helps enhance immune functions as it is involved in the development of the immune system and plays regulatory roles in cellular immune responses and humoral immune processes. It also regulates antibodies and acts as an immune modulator. Sources include carrots, green leafy vegetables, fruits like papaya, mango etc.
Vitamin C: Essential antioxidant needed for protection against harmful lipid peroxidation. Amla, drumstick leaves, agathi, guava and citrus fruits are rich sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin E: Serves as the primary defense against potentially harmful oxidation reactions in the body. Vegetable oil, nuts and whole grams are its richest sources.
Selenium: An important micronutrient needed for optimal immune response. It is a potent nutritional antioxidant and reduces oxidative stress and enhances body’s immune responses. Whole grains, low fat meat, sea foods, dairy products, cereals and millets are its sources.
Iron: Its deficiency negatively impacts normal defense system against infections. Dark green leafy vegetables, ragi, bajra and liver are excellent sources of iron.
AYURVEDA & IMMUNITY
Vyadhikshamatva is a term in ayurveda that defines the resistance power of the body.
This is of two kinds:
- By attenuating the manifested disease
- Preventing the manifestation of diseases.
Vyadhikshamatva is a complex term in practice, involving a lot of ayurvedic concepts, proving that ayurveda has theory of immunity in it.
Our traditional knowledge on the benefits of some herbs and spices have been known to support a healthy immune system.
Ayurvedic herbs for immunity
There are several common ayurvedic herbs/plants that help boost immunity according to the science of ayurveda. Some of them are ginger, garlic, turmeric, tulsi, amla, pepper, ashwagandha and mulethi. Including these foods your in regular, balanced diet can prove to be beneficial.
- Srilakshmi, B. (2002). Dietetics (Revised. New age international publication).
- Srilakshmi, B. (2002). Nutrition Science (Revised. New age international publication.
- Ministry of Ayush- Ayurveda’s immunity boosting measures for self care during COVID 19 crisis
- ICMR NIN - Nutrition, Lifestyle & Immunity
- The Immune System. Thompson AE. JAMA.
- Human vitamin and mineral requirements, Joint report FAO/WHO