The much-awaited rainy season is here. It reminds us of staying at home, sipping hot coffee, enjoying pakodas and some really lazy days. This monsoon not only relieves us from scorching heat but also brings along a set of problems and diseases that can result in serious complications if not paid attention.
Monsoon is the time when the humidity levels are high and as a result, the digestive capability goes down. Monsoons reduce the immunity of our bodies and make one susceptible to many diseases which are commonly associated with this season. It is time for us to keep our body resistant against diseases by boosting our immunity and taking precautions against these diseases.
The rainy season is notorious for bringing with it a host of viral, fungal and food-borne illnesses that can range from the simple cold, cough and fever to stomach pain, diarrhea, food poisoning and gastroenteritis.
This illness often produces symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. The symptoms are often caused by various sources like the unhygienic food, contaminated water, unhygienic surfaces, location or the food handler itself.
This usually makes it hard to tell that illness is caused by food or from any other sources. Symptoms can take between a few hours to a few days to develop and may last for a few days, depending on the type of pathogen. Many people have mild symptoms and recover within a few days. However, if symptoms persist for more than three days or are very severe, one should seek medical advice at the earliest as they are mild mostly but in but in rare cases, foodborne illness can result in long term health problems and even death.
One of the most common sources of infection during rainy season is water: Do not consume tap water directly. One should always drink water after boiling, filtering or by using commercially-available reverse osmosis purifiers. One should store water in copper or silver vessels as it is not just a fashion statement. Doing so kills all germs and sterilizes the water.
Avoid eating uncooked food during this season: If one really wants to have salads, then make the salads when one is ready to eat them. Try and have steamed salad. Remember fruits and vegetables cut up and left to stand, lose vitamins and catch pathogens. One can also eat tandoori and grilled foods.
Be hygienic: This means washing your hands and doing it frequently. A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. It's also important to keep the kitchen sink, drain, and counter tops clean and disinfected before any food preparation. Make sure your cutting boards and utensils are cleaned by warm, soapy water. Change dish towels every alternate day.
Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime. Decrease the consumption of leafy vegetables during the rainy season but, if keen to eat then wash it with warm water, blanch it well and then use. Rewash apples, pears, or oranges before eating even if you washed them prior to placing them in the fruit bowl because bacteria can grow well on the cut surface of fruits or vegetables.
Enhance the intake of immune – boosting nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, selenium: One can have fruits Amla, guava and oranges which are loaded with vitamin C. Yellow and orange bell peppers, tangerines, mangoes, papayas and apricots, green leaves like spinach, patra and ragi flour are excellent source of iron and magnesium. One can add sprouts, nuts and oilseeds like walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds to take care of selenium, zinc and magnesium.
One can consume dairy fats like ghee, butter and cream as they are easy to digest: It is very important for the people recovering from diarrhea and jaundice to include these foods in the diet as their appetite drops but their body needs calorie-dense foods to recover faster. Consume a lot of bitter vegetables like karela (bitter gourd) and herbs like neem, tulsi (basil), methi (fenugreek) seeds, haldi (turmeric) as they prevents infection.
Heavy oils like mustard, ground nut and sesame should be avoided during the monsoons: This in addition to increasing the concentration of pitta also makes the body vulnerable to infections. Oils which can be used for cooking during the rainy season are dry oils like corn or light oils like olive oil and rice bran oil.
Add pepper, garlic, ginger, jeera powder, asafoetida (hing), turmeric and coriander in the daily diet as they increase digestion and immunity.
Include herbal teas: Green tea is one of the delicious ways to include antioxidants in any diet. Having two cups of green tea can do wonders to the immune system and digestive. Its polyphenols may be 100 times more effective than vitamin C and 25 times more effective than Vitamin E. In fact one can also include lemon (vitamin C-rich) and ginger tea (improves digestion) in one's diet for their varied health benefits.
Avoid eating roadside foods in the rainy season: Avoid eating chaat, fried items such as pakoras, pre-cut fruits and juices from roadside vendors. When eating out, choose restaurants that conform to basic standards of quality and hygiene, in order to avoid contracting serious infections. In fact, it's always better to avoid dairy-based eatables like raita and cottage cheese (paneer) while eating out in the monsoon.