Building bodily immunity

EducationWorld November 06 | EducationWorld

All that’s needed is one newspaper headline to instill fear in the minds of the populace. The dengue and chikungunya viruses have created a nationwide panic, and everyone‚s discussing their symptoms, cures, and the scare of it all. The latest scare is that aedes aegypti, the dengue-bearing mosquito, bites the ‚victim‚ during daylight hours. Not in the night which is the traditional dinnertime for mosquitoes. What does this portend? Mosquito nets in the daytime?

Slapping repellants onto our skins all day and night? Switching on electric repellants 24×7? Vaccinating ourselves against any and every disease? Becoming paranoid about keeping our homes, workplaces etc sterile? The human race has accomplished so much and yet it is absolutely terrified of this tiny pest. I often wonder how people live with fear which seems to be eternal because even if the dengue and chikungunya scare dies down, there is always malaria, typhoid, and worse still, combinations of them all to worry about. Or some new virus, maybe even new strains of old ones mutated in deadly viruses resistant to all insecticides and antibiotics. And so the constant search for new drugs and vaccines.

Imagine, in spite of having attained nuclear power status, we are so terrified of this ubiquitous insect that we have to crawl into our mosquito nets to safety. However, it is going to be difficult to live our lives enclosed in nets, or covered with chemical ointments or dangerous repellants. But at least one can see mosquitoes visually, and thus quite often dispatch them. Germs and viruses are not visible to the naked eye and nobody tells us how to avoid or guard against them. Not by vaccinations (which, arguably lower your overall immunity‚ very controversial so more on this another time). The best way to survive mosquitoes, germs, viruses, and similar pestilences is by strengthening your immune system. This is best achieved by following nature‚s laws, that go a long way in building bodily resistance. Of course, basic hygiene and clean environment are important, but not to the point of a fetish for sterility that could become an obsession. Also using an excess of soaps and detergents creates their own problems.

So how does one start to build the body‚s immunity so that it isn‚t felled by these tiny pests, which have spread fear and panic countrywide? For a start by making an effort to breathe clean air or at least making sure we get enough Go green time‚ in the company of trees, plants, fresh sea breezes, mountain air, if one lives in a city or town.Second, we can take simple precautions to ensure that the water we drink is as clean as is possible in these times when scarcity rather than water purity is the greater issue. Resorting to rain water harvesting (even in multi-storeyed apartments) and using copper based matkas (provenly shunned by germs) besides other natural solutions seem to be the best answer. Because most hi-tech solutions cause other, worse problems. But water purity is an entire issue by itself and will be discussed separately.

Thirdly, by being physically active, through specific exercise or fitness regimes or by doing a fair amount of physical work and walking. Your body cells which constitute the immune system, need as much exercise as your muscles. And to fortify and empower your immune cells system, you need to consume natural whole foods grown organically for which you don‚t have to study nutrition. By reading this column regularly you will see the obvious which has been clouded by the prevalent‚ although temporary‚ popularity of the allopathic system of medicine.

But that‚s not all. Simultaneously one needs to develop a philosophic outlook that makes you happy irrespective of the inevitable vicissitudes of life. Whatever hand one has been dealt, if one bears in mind that thousands‚ if not millions‚ are soldiering on bravely with worse deprivations, will enable you to place your problems in perspective and empower you to address them creatively. Germs and viruses flourish in low immunity environments and often it is mental anguish, which creates such conditions and enables these microbes to get the better of us.

Modern medicine men and healthcare specialists often talk about resistance and immunity but never or seldom go all the way in understanding how this objective is to be attained. It’s a subject that needs to be addressed holistically. And when one thinks carefully about the solutions to major problems, one realises that they aren’t as complicated as medicine men and pundits, who make comfortable livings out of complicating them‚ would have us believe. In the final analysis, living in balance is the key to well-being and immunity. If we only care to listen to our bodies, we wouldn’t need any external help or cures. We would keep well and if we do stray and fall ill, we would know exactly how to get back on track. In my next column I will delineate how the body, even when sick, is continually trying to get well. We only have to let it.

The power to resist disease and infection is within us. Listening to our bodies is the first step towards building the resistance and immunity required to combat mutating germs and viruses which are laying the vulnerable low.

(Kavita Mukhi is a Mumbai-based eco-nutritionist and director of Conscious Food)

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