Stay Smart, Stay Immune
- 8 mins read
- Written by: Dr. Pramod Mane
Stay smart, stay healthy
Why do we fall ill, catch infections, or suffer from chronic diseases? While experts are tirelessly trying to figure out everything that happens in our brain and body, health and disease have remained a pertinent inquiry. Our body is a complex system. Different cells, tissues, organs, and systems work in close harmony to perform an array of functions.
Concept of health and wellness
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization, is ‘a state of complete physical, mental and, social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’1,2 You consider yourself healthy if you do not have any known disease and do not have to frequently visit hospitals and clinics. Whenever you hear the word ‘health care,’ you inherently connect it with medicine and your mind becomes occupied with disease, diagnosis, and treatments. Prevention of disease and health promotion has rarely been the agenda of health care.
As you aspire to achieve good health, ask yourself some bigger questions: –
- Do you ever pay attention to what you eat? Do you care to gather facts on the potential health benefits or hazards of your diet?
- Do you sleep without any difficulty or medications?
- Is physical exercise a vital part of your daily routine?
- Are you aware that your daily dose of stress determines your illnesses, healing, and recovery?
- How do you cope up with the side effects of medicines?
If any or all these questions left you dumbfounded, then the whole idea of health and well-being gets defeated.
Ideally, the foundation of our health lies on four pillars:
Whenever any of these four pillars is under attack or becomes weak, you need an external support to avert a collapse. This marks the entry of medical care in your life and it gradually becomes the fifth pillar of health.
Wellness, on the other hand focusses on your feelings about your body, mind, or spirit. Wellness and physical health are intertwined and cannot be discussed in isolation. The concept of wellness provides a conscious way of living for individuals and society to reach their fullest potential. You cannot buy wellness at any spa or a recreation center. The equation of health and wellness works in tandem with all the lifestyle factors to support overall healing of body and mind.
Conventional medicine and health care have saved millions of lives and will remain relevant. Holistic approach to health is not a modern concept but is derived from ancient traditions to achieve higher levels of wellness and prevent diseases.
Holistic health is an approach to life that motivates people to identify all the aspects of their existence: physical, mental, social, and spiritual. People need medicine, hospitals, doctors, and super specialists because they save lives. But they also need nutrition, balanced diet, emotional well-being, physical and mental exercise, and meditation to enable them to participate in their lifestyle choices and health decisions. When you consciously give importance to your food, actions, sleep, and behavior your emotional and spiritual health is improved. This increases your chances to prevent infections or heal chronic ailments.
Dimensions of holistic health and wellness
The dimensions of holistic health and wellness that contribute to quality of life are physical, social, mental, environmental, and spiritual.3
You should be able perform daily activities without any exertion, undue fatigue, or physical pain.
You maintain positive relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and community. You can efficiently balance work-life pressures and are satisfied in what you do. You contribute positively to your organizations and to the society.
It is the ability to overcome challenges that life offers to you with clear understanding of your strengths and limitations. Acknowledge and share your feelings (anger, fear, sadness, joy, or stress) with others in a productive manner. Welcome new ideas, learn new concepts, and engage in skill development.
You recognize your responsibility to preserve nature, and actively contribute to protect it. The healthy status of your environment directly improves the quality of your life.
It is that unending quest to find your purpose of existence and the meaning of life. Think beyond selfish motives to establish peace and harmony. Understand the importance of values, personal purpose, and a common purpose that binds humanity.
Healthy habits for a strong immune system
A healthy immune system is the only way that can help you sail through this overwhelming phase of pandemic. Immunity, your first and last line of defense depends on your choice of lifestyle. A stronger immune system offers you better chances of prevention and recovery from a disease or an infection
You cannot pour from an empty cup. The model of healthy immune system depends on your diet, physical activity level, emotional health, and quality of sleep.
