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Expert Talk: GP Dr Sanjay Shah Recommends These Healthy Habits To Boost Your Immunity

Anything you can do to reduce your body’s toxic load and support it in getting rid of waste can help to support a healthy immune system. The phrases ‘eating right’, ‘opting for organic food’, ‘working out regularly’ and many more have become health mantras in the face of the pandemic. And in 2021, it has become clear that taking extra care of your body, boosting your immunity, developing healthy habits and building resilience are all important if you’re looking for good health in the long term.

TC46 connected with General Physician Dr Sanjay Shah of Fortis Hospital, Mumbai to understand practical ways to improve your immunity. Here, he talks about seasonal infections, lifestyle habits you need to embrace to stay fighting fit, and ways to stay safe during the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

1. How important is building your immunity during winter?

With the ongoing pandemic, it is very important to build up one’s immunity to protect oneself from infectious diseases. With good immunity even if you contract the infection, you are in better shape to fight it and overcome it.

2. How can you differentiate between the flu & COVID-19?

The flu is the condition where one gets:

  • Fever
  • Coryza
  • Runny nose
  • Heaviness in head

Whereas in the case of Covid-19, one gets:

  • Fever
  • Cold
  • Cough
  • Throat infection
  • Severe body pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Loss of smell and loss of taste (these are some of the important symptoms)

3. Do supplements help you strengthen your immunity?

One does not always need supplements to strengthen their immunity but if you do not consume a well-balanced diet and nutritious food as part of your daily lifestyle, then supplements like zinc and certain vitamins can help boost the immunity system. They are especially helpful if you’ve been diagnosed with deficiencies.

4. What are some healthy eating habits to adhere to during winter to build your immunity?

Some of the healthy eating habits one should adhere to in winter are:

  • Eat small frequent meals 
  • Adequately hydrate yourself with fruit juices and vegetable soups (read the full list here)
  • Have one handful of dry fruits every day to supplement zinc and other essential elements
  • A high protein diet always keeps your body protein adequately stored to keep your muscle mass intact

5. Which healthy habits contribute towards a strong immune system?

Healthy habits contributing to a strong immune system are:

  • Getting adequate sleep. One needs a good 7-8 hours of sleep per day
  • Keep your stress level to a minimum and never carry your work stress home
  • 40-45 mins of good exercise like brisk walking, cycling
  • A good work-life balance is crucial in maintaining good psychological health 
  • Strictly avoiding tobacco in any form
  • Avoid alcohol as long as possible and never exceed a limit of 45cc of alcohol at a time

6. What precautions should pregnant women take during the winter months?

Pregnant women must observe:

  • Adequate intake of high protein diet 
  • Adequate consumption of citrus food
  • A handful of dry fruits every day 
  • Avoid outdoor food
  • Exercise like daily 40 minutes of walking
  • Regular exercise to strengthen the pelvic muscle, as advised by the gynaecologist 
  • Avoid contact with those who are suffering from infectious diseases 

7. How can menopausal women manage stress (cortisol levels) to maintain a strong immune system?

Menopausal women need special care to manage their health. They need a good healthcare plan to detect any chronic disorders like hypertension and diabetes. They should detect vitamin D3 and B12 deficiency, and correct it if it exists as per the doctor’s advice. Adequate calcium supplements are a must to prevent osteoporosis. Endocrine consultation is a must if one has severe menopausal symptoms. Hormone Replacement Therapy may be administered under observation. It is advisable to indulge in regular exercise and maintain good mental health.

8. What are some signs your body’s immune response is weak? What are some signs your body’s immune response has improved?

Some of the signs of poor immune symptoms are:

  • Not feeling energetic and agile on waking up in the morning 
  • Easy fatigability and poor stamina 
  • Excess body fat and abnormal fat distribution over the waist, hips, and thighs 
  • Getting short of breath during routine activities 
  • Poor sleep
  • Depressed mood and lack of interest in routine work and responsibilities

Signs of an improved immune response are:

  • Good energetic agile feeling on waking up in the morning 
  • Can maintain a good exercise schedule 
  • A good appetite for nutritional food 
  • Good mental health and good interpersonal relationships
  • Not feeling tired or fatigued at the end of your routine work 
  • Good healthy sleep

9. What are some diagnostic tests that can reveal signs of lowered immunity?

  • Weight, BMI, BP 
  • Blood sugar or lipid profile
  • Thyroid function test 
  • Vitamin D3, B12 test
  • Calcium test
  • Complete blood count test

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