It's a beautiful Indian spring morning, the best time to be in northern Himalayan foothills in 'city beautiful' Chandigarh. I wake up to a bright sunny day and wish to take a stroll on my rooftop with my favourite beverage, a steaming hot cup of strong Darjeeling tea. The sunrays are beaming from Far East sky through the delightful and fresh tree leaves. The chirping birds and squeaking squirrels have already set the mood for a perfect morning and its rituals. As I lean down to have a glance at my garden bloom, it seems like a yet another perfect day to get rejuvenated and get started for my work as a Dermatologist.
But deep down my heart, I knew this is not the same spring time I look upto every year, with the terrible fear named Corona or Covid 19, the scenario in outside material world has changed drastically. The Man, the most arrogant and powerful animal in this universe has been crippled and brought down to knees by nature's fury and that too by a miniscule element, a mere virus.....no cure, no respite and no mercy! It seems as if the pre-existing widespread infestation of man by fungi since last one decade was not enough; the nature has generated its new weapon in the form of corona virus to bring down man's arrogance and his ways of ill-treating and attempt to rule the nature. It could be a zoonosis or a biological warfare or a biological warfare gone wrong and further propagated by nature's fury to teach lessons, no one really knows; but what everyone is finally realizing is that we are mere spectators without any power and there is no hope as of now against this serious pandemic.
China and Italy being the worst hit countries, and so called the tiny virus is heading unstoppable in the whole Europe. French government is proactive and has already declared a war like situation and imposed curfew with army deployed everywhere to ensure the home lockdown of every living being. The digital trackers have been strapped to everyone's wrist to ensure safe home lockdown and anyone refuting the orders will be sent to judicial custody for good. But is it sufficient to contain the worst pandemic we are facing in our lifetime!
The most developed nations are already crippled beyond measure and repair; there is a complete shutdown of economy which has taken a brunt of good trillion dollars. It seems like the whole world has suddenly come to a standstill with a jolt, after running incessantly for ages together. And the Mother Nature is recovering and recuperating from the insults inflicted upon her. She is also dictating mankind to slowdown, relax, introspect in humility and wait for its fate as it decides the survival of the fittest in times to come as was the rule since eternity.
We in India are fortunately still in stage 2 of disease where virus is still imported and locally spreading. The next stages in waiting are community spread and epidemic spread when infectious cases multiply exponentially. This is the time when health system collapses due flooding of cases and limited resources. The Indian government is trying to contain the infection by sealing the international boundaries and tracing the contacts and imposing quarantine; holding webinar with SAARC nations to chalk out the strategy to fight with the menace.
Next 3-4 weeks will be really critical in deciding the fate of this densely populated developing nation. We, as citizens of a responsible nation need to do our bit. In order to minimize social contact, only the hospitals and grocery stores are kept open and rest all public places are shutdown, including education institutes, gyms, cinema halls, pubs, restaurants, swimming pools etc. Now we need to maintain social distancing by minimizing the gatherings, avoiding crowded places and maintaining atleast one metre distance from any other person. Frequent hand wash and respiratory etiquettes need to be reinforced all the time. These will help in warding off the virus from entering our body but what if it gets a way and invades our systems. Is there a way in reducing its damage? Is there a way the virus can be stopped taking control of our body and crippling it all together; reducing it to ashes?
Probably and unfortunately yes, as is true for most of the diseases, if we cannot avoid getting infected! But atleast we can fight the virus with good immunity. It is a well known fact that our immunity or self defence system gets boosted with right nutrition. Besides being a Dermatologist, I am a passionate nutritionist and I have this habit of taking detailed dietary history of every patient entering into my clinic and then correlating the illness with clinical picture and laboratory tests and detected deficiencies. Based on my personal experience and published study, I am sharing here my experience.
A diet rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals coming from pulses, cereals, fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, replenishes the stores of body and aids in fighting with germs. While on the contrary, a food rich in carbohydrates, saturated fats and preservative compromises immunity by following more insulinogenic and inflammatory pathways. Latter also shuts down desired autophagy which is the key mechanism in fighting with foreign germs. The latest fad of intermittent fasting helps in stimulating autophagy when observed for a short period like one to two months; but when this is prolonged beyond that period, it leads to excessive depletion of body's stores. As all living cells need nutrition for survival, the prolonged starvation in a state of deficiency pushes the body into a self eating stage to derive immediate nutrition. This self eating, if not curbed well in time, leads to lowered immunity making body more susceptible to various bacterial, fungal and viral infections and also to various autoimmune disorders like alopecia areata, lichen planus, vitiligo to name a few. No doubt, we are seeing various resistant bacterial, fungal and viral infections and there is all time surge of autoimmune disorders further surmounted by stressful lifestyle!
Now in the current scenario, it is really important to be in a state of balanced nutrition supported by early morning breakfast. Latter is advisable to avoid prolonged overnight starvations in most vital early morning time. All body hormones are secreted and active with sunrise and body needs maximum nutrition to combat crisis of hormone surge. One should correct all underlying deficiencies pertaining to iron stores, vitamin D, and Vitamin B12 levels, zinc and other micronutrients as these micronutrients act as catalyst and co-enzymes in various desired reactions happening inside the body. At the same time, ensure consuming proteins as 1 gm per kg body weight on daily basis and with exercise further modified as per recommendations. Protein is a macronutrient and key ingredient in our antibodies 'the body's own soldiers' and generated against foreign antigens or infectious particle. This might help in stimulating desired autophagy and boosting immunity and combating infectious organisms. The individuals who are in extreme age groups like children below 5 years and above 70 years are at increased risk of getting Corona infection. More so the ones, who are already dealing with co-morbidities like diabetes, respiratory disorders, obesity, heart diseases etc. need to be more careful and need to keep their lab parameters well within range. This is the right time to discipline ourselves into a structured routine and detoxify from smoke and industrial pollution. Try to curb your anxiety and stress as far as you can and keep yourself calm and cheerful while you are still enjoying the warmth of sun and moderately exercising in order to boost your immunity further.
Remember nature's rule is SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST as documented by renowned scientist Charles Darwin. Keep your body's armamentarium well in place and follow the simple basic rule 'The one who fights the best, survives the best!'.
Dr. Suruchi Garg,
Director, Aura Skin Institute, Chandigarh