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Much like a hundred years ago when Spanish Flu killed millions, questionable medicinal concoctions and folk remedies have surfaced across the world, claiming to boost the immune system.
Social media is super quick to spread nutritional advice, home remedies, and bizarre ideas. Some are straightforward like seeking out foods rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, many pseudoscientists are peddling products like probiotics, cayenne pepper, and green tea as ways to protect us from the virus, which they cannot.
Pills, superfoods, and other wellness habits do not boost our immunity as the 'symptoms' which we get when infected are in fact measures taken by our immune system to respond to the foreign pathogen.
Many allergies that people have are a misguided response from the immune system that treat harmless foreign bodies as harmful pathogens.
While over-the-counter medicines provide us with a so-called ‘relief’ by suppressing our fever, runny nose and other ‘symptoms’, these are in fact necessary for the body to get well. The symptoms we want to be stopped are not our enemy:
Common knowledge tells us that Vitamin C boosts our system's ability to fight the common cold, but extensive studies debunked this as well.
Vitamins aren’t really beneficial for our bodies unless we are deficient in them. Only Vitamin D is beneficial to be taken as a supplement form if we are not able to get it from the sun due to some reason.
Basic lifestyle adjustments to suit the ongoing pandemic: Social distancing, covering your face with a mask, and staying at home at all times, will work.
The time-tested approaches to improving our well being, like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, not taking stress and eating a balanced diet will also work.
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Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling had some studies published which were claiming that large doses of Vitamin C can cure illnesses like cancer and heart disease, along with the flu, but so far the claims have been largely inaccurate, though a few studies reported a shorter duration of the illness in some people.
Vitamin C activates key enzymes in our bodies and acts as an antioxidant. It protects the organs (like lungs) from pathogens. This Vitamin is crucial for the body to launch an effective immune response. All the more reason to consume citrus fruits, and vegetables like the Indian Gooseberry.
Supplements don’t work as effectively and extremely large doses have side effects like nausea, diarrhea and stomach ache.
The immune system does an outstanding job most of the time. To provide such excellent protection against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, our immune system must continuously learn.
Innate immunity cells quickly respond to invaders and can deal with over 90% of infections.
These cells recognize invaders by looking for broadly shared patterns, such as common molecules on the surface of most bacteria.
When the innate response fails to deal with an invasion, the adaptive immunity takes over. The adaptive cell looks for a specific pattern. It could be a particular protein on the surface of a virus or bacteria.
There are millions of adaptive immune cells, each to recognize a different pattern. When they recognize an invader, they multiply to form an army to kill it. This process can take a week when a new invader infects us. After the invader is removed, the adaptive cells that recognized it are kept as specialized memory cells.
Looking at individual studies won't determine if vitamin supplementation is good for you. They're scientifically dense and the conflicts of interest can be very hard to spot.