A healthy diet helps to strengthen our immunity!
A healthy diet helps to strengthen our immunity!

3 Rules Every Woman Must Follow To Build Immunity

Study shows three out of four Indian women are deficient in vitamins because they tend to put the health of families ahead of their own.

Ramya Ramachandran | Oct 30, 2020

The National Nutrition Month in September made us aware that many issues regarding nutrition need to be addressed consciously. Women’s health and immunity are among the most daunting challenges. Recently, I came across a campaign, Project Streedhan, run by DSM India.Through a compelling digital film ‘Sehat ki Tijori’, the campaign urges women to stock their vault of health with nutritious foods by treating this as a lifetime investment.

While the film’s visuals were most evocative, the messaging was crisp and touching too, motivating one in putting pen to paper and writing about the issue of women’s immunity. The problem is more critical due to the global coronavirus pandemic. In such situations, it’s common knowledge that nutrition is the most essential element in building a person’s immune system.

Despite this, research indicates that three out of four Indian women are deficient in vitamins. This is partly because most women tend to put the health of families ahead of their own, completely overlooking the fact that a healthy mother denotes healthy children. The lack of personal attention is the root cause of women’s low immunity, leading to lower resistance against infections.

Therefore, it is time women take their health more seriously by ensuring proper nutrition, particularly in the case of nursing mothers. As a result, it is important to raise awareness about the role of nutrition vis-à-vis illness, especially among nutrient-deficient women and their families. Towards this objective, three basic principles should be followed.

The first is to ascertain there is an adequate intake of protein, which boosts immunity. Yet, women fail to ensure an adequate daily intake of protein. This is what builds antibodies in the system and helps fight viruses, bacteria or other pathogens.

But there is more to it than simply increasing protein intake. In many cases, women lack the digestive enzymes or acid required to break down protein. Consequently, apart from increasing protein intake, women need to make sure they have the right amount of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. For this, women should consult a nutritionist or their family physician to address the issue safely.

The second element is equally essential – consuming proper amounts of fats. Acting as fuel for immune cells,they form the cell membranes. Fats are also vital for female hormones, viz., progesterone, oestrogen and DHEA. Shortage of good fats in the body– in the form of oils from coconuts, almonds, walnuts and other dry fruits – can lead to compromised immunity. Coconut oil contains monolaurin that acts as an antimicrobial and lauric acid,which is an antioxidant supporting the immune system.

Thirdly, the intake of inflammatory foods needs to be reduced. These include processed foods or those containing sugar. Processed foods – such as maida, readymade packaged noodles, pasta, etc.– are devoid of nutrients.Although pleasant to the taste buds, these areinflammatory. Sugar is another major cause of inflammation in the body and is best avoided or minimized, especially during coronavirus times when robust immunity is indispensable.

All the above are markers of ample immunity. By following these principles, women can enjoy improved levels of energy and even sleep better. A night of quality sleep can enhance immunity by stimulating the release of cytokines (proteins) and activating the T cells, which fight against infection and destroy the virus or pathogen-infected cells.

Finally, one must not forget that having a strong immune system can be the best defence in avoiding any infection, more so because a vaccine against the coronavirus is still not available in the market. It is highly recommended that everyone, including women, pay maximum attention to their health by boosting immunity.In the case of mothers, this is the least they can do for themselves – and their children.

(Author is a Clinical Nutritionist, Lactation Consultant and Diabetes Educator in Chennai)