Almost a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill and immunity became a buzzword, holistic-lifestyle expert, Luke Coutinho, received immunity related queries from all corners. The questions ranged from what immunity is to its role in health and ways to strengthen it. But as the number of cases increased; the questions grew manifold. This prompted Coutinho, who believes immunity is the foundation of health and wellness, to put together a book on boosting immunity.
When Bollywood actor, wellness influencer and entrepreneur, Shilpa Shetty Kundra, learnt about Coutinho’s book, she came on board almost instantly. And then, on July 1, 2020, with the help of BUUKS publication, together, they released The Magic Immunity Pill: Lifestyle, a free e-book that features simple and achievable diet and lifestyle suggestions that is likely to resonate with enthusiasts from across all age groups.
The handy guide comes with yoga exercises, emotional wellness tips, immunity-boosting recipes and a section on sleep patterns, making it a rather relevant read during this team.
We spoke to Coutinho to understand better the genesis of the book and his collaboration with Kundra and came away with a lot of clarity on questions around nutrition, emotional health and sleep.
1. How did your collaboration with Shilpa Shetty transpire and what have been her biggest contributions?
Shilpa’s expertise lies in yoga. She has been an inspiration for many of us through her disciplined fitness regime and lifestyle. There is an entire section in the book, where she shares her knowledge on yogasanas and pranayamas for a variety of conditions, such as acidity, constipation, health, and immunity of senior citizens.
Kundra follows a Circadian lifestyle, which means she has a timetable for the entire day and she explains all about it in the book. Here's a glimpse of her schedule:
- FAST: 12/14 hours
- EAT: Big fibre-rich breakfast
- WORK: Yoga, breathing
- EAT: Bigger protein-enriched lunch with carbs plus prebiotic, probiotic and vitamin supplements, plus good fat (ghee)
- To EAT and DIGEST (the food): WORKOUT
- TO FEED TIRED MUSCLES and MIND: Protein + complex carbs (energy)
- TO REGULATE MY SLEEP: Light dinner by 7.30 pm to 8pm, 2.5–3 hours before I go to bed
- READYING MY BODY TO REPAIR: Sleep for 7–8 HOURS
*This is an 8 am to 8 pm cycle*
2. Your approach to prevention and healing revolves around the four pillars of good health. What are they?
The four pillars of lifestyle are – balanced nutrition, quality sleep, emotional detox and adequate exercise. To achieve our goals, we need to make an effort to build on these verticals every day. For example, we can be eating all the superfoods and be on the best of food plan, but if we aren’t moving enough, we disable our body’s ability to transport nutrients within our body. I have many meditation and vipasana teachers as clients. When I reflect on their health issues, I realise that while they have focused on the emotional and spiritual self, they have simultaneously neglected their physical health by sitting for hours together. So, the idea behind the four pillars stems from the need to look at wellness holistically.
3. Do you find the current narrative around nutrition to be flawed?
We have complicated nutrition by focusing on things like, superfoods, supplements and fad diets. It’s actually quite simple. People often argue that times have changed, but the basic requirements of our body have not. So the important thing is to continue eating what you ate while growing up, and having a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lentils, legumes, pulses and good fats like ghee, coconut oil and cold-pressed peanut oil. Unless, you have a specific health condition.
4. How is our emotional and physical health interlinked?
Today, every health professional will emphasise on the importance of managing stress. That’s because the two are heavily linked. When we experience stress, our physiology changes so as to cope with the stressor. It’s like a self-defense mechanism. Our heart rate goes up, blood sugar levels and blood pressure rises, sex hormone production slows down, metabolism drops, digestion slows down and we may experience high cholesterol and inflammation. Now, this is not an issue if the the stressor is short-lived. For instance, in the case of an exam or a mishap at work. But unfortunately, our lifestyles today are perennially one stressful. So, our bodies are going through a lot. This leads to diseases like, diabetes, PCOD, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, auto-immunity, and even cancer.
Holding on to stress for prolonged periods of time also leads to chronic inflammation and low immunity. Hence, when we are stressed, we tend to fall sick faster. And an immune system that’s weak and running low, can predispose us to any disease.
5. Are there any specific exercises that strengthen immunity?
Any movement or exercise that one enjoys doing is going to boost immunity ultimately. Walks, yoga, body-weight exercises like squats, push-ups, lunges, burpees, jumping jacks, dance, stair workouts, cycling, are all options one could explore.
Speaking of immunity-boosting exercises specifically, one could look at those that help stimulate the lymphatic system - rebounding exercise, jumping, trampoline and skipping. Yogasanas like ushtrasana, bhujangasana, dhanurasana also help boost immunity and stimulate the thymus gland. Apart from these, strengthening your respiratory system through pranayamas (breathing exercises in yoga) like anulom vilom, kapalbharti, bhramari and ujjayi is important.
6. Tell us how important is it to have healthy concoctions in the morning.
Many are confused as to what their morning ritual should comprise-lemon water, coconut oil, wheatgrass, moringa or, ghee and turmeric? Firstly, you don’t have to follow it all. Do what suits you and support your health. If you are constipated, you may want to try a glass of lukewarm water with lemon and jaggery or a few drops of ghee. If you have a thyroid condition, then take a tablespoon of cold-pressed coconut oil. Wheatgrass or moringa is great for those with anemia.
7. What's next on your plate?
Quite a bit. We are currently focusing on trainings, research, webinars and apps, considering digital is the way forward. Since I am not going to be seeing my patients for a while, we have moved our consultations online. We are also working on a few more books.
Tips for a healthy mind and body
1. Accept and let go
A lot of things that stress us out are really not in our control. So, we must learn to accept it and not let it consume us. It is easier said than done, but practicing it consciously helps a great deal.
2. Ground yourself and focus inward
We let a lot of outwardly things affect us, be it people’s opinions, pressures from the society or, comments on social media. The trick is to focus inwards, then nothing you hear or see can affect you. Religion and spiritual practice teaches us the same – to connect with ourselves through prayer, chanting and meditation.
3. Take Care of Your Gut
Certain neurotransmitters, which are responsible for making us feel good are made in the gut. Poor gut health can affect its production, making us feel low and sad.
Sleep patterns and immunity
Our body is like a machine and it needs maintenance. Sleep is the phase that takes care of the maintenance and clean-up. Even a single night of deprivation can suppress immunity to 60-70 per cent. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, begin with setting up a sleep routine, it will help you disconnect yourself from the day-time chaos. Follow these bedtime rituals to sleep well:
- Switch off all gadgets and screens in the evening to reduce artificial light exposure.
- Avoid heavy meals before you sleep or leave, at least a two-hour gap between this meal and sleep time.
- If you wish to have a warm beverage before bed, pick a herbal tea instead of a caffeinated drink.
- Do not exercise right before going to bed.
- Practice pranayama; anulom vilom or alternate breathing technique is great to calm your body.
- Stick to a particular sleep and wake up time daily. It will allow the melatonin hormones that control your natural sleep-wake cycle to work naturally.
You can also include sleep-inducing foods in your diet such as herbal tea with calming properties (chamomile, lavender or lemongrass), l-tryptophan foods (eggs, spinach, salmon, milk and nuts), magnesium-rich foods (nuts, seeds, leafy veggies) and a small amount of complex carbs.
And, lastly, work on self-discipline. We may have the best of sleeping aids, but without self-discipline, all of these are useless.