Building Immunity with Ayurveda
Do you get concerned about the idea of cold, wet, damp & cloudy weather?
Do your thoughts turn to the inevitable illnesses that winter brings: chest infection, runny nose, cough, hay fever, migraines and stiff joints? While there may be many reasons for these concerns, one very simple solution may be that you are living out of sync with the natural cycles.
How Ayurveda Can Help
AYUR means Life, and VEDA means Knowledge. Therefore Ayurveda deals with how to live a healthy, balanced life. One of the keys to health in Ayurveda is living in tune with nature. The wellbeing of a person depends largely on the continuous adjustments and interactions with the external and internal factors of the environment.
Ayurveda emphasizes on the maintenance of good health through:
- A balanced daily routine (Dinacharya)
- Seasonal regime (Ritucharya)
- Wholesome diet
Ritucharya (Seasonal regime)
Ritucharya is the observance of diet and regimen according to the seasonal changes. RITU means Season, and CHARYA means moving or following. So by adapting these aspects to balance the season, we can flow through the year with ease and health.
According to Ayurveda the constitution or Dosha of the body and the seasons are intimately related. Our health is affected by the qualities of the climate we live in; our outer environment influences our inner world. For example, when the air is damp, cold and wet it increases these qualities in your body. Hence there is an increase in mucous, catarrh and colds in winter. There are various environmental factors like temperature, humidity, wind, rain, clouds and atmospheric pressure and sunlight etc. that affect our health.
By synchronising your daily routine and diet that is opposite to the qualities of the season, you are ensuring balance and homeostasis is maintained.
Researcher Frank Scheer from Harvard Medical School, says every cell of the body has an internal clock that regulates the body’s metabolism. According to Ayurveda, these internal clocks are linked to the rhythms of nature.
By connecting your cellular clocks with the natural flow of nature’s cycles, you can live a life of balance and vitality.
When we ignore these cycles of nature and do not adjust our way of life, we disturb our inner clocks, life becomes a struggle as we are going against this natural current.
Digestion and Immunity
Immunity is influenced by the power of Agni, digestive fire, and our ability to digest, assimilate and absorb nutrients in our bodies. If Agni is impaired by an imbalance within the tridoshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), metabolism is affected and prevents nutrients from reaching the tissues and weakens immune function.
If the body is unhealthy or has Ama, stored toxins from undigested food, then an environment is created in which invaders are encouraged to thrive.
Building the immune system therefore depends on the state of our digestive system, the lifestyle we live and the foods we eat.
Winter is a time of rest, storing and preparation. It is a time of being grounded, internalised and still. The weather is often cold, wet, cloudy, changeable, and heavy and is dominated by the water element. These are all qualities that aggravate the Vata and Kapha Dosha as these are made up of these same qualities. Early winter is governed by Vata, and late winter and spring is primarily governed by Kapha dosha.
Remedies For Staying Balanced This Winter
- Preform a daily self-oil massage. Black sesame is good for early winter and almond or mustard oil is good for late winter/ spring
- Use aromatherapy oils that are warm, pungent and uplifting such as camphor, cinnamon, cloves, cedar and frankincense
- Favour clothes which are bright, cheery colours, such as reds and oranges
- Always wear a hat outside as 60% of body heat is lost through the head
- Yoga. Some Sun Salutations are ideal as they build up heat and work all the major muscles.
- Be up by 7am at the latest and to do some vigorous exercise to get the lymphatic system moving to prevent congestion and give the immune system a kick start.
- Make sure you are getting enough rest. Winter is a natural time for resting and preparing for the year ahead, so leave time for activities which promote a sense of internal stillness.
- Regular practice of Transcendental Meditation is a key to profound inner regeneration and relaxation.
- Eat more foods that are Sweet, Sour, Salty / Heavy, Oily, Moist, Warm
- Eat less foods that are Pungent (Spicy), Bitter, Astringent / Light, Cold, Dry
Increase Certain Foods
- Rice, barley, rye, millet, healthy oils (ghee, coconut, linseed, avocado, hemp, olive), and seasonal root vegetables.
- Meals such as such as soups, stews, steamed veggies, warm herbal teas are best.
- Ensure a warm breakfast (porridge is excellent, drizzled with maple syrup), steamed vegetables, rice with a little ghee and hot milk and warming spices (such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom).
Avoid Certain Foods
- Non-seasonal food, salads, smoothies, cold foods and beverages, crackers and raw food in general.
- Foods that decrease Immunity such as processed foods, canned, frozen, and packaged foods, leftovers, foods grown with chemicals, and foods laced with preservatives
- Avoid dairy in late winter and especially if suffering a cold or prone to allergies and asthma.
- Andrographis: is a classic Ayurvedic herb that boosts immunity quickly and provides symptomatic relief of symptoms.
- Vitamin D: not only helps strengthen the bones but is responsible for activating the part of our immune system that combats invading virus and bacteria. It’s surprising but vitamin D deficiency is a common condition affecting a large proportion of Australians.
- Getting some sunshine is also a way to boost Vitamin D. Research from the University of Copenhagen has shown the getting enough Vitamin D is important for bossing our immunity.
- Boost your diet with rich Vitamin D foods such as eggs, oils fish (salmon, trout, mackerel) or supplement if levels are severely low. If you think you are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency, book in for a consultation as we can prescribe a simple blood test that will confirm levels.
- Echinacea: is one of the best herbs for strengthening the immune system for flu prevention.
- Chywanprash: is a classic Ayurvedic formula used as an immune strengthening tonic that high in natural Vitamin C. Take daily for cold and flu prevention.
Article Written By Tegan Wallis, Holistic Health Practitioner