It’s not rocket science to know that lack of sleep is bad for you, but to discover that skimping on it can badly affect your immune system is startling.
Sleep deprivation can leave you vulnerable to contracting colds and flu, according to the US-based National Sleep Foundation. Without a regular good sleep your body makes fewer cytokines, a group of proteins that help the body regulate immunity and inflammation.
Stress is a major factor contributing to sleepless nights. To counteract this, many people take up yoga, the ancient spiritual and physical discipline aimed at relaxing the mind and body. Others choose meditation or various forms of vigorous exercise.
Following a healthy lifestyle is the single best step that you can take towards naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy.
There are many other strategies for boosting immunity and warding off illness, but as Dr Fatemeh Aghanasiri, General Practitioner, Aster Clinic at Arabian Ranches, says, “Following a healthy lifestyle is the single best step that you can take towards naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy.”
Living a healthy life
She adds that while some supplements such as zinc and vitamin C help marginally in aiding immunity, your body is under stress if you are not sleeping properly or not taking the right nutrition.
“Regularly exercising will boost the body’s immunity more than supplements can as it activates antioxidants in the muscles, heart and liver.”
Living in a relaxed, stress-free environment is also important both within the home and at education institutes, says Nyla George, former Dubai-based school nurse.
She believes this is easily achievable by ensuring plenty of fresh air circulates — an air purifier is a good investment — air conditioning ducts are cleaned regularly, children get plenty of sleep and they avoid screen time before going to bed.
Another important immune system strengthener is to avoid fizzy drinks and fast foods. Consumption of too much sugar, salt and certain vegetable fats contributes greatly to high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes, says George.
“I find that children need a lot of encouragement and guidance to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They need good habits taught both at home as well as at school, and parents and teachers have a duty to be role models,” she says.
Good habits include regularly washing hands with soap, using a hand sanitiser, avoiding close contact with people who are ill and staying at home when unwell to avoid infecting others.
Kids must be told that they should not touch their face especially the mouth, nose and eyes before cleaning their hands with either sanitiser or soap. Proper techniques of hand washing and using sanitiser must be demonstrated.
Dr Manoj Chandran, Specialist Paediatrics, Medcare Women and Children Hospital Dubai, says that educating children in simple language with the help of visual media to regularly wash their hands is most effective.
“Kids must be told that they should not touch their face especially the mouth, nose and eyes before cleaning their hands with either sanitiser or soap. Proper techniques of hand washing and using sanitiser must be demonstrated,” Dr Chandran explains.
Hand sanitisers or hand washing?
Hand sanitisers can be considered equal in efficacy to hand washing except if the hands are heavily soiled, although he adds, “An important point is that an adequate quantity of sanitiser must be used, and you should follow the same steps of hand washing to cover all areas of hands.”
Dr Aghanasiri says that as per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol-based hand sanitisers do not eliminate all types of germs, but they can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations.
“Sanitisers are popular among parents with toddlers as these are easy to use wherever they are. However, replacing soap and water with hand sanitisers is not recommended and should only be used as an alternative when the former option is not available.”
Food for health
Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is key to improving immunity.
“A poor diet results in chronic inflammation in the human body which in turn will attack certain cells,” says Dr Aghanasiri, while a healthy diet can reverse this effect. “Less oxidants and inflammation in the body improve the body’s ability to recover from illness or injury.”
Refined carbohydrates are directly linked to the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, dementia, cancer and heart disease, writes Prof. Tim Noakes, author, scientist and founder of The Noakes Foundation. He and co-authors Jonno Proudfoot, chef, and Sally-Ann Creed, nutritional therapist, wrote a healthy eating lifestyle cookbook called The Real Meal Revolution, and from this spawned an online healthy eating programme for those that need help in starting to improve their lifestyle.
The Real Meal-Certified Banting Group in Dubai on its Facebook page supports this programme, offering low-carbohydrate recipes, meal plans, cooking lessons, weight-loss tools and personalised support.
There are plenty of tools available to help people change their bad habits for a healthy lifestyle and so too a stronger immune system. Better late than never.
Power up your health
“Whether you’re feeling a little under the weather or simply trying to boost your immunity to prevent that bug around you, a healthy, nourishing diet full of vitamins and minerals is a key factor,” says Zenia Varun Menon, Nutritionist, Barakat.
Deficiencies in certain micronutrients can impact the functioning of the immune system, making you vulnerable to infections.
“Deficiencies in certain micronutrients can impact the functioning of the immune system, making you vulnerable to infections. There are many herbs, vegetables and fruits with healing properties that can help support and boost your immune system. Barakat has launched a series of health-boosting power shots that helps deliver a quick dose of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in a more concentrated form. Try our ginger, turmeric, spirulina, bitter gourd shots that are nutrient rich and contain a host of antioxidants to level up your immune system.
“Barakat also has a range of healthy juices containing a special blend of fibre-rich veggies. These are also rich in vitamin C, folate, B vitamins, and potassium, helping boost your immune strength and provide anti-inflammatory support to the body. Try our green juice, rejuvenate juice, green chia juice, charcoal lemonade, apple celery ginger, and coconut water to get a rich blend of nutrients.”
— GN Focus Report