The past one year has been extremely difficult for people. While the pandemic brought much-needed focus on health and hygiene, it also created a lot of confusion among people about what is good for health and what is not. A steep rise in demand for immunity-boosting supplements and alternate medicines, which apparently strengthened the immune system, was seen.From vitamin C and zinc to protein supplements, most companies touted their version of a cure as best to protect people. WhatsApp group chats, social media platforms and family discussions were flooded with home remedies, recipes and Kadhas to boost immunity! The most googled health topic in 2020 was "how to increase immunity", a clear indication of people wanting to adopt any and everything that would give them protection from Covid-19!With the growing number of cases, the number of variants, and double mutations being found, it is certain that no supplements and kadhas can protect us from the virus. We have to understand that our immune system is very finely tuned.Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan and Mulund, says: "There is a balance between an immune system that is effective at limiting the ability of bacteria, viruses, and parasites to cause infection and a hyperactive immune system that can cause such problems as allergies, diabetes, and other types of auto-inflammatory and auto-immune disorders."
Can home remedies really harm us?
The answers lies in the fact that there is no proper evidence that says a particular remedy can be adopted in one way or the other. "While there will be some science attached to it, the scientific value is never measured. Also, nobody knows which remedy may suit one person or the other. Therefore, the most dangerous aspect of a home remedy is that it is undertaken without expert monitoring, and without knowing the right dosage/ frequency, as it is never prescribed by a doctor!", says the doctor.
Sabnis shares some remedies that adopted fervently can do more harm than good:
Drinking kadha's: Common ingredients used to make kadha include black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, giloy, ashwagandha, cardamom, and ginger. While these are good stimulants during winters, these items create immense heat in the body. Excessive consumption of these can be harmful and cause problems like nose bleed, persistent acidity, lead to mouth ulcers and black stools. While making kadhas, one has to be extremely careful about the quantity of herbs and spices that are being used to make it, these can cause long-term effects too!
Excessive intake of zinc and Vitamin D & C supplements: Zinc was commonly consumed in the past year. There is some evidence that zinc can help curb the virus, but again, we do not have enough evidence to verify the quantity of supplement consumption. High levels of zinc, can lead to a depressed, rather than a strengthened immune system. FDA has also warned consumers that zinc nasal sprays can lead to loss of smell! Vitamin-D toxicity is developed when there is excess intake! High amount of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia) can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination.
Overconsumption of Ayurvedic health supplements: While these are powerful herbal remedies used to bolster immunity and enhance longevity of a person; these cannot be the only shield against Covid-19. Also, they cannot be consumed disproportionately. These time-tested supplements should be taken as prescribed; overuse may cause persistent digestive issues and erratic bowel movement.
Camphor use: Camphor when used the right way and in the right quantity, that is small quantities during steam inhalation or as an ointment, it is helpful. But we witnessed misuse of camphor in the past year; here are its hazards -- oral consumption of camphor can cause breathing issues, seizures, and even death. Children, pregnant women and breastfeeding moms should not use camphor at all!
Blind consumption of Arsenicum Album: WhatsApp university pushed the consumption of Arsenicum Album to prevent Covid-19, and people blindly began self-dosaging. However, no studies were found that researched the effect of Arsenicum Album for coronavirus in humans or animals. Importantly, no studies were found that linked the efficacy of any homoeopathy drug in coronavirus infections!
Untested immunity-boosting powders: Most immunity-boosting powders available in the market may have steroids. Excessive steroids intake can weaken your immune system, leading to more sickness and an increased risk of serious health problems!
Steam inhalation: While steam inhalation is said to be an age-old home remedy for the common cold, it can't help in fighting a virus-like Covid-19. Moreover, steam can cause swelling of the eyes, redness of the eye, dry eye, continuous watering of the eye, etc. It can also affect the skin, and may even burn it when overexposed to steam. It also causes skin on the face and neck to become dry, leading to fungal or bacterial skin infections.
Saltwater gargling: Most experts recommend saltwater gargles twice a day for people having sore throat but too much salt water can also have health risks, such as calcium deficiency and high blood pressure. Also, over-gargling with hot water can cause mouth ulcers, and repeated drinking of hot water can cause stomach ulcers.
Bathing with disinfectants: As soon as the pandemic hit us, people began to wash food with bleach, applied household cleaning or disinfectant products to bare skin, and intentionally inhaled or ingested the cleaners. Some even started bathing with disinfectants. There is enough evidence that states that inappropriate use of disinfectants can cause poisoning!
He suggests what you can do to build natural immunity:
*Eat a healthy diet with fruits, nuts, and vegetables
*Avoid processed foods
*Drink eight glasses of water a day
*Include physical activities to your regular regime
*Get 8-10 hours of good sleep
*Have a stress-free home environment
*Try to have a good amount of exposure to sunlight every day
*Stay hygienic and wash your hands