Attaining holistic health
Here are the five ways to embrace the concept of holistic health and wellness with reference to positive lifestyle:
You are what you eat
Acknowledge the association of food with culture, climate, crop cycle, and cuisine. Local, seasonal, or traditional, food is a blessing for everyone. Malnutrition does not target the poor and the rural people. A simple deficiency in vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, B12, or iron is regarded as malnutrition. Today, even the elite and urban population is highly undernourished. A cookie or a packet of chips that you eat sometimes is not the reason why you fall sick. The reasons are many: consuming more than your requirement; high reliance on processed food, ignorance about health hazards of added sugar, disregard towards ancient or traditional food like whole grains; using food to cope with emotions; self-imposed starvation and following fad diets. Processed or junk food is rich in added sugar, lacks nutrition, makes you hungrier and addicted, and takes you closer to diabetes, cancer, and heart disorders.
Make the act of cooking and eating uncomplicated. Eat a diet high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. When food from farms reaches your kitchen, it should be free of hashtags, trends, and influencers because the narrative keeps changing.
Physical exercise regardless of age, gender, or physical capabilities, benefits your immune system and overall health. When you engage in physical activity, you keep your weight and calories in control and keep chronic diseases at bay. Sports, yoga, dance, or gym, physical exercise in any form instils confidence, strength, and competence. It rejuvenates your body and mind, improves appetite and sleep, and delays ageing.
Yoga is an approach to live life. Yoga encompasses physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. Yoga is not about complex poses to stretch and twist into a pretzel to attain maximum benefit. The effects of yoga are deep and far-reaching. The correct union of poses, breathing, and meditation induces structural and chemical changes in your brain. This affects the way you process your emotions, stress, and anxiety, and assists you to live a contented, healthier life.
Make sleep a priority
The quality of your sleep deserves same level of attention that you give to your diet and physical exercise. A highly underrated pillar of a healthy immune system, sleep energizes you for another day and declutters your mind4. During this ongoing pandemic and work-from-home set up, some of us are bound to adhere to different time zones or work graveyard shifts. Regularly skipping sleep negatively impacts your immune system and your ability to fight infections declines, alters your appetite, causes weight gain, and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
Regular physical exercise and yoga improves sleep. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, and try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Take a power nap just before resuming your night shift. Don’t stock up your sleep for the weekend when you do your night shifts. Stick to your exercise, diet, and sleeping schedule even on holidays. Sleep is not a luxury, but a priority. It restores and empowers your physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Other lifestyle factors
Smoking, alcohol intake, drug abuse, and stress are determinants of an unhealthy life and outweighs other health determinants5. Cigarettes deplete vitamins and minerals from your body while you smoke it, besides inserting toxic chemicals and free radicals in your body. Stress impacts your overall health, social life, and quality of life6. Actively engaging in hobbies, listening to music, and taking regular breaks from routine life are some easy actionable ways to destress. Alcohol is not a healthy style to destress and enjoy, as alcohol consumption negatively impacts your blood pressure and heart functions.
You are born with the power of mindfulness. All it requires is to stop, take a step back, and practice it. How hard it is to slow down and pay attention to your surroundings? When you experience your environment with all of your senses-touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste, you achieve the state of consciousness or awareness. This is mindfulness. Live in the moment. Find joy in simple pleasures. Accept yourself and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. Avoid negative or destructive thoughts. When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help. Mindfulness will teach you to not let your anxiety about your past or future affect you.
Aim to maintain a balance in each of the spheres of holistic health: physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. Eat healthy. Exercise adequately. Sleep well. Detoxify your body and mind. Practice mindfulness.
- World Health Organization. Preamble to the constitution of the world health organization as adopted by the international health conference. Published 1946. Available from: http://www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf.
- Huber M, Knottnerus JA, Green L, et al. How should we define health? BMJ. 2011;343:d4163. doi:10.1136/bmj.d4163
- Mills IJ. A person-centred Approach to holistic Assessment. Prim Dent J. 2017;6(3):18-23. doi:10.1308/205016817821931006
- Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012;463(1):121-137. doi:10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
- Li Y, Pan A, Wang DD, et al. Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population. Circulation. 2018;138(4):345-355. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047
- Schneiderman N, Ironson G, Siegel SD. Stress and health: psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2005;1:607-628. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141