Go for gut-friendly goodies
Naini Setalvad recommends the use of probiotic food to aid our immune system in fighting pathogens
Did you know that close to 100 trillion bacteria colonise your body, with the largest number found in your intestine? I don’t want you to be alarmed as these bacteria are actually harmless and aid in body functions such as digestion. They are called ‘gut flora’ and are present in the digestive system. Let me reassure you that they are body-friendly micro-organisms which suppress the growth of harmful bacteria, reduce toxins (poisonous substances), and thus keep our digestive system healthy. The gut flora also plays an important role in boosting immunity, which is nothing but our body’s ability to fight diseases. So, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, when it is of utmost importance to keep our immunity up, we need to include foods such as probiotics that will aid in doing so.
Two types of immunities
Immunity is of two types: Innate immunity, which we are born with, and acquired immunity, which is developed through vaccinations. It is the innate immunity that decides how strong we are and how well we can fight infections. Natural killer cells (NK cells) are part of the innate immune system and are responsible for keeping infections at bay. Maintaining a high activity of NK cells will ensure more effective immunity, preventing illness, and thereby reducing the need for medicines and antibiotics. NK cells are often negatively influenced by stress, ageing, poor nutrition, and pollution.
I want you to realise how important it is for probiotics to be part of our lives to improve immunity and mood, and prevent, retard, and reverse diseases. When we fall sick, we take antibiotics to treat diseases. Probiotic foods are consumed to maintain health and prevent diseases.
Thus, I can safely tell you that probiotics are beneficial bacteria that aid the body in improving overall health and maintaining it. They are the friendly bacteria that reach the intestine alive in large numbers. To get the health benefit, they have to be consumed regularly. Human beings absorb nutrients through their intestine. Our gut is our natural defence force exposed not only to food but also to external foes like harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It helps in abortion, assimilation, and digestion of nutrients. It aids the production of important vitamins such as Vitamin B and K.
The rich probiotic tradition of India
In India, it is quite important to consume probiotics regularly, as, besides COVID-19, we have many waterborne diseases like malaria, dengue, typhoid, and gastroenteritis. I want you to fret not, as luckily, India’s tradition of consuming fermented foods goes back to the ages of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Foods fermented by lactic acid bacteria such as curd, buttermilk, pickles, idli, dosa, bhatura, bananas, onions, oats, and honey help support probiotic growth in our body. Please have your curd at room temperature since having it chilled may affect your throat.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Japan and learn about their diet culture, which includes probiotic foods in limited quantities. In 1921, a Japanese scientist, Dr Minoru Shirota, worked towards improving the health of people in Japan who were suffering from various diseases. He discovered the Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota and added it to Japanese diet via products like Yakult. It was important to do so as the Japanese did not eat many fermented foods as we Indians do on a regular basis. Thus, this addition aided in increasing NK cells which defend our body by killing viruses, harmful bacteria, and infections that attack us.
Common sense suggests that we stay away from outside foods, cold food, drink boiled water throughout the day, and avoid raw foods right now. I hope now you know that the best preventive medicine is our body’s gut flora as it protects us and saves us from dreaded diseases. To this, add laughter, regular exercise, maintain body temperature, eat a balanced diet, get seven to eight hours of sleep, and you have a stronger immune system.
RECIPE FOR ONION RAITA
200 ml curd at room temperature
1 medium-size onion
1-2 green chilli
2 tsp roasted cumin powder
rock salt, to taste
• Chop the onion and green chilli finely.
• Take the curd in a bowl and add the chopped onions and chilli to this.
• Mix well.
• Add roasted cumin powder and rock salt to taste.
• Serve fresh along with meals.
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