By Dr Anjali Mukerjee April 2008 For a four-way protection from pollution follow the simple food tips suggested by the expert and breathe easy It is said that you are as strong as your immune system. All of us start life with abundant energy. As life goes on, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, overwork, poor stress management, glandular decline and build up of toxins slow the body down. In order to kick-start the body once again, we take stimulants like coffee, cigarettes, sugar-based energy bars, chocolates, colas, etc. These stimulants actually worsen the problem. To add to it, we are all exposed to engine exhausts, environmental pollutants, and hundreds of toxic chemicals every day. This has a devastating effect on our health and the health of our children and grandchildren. Indeed, getting bombarded with toxins, along with a wrong lifestyle and poor nutrition actually has a cumulative effect on our genetic make-up. Long exposure to these toxins can cause respiratory problems like shortness of breath, bronchitis, asthma, wheezing, coughing, headaches, pneumonia and even lung cancer. The environmental toxins step up free radical (unstable molecules) production in the body by a process called oxidation and this causes serious damage to the cells of the body. Antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium are known to douse the harmful effect of these free radicals and are your surest protection against damage from environmental toxins, pollution, and smog. Vitamin E This is a potent antioxidant found in wheat germ, almonds, groundnuts, soya bean, leafy vegetable, all raw nuts and seeds, cold-pressed vegetable oils extracted from sunflower seeds, corn, wheat germ etc. It opposes oxidation and prevents aging. It is well known for its ability to enhance the immune system. It gets incorporated into the cell membranes, where it acts like a shield, taking the brunt of any attack on lipids and other components of the membrane. When we are exposed to smog and pollution, taking vitamin E supplements would help limit the amount of damage done to cells. Anywhere between 200IU to 400IU is sufficient to prevent the harmful effect of pollution. Those on anti-coagulant medication should ask their doctor before taking vitamin E supplements. Vitamin ABeta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the liver, is found in yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables. Apparently, it helps to protect our lungs from air pollution. Therefore, a glass of carrot juice or a bowl of watermelon or papaya would be an ideal way to start your day before stepping out into the polluted roads. It is recommended that you take beta-carotene in its natural form rather than supplements as food contains many other substances that may offer much more protection than just supplements. Vitamin CThis is the least stable as compared to other vitamins as it is very sensitive to oxygen. It is destroyed by exposure to heat, light, and air. It is a well-known antioxidant and helps stop free radical activity. Humans and apes are among the few animals who need to take dietary vitamin C as they cannot synthesize sufficient amounts to meet the body’s needs. Vitamin C is known as a ‘stress vitamin’ because it gets used up more rapidly with daily tension and frustrations. Its primary function is to maintain collagen, which is a protein necessary to prevent skin from sagging, and for the formation of ligaments and bones. It helps to maintain good lung functioning in both, the healthy people as well as those with asthma. It protects the lungs from damage due to smog exposure. Here again the dietary amounts available in food may not be adequate. As vitamin therapy to offset the effects of pollution, you need at least 1000 mg of vitamin C a day. However, if you are prone to kidney stones or have any other medical conditions, you may need to consult your physician for the dosage. SeleniumThis is an anti-pollution prescription that helps to activate the enzyme glutathione peroxidase in the body which in turn helps to keep the lung tissue elastic. It is naturally available in whole grains, vegetables like beetroot, peas, tomatoes, soya beans, fish and seeds like alfa-alfa, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. If you take sufficient quantities of these chances are that you are getting about 50-60 mg of selenium from natural sources. If not then take a supplemental dose not above 100 mg per day. The best way to combat pollution is of course to avoid it as much as possible. Walking, as a form of exercise in congested roads makes you breathe deeply and you end up drawing the pollutants deep into your lungs. Walk on a treadmill instead. You may even spot march at home whilst watching your favourite programme. You could even join a gym for an aerobic workout. As for your internal pollution protection, you can take vitamins A, C, E and selenium together in antioxidant supplement capsules available at most pharmacies, or in a natural form by eating lots of fruits, salad greens, raw vegetables and vegetable juices. Let’s stay healthy longer! Dr. Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre. You may direct your questions to email@example.com. For further information, visit www.health-total.com. Contact numbers: 2673 2883 / 5604 4001
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