Ways to Boost Natural Immunity
There is a theory of immunity in Ayurveda called the beej-bhumi theory, which means “seed and land.” In this case, the body is analogous to the land, and infection or “bugs” are like seeds. If the body is filled with ama and lacking in ojas, the infection will find it to be fertile ground for spreading, just as land that is fertile will sprout many seeds. If digestion is strong, and ojas rather than ama predominates in the body, then the seeds of infection will not be able to take hold, just as seeds will not take root in land that is infertile.
Everyone is more susceptible to respiratory problems when the seasons are changing, such as in the fall and early spring. This is because the body functions differently in each season, and in the transition between the hot and cold seasons the agni, or digestive fire, can start to fluctuate dramatically. If you do not adjust your diet and routine and follow the Ayurvedic guidelines for the seasonal transitions, you can build up ama. Once the body is fertile for disease, it is easy for a cold or flu to sprout, as in the seed and land theory mentioned earlier.
That is why respiratory illnesses and allergies abound in the fall and early spring. In the early spring, there is an added factor, because ama accumulated during the winter starts to melt, flooding the micro-channels and overloading the immune system. The body’s immune system is weakened, and becomes a fertile ground for bacteria and allergens.
Ways to Burn Ama
For this reason, Maharishi Ayurveda recommends that you do the gentle purification treatments called panchakarma during these transitions between the seasons, in the fall and the early spring. Maharishi Panchakarma includes a full program of Ayurvedic massage, steam baths and intestinal cleansing treatments, to rid your body of ama accumulated during the previous season. Panchakarma also strengthens your agni, or digestive fire, so more ama won’t be accumulated.
Panchakarma treatments should be performed under the supervision of an Ayurvedic physician. But if you can’t go to a Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center for internal cleansing, you can still follow an Ayurvedic regimen at home to cleanse the body of ama during the transition between the seasons. For instance, you can eat warm, light, nourishing foods such as soups, or light meals of mildly spiced vegetables with grains such as quinoa, cous cous and millet. Eating a lighter diet for a few weeks while the weather is changing will help burn away ama rather than accumulate it. Also be careful to get proper rest, drink plenty of warm fluids, and take daily walks or do other exercise that is suitable for your body type.
If you feel less hungry at mealtimes than usual, or if you feel heavy and dull in the two hours immediately after a meal, these are indications that your digestive fire is burning low. To help enhance your agni, add home-made Pomegranate Chutney as a condiment for your meal. Visit the recipes for our recipe for pomegranate chutney.
Cooking your food with immune-enhancing spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander, turmeric, ginger and black pepper is also an important way to enhance agni and reduce ama. You can also ask your physician about specific herbal supplements to take with meals to enhance digestion, reduce ama or improve elimination.
Finally, it’s important to always avoid the factors that cause ama to accumulate, in any season. Stay away from leftovers, processed foods, ice-cold foods and drinks, and heavy foods such as fried foods. Vegetables from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet peppers) should also be avoided, as these create ama.
Diet for Boosting Natural Immunity
Winter is actually the season to enhance the immune system, and support and nurture your body. Eat nourishing, warm food, and avoid any fasting in winter. Ask your physician about taking an Ayurvedic antioxidant to nourish and rejuvenate your mind and body. The important thing is to eat light warm foods, cooked with the immune-enhancing spices already mentioned. Avoid eating or drinking anything cold, because cold foods and drinks will enhance the impact of cold weather and reduce the digestive fire, leading to more ama. You’ll also want to avoid heavy sweets, as these are difficult to digest. Start your day with a stewed apple for breakfast, cooked with spices such as cardamom.
For specific food recommendations, follow a Vