Of viruses and keeping warm
How does a new virus develop? In general, there is no way to predict when or where a new disease-causing virus will develop and it cannot also be predicted if a new virus is harmful until it causes illness, especially epidemics or pandemics. Many different factors contribute to the emergence of a new virus. Changes or mutation in the virus itself can occur when it evolves to adapt to a new host or environment. Changes in nature and human activities also contribute.
A virus consists of very small proteins or genetic materials called nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) which in turn are made of smaller particles called nucleotides. Changes in these genetic materials can lead to the production of a new virus which can adapt to a new environment or new host, such as from bat to human or swine. Viruses can also exchange genetic materials with each other to adjust and survive in new hosts. In other words, viruses observe a fundamental law of nature – they undergo changes and evolve to survive.
Keeping yourself warm can help you avoid or fight viral infections.
Studies by renowned immunologist of Yale University, Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, and her group show that warmer body temperature enhances the production of body proteins called interferons. These help our immune system destroy a virus and not allow it to reproduce inside our body. The production of an enzyme (called RNA seL) that destroys viral genetic material is also enhanced by warmer body temperatures.
Sleep and viral infection
Our immune system is comprised of different cells. One group is called T-cells which destroy viruses and virus-infected cells in the body. Adequate sleep improves the virus-killing action of T-cells. To carry out their killing action on viruses, T-cells use integrins to move in and out of lymph nodes in the body and to move from one body tissue to another.
A study by Dr. Stoyan Dimitrov of the University of Tubingen showed that stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline and pro-inflammatory molecules prostaglandins inhibit the stickiness of integrins. Lower levels of these hormones and prostaglandins during rest and sleep enhance the stickiness of integrins and in turn enhance T-cell functions.
Balanced diet and adequate nutrition
Malnutrition is associated with impairment of the immune system. It has been shown that inadequate diet causes less production of antibodies which we need to fight off infection. Even mild deficiency of micronutrients like zinc; selenium; iron; copper; vitamins A, C, E, and B-6; and folic acid can impact on our immune system, in the same way that overnutrition and obesity can.
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