By H.I Gandhi The awareness about our gut health would have never been so important these days. Coronavirus has not just taught us to be extra careful but has made us observe and take care of our bodies in a manner never before. And the information that is standing tall amongst the rest is strengthening […]
By H.I Gandhi
The awareness about our gut health would have never been so important these days. Coronavirus has not just taught us to be extra careful but has made us observe and take care of our bodies in a manner never before. And the information that is standing tall amongst the rest is strengthening of the body immunity which is directly connected with the health of our gut. Gut is a large part of the digestive system of the human body.
How does our body fight COVID-19 and/or such infections?
Generally infection-causing viruses enter from the respiratory passages of the body (mostly nasal airways) and lodge into the respiratory tract. The virus then binds to specific receptors present on the surface of epithelial cells and penetrates these cells. The replication thereafter leads to cell damage and eventual cell death. In the meantime, alarming signals reach out to alert the local immune system.
Research shows that almost 70% of our body’s immune cells reside in our gut. Our immune system co-evolved with our microbiota working together to keep us healthy and protected from pathogens. Armies of immune cells are dispatched from here to push back and initiate an antiviral response. The immune response results in the release of cytokines, chemokines & anti-bodies, which in many cases can defeat the virus and the patient recovers.
At times the immune system is dangerously on a high alert. It is observed mostly in cases of new or unknown viruses (like in the case of COVID19), overreaction gives a strong inflammatory response – one that goes beyond that is required to kill the virus. A storm of cytokines & chemokines on such a massive scale is released, that it causes widespread inflammation and tissue damage, which is observed in many patients with severe COVID 19 during this pandemic.
Gut Microbiome – Trillions of microorganisms that call our gut their home?
The gut is home to trillions of intricately balanced good and bad bacteria. A well-balanced gut microbiota means a balanced immune function. The microbiota contains bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa, all of which contribute to maintaining a balanced ecosystem and human health. These microbes collectively perform many beneficial functions, including educating the immune system. Scientists have revealed that if the balance is somehow disrupted it leads to diseases, a phenomenon called microbiome dysbiosis.
Ayurveda and Gut Health?
Among the various inputs that regulate our immunity, such as food, exercise, sleep, and mental health, phyto-medicines and poly-herbal combinations are effective ways to augment the process of strengthening and balancing our immunity. Based on the science of Ayurveda, several medicines and supplements made from scientifically validated standardized natural extracts of herbs offer much potential.
A well-balanced gut microbiome means balanced immune function. Ayurveda gave us the science of Rasayana and the immense gift of herbs such as Guduchi/Giloy, the polysaccharides of which, significantly helps enhance the count of good bacteria in the gut, thereby improving our body’s immunity and overall physiological functioning. The other organ that is primary in maintaining immunity, is the liver. It performs over 500 functions, including detoxification of the body and production of glutathione, a compound that maintains the body’s defense system.
Hence, nourishing the gut and liver with prebiotics (to increase the good bacteria), antioxidants and Rasayana formulas in our diet and by supplementation, could be our best way to improve immunity in the short term. Consumption of Vitamins A, C, D, and Zinc preferably from natural sources should be included in your daily diet
Plant based prebiotics are hugely preferred as they contain Arabinogalactan, a polysaccharide from the stem of the Giloy / Guduchi plant (Tinospora cordifolia) that acts as food for good bacteria in the gut, thereby promoting a healthy microbiome in the gut.
Some of the other widely accepted herbs and ingredients for building immunity include Amla and Ashwagandha. There are others that assist in the healing process, enhance wellbeing, reduce stress levels and remove dangerous cancerous cells among other benefits.
After consulting their doctors, they should consider adding natural herbs that act as bronchodilators or anti-inflammatory lung detoxifiers.
In Ayurveda, the immunity boosters are unending. Combine this with a daily practice of yoga, pranayama, and meditation to achieve good health.
Strong immunity necessary, so is mental health
We all know that a strong immunity is necessary to fight any kind of foreign body or pathogen. The enforced lockdown should not become an excuse for a sedentary lifestyle. Indoor workouts, practicing yoga and daily pranayam are not only ways to help keep you agile and active, but also play an important role in balancing immunity. Eating well cooked food, avoiding spitting in public and practicing social distancing need to be vigilantly observed.
While our physical health is important, so is our mental health. Sleeping adequately, practicing meditation and relaxing exercises would help in keeping a balanced and positive mind-set.
A scientifically validated treatment or vaccine for COVID19 is still some time away. But tapping into the potential of the gut microbiome is another avenue that we can pursue to identify potential safe and affordable preventive treatment. This actually has been tried before especially in the context of viral respiratory diseases where it was found that probiotics & prebiotics can affect the immune response to the flu-vaccine and may improve outcomes in flu-like illnesses.
So until effective treatments are underway mind your gut health! Age old wisdom ‘prevention is better than cure’ is truer than ever.
The columnist is Chairman, Millennium Herbal Care. Views expressed are the author’s own.