Summer weather lingers in India right through September, though abating a bit. It is extremely variable and switching from the extreme heat outside to cooled interiors as well as drinking cold water after coming in from the heat can mess up your bodily climate and make you susceptible to sore throats and colds. You need to take special care as summer advances towards better weather but is actually still very much there.
It can be SO easy to catch a cold in this weather. The familiar sore, pus-coated throat, drippy or stuffy nose, cough, fatigue and work loss are common features of the season.
But the good news is there are very effective measures you can take to help your body fight off a cold or other virus or infection.
We bring you 8 Summer Weather or Cold Battling Strategies:
Strategy #1: Vitamin C
Vitamin C boosts your immune system by helping to increase the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies. It also increases your level of interferon, which is the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses.
Good food sources include oranges, lemon juice, papaya, cauliflower, mustard greens and other summer fruits. Vitamin C is not toxic at any level. So you can safely take 1,000, 2,000 or even 20,000 mg or more per day and you will be doing yourself a world of good year round.
Strategy #2: Vitamin E
Although its not as popular as vitamin C, vitamin E plays an important role in the health of your immune system.
The main cells of your immune system are T cells and B cells. Helper T cells patrol your body, waiting to attack a dangerous invader. Regulatory T cells protect your healthy cells. And B cells create antibodies when you do get sick to help prevent that sickness from entering again. (Think: Chicken pox)
As you age, your T cells and B cells dont work as well as they used to, so your immune system is weaker. But vitamin E has been shown in studies to significantly increase T cell and B cell activity, thereby making your immune system stronger.
Good food sources are spinach, , turnip greens, mustard greens, almonds, sunflower seeds, asparagus and bell peppers and of course supplements. Choose the natural organic variety rather than the chemical one, even if it is slightly more expensive. One 400mg capsule a week is enough.
Strategy #3: Garlic
Garlic is a natural immune system booster and though we do slow down its intake during summer as it is perceived to be heat producing , yet its continued use in curries and cooking helps. It stimulates the production of infectionfighting white cells and enhances the efficiency of antibody production.
Theres a catch, though: To get the full benefits of garlic, you have to eat it raw (or very lightly cooked).
Typical garlic pills, tablets, oils and capsules, especially the odorless ones, usually have had the active enzymes in the garlic that provide the health benefits processed out, so go for the natural stuff. There are now at least 3 varieties available in the Indian markets : The fat and bulbous Chinese, the small indigenous Indian and the round individual pearly Kashmiri Garlic. Take any you can access and afford, though the indigenous local varieties are always the best.
Strategy #4: Curry patta/Fresh Mint/ Hara dhaniya or Cilantro.
The oils in this delicious herb has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and provide antioxidants. Mint helps clean up the system and stem sore throat and colds. All green herbs can easily be grown around the house and quite successfully in pots.
Strategy #5: Zinc
Similar to garlic, this powerhouse mineral increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells, and helps white cells release more antibodies.
Good sources of zinc include oats, yogurt, and spinach.
Note that although zinc supplements and lozenges are available, too much zinc can backfire on you and inhibit your immune system. Its best to aim for 15-25 milligrams a day which you can easily get from a healthy diet.
Strategy #6: Probiotics
Nothing enhances your immune system like a healthy dose of the same beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut and make up about 70-80% of that immune system!
The key is taking a probiotic supplement that has a wide variety of bacteria strains (more strains = more ways to enhance your health) AND ensuring that those bacteria are actually alive when you take them. (Many supplements have been on store shelves for months and its very likely that many or all of the bacteria have died.)
So the best option remains homemade fresh yogurt and we Indians know endless ways to make it tasty as well. Lassis and Chaas are the best but dont overdo the ice bit. Enhance the taste with variations like fresh ground mint, or curry leaves, or fresh roasted and ground Jeera or cumin with a pinch of salt, and some green chillies and ginger as well.
Strategy #7: Eating real foods
You can take all the immune-enhancing supplements in the world, but if your diet is poor, youll lose the battle anyway:
1- A poor diet consisting of processed packaged foods creates acid waste in your body, which makes it next to impossible for you to absorb nutrients you need. So any supplements you do take can pass right through you.
2- It nourishes the harmful bacteria in your gut, while starving the helpful ones. This can make your immune system function practically non-existent.
3- It also encourages an acidic pH. When your body is in a state of acidity, it cant effectively heal itself or fight illnesses.
An easy way to maintain pH is to start your day with a plain glass of water with juice of one lemon squeezed into it. Avoid adding salt or honey etc. Drink lots of water and take care when going out in extreme heat.
This strategy could be about using sunscreen but what we recommend is get your natural dose of vitamin D with early morning exposure to sun rays, thus allowing your body to make its own vitamin D. For the rest of the day take an umbrella along, use floppy hats to avoid direct sun. Always carry a water bottle, wear light coloured pure cotton clothes. Allow your body to sweat. Its a healthy way of getting rid of toxins. Avoid going out in the fierce heat of noon time.Wear sun glasses. You need slightly more salt and loads of water in the summer. Avoid drinking unsafe water or eating cut fruits and salads on the road-side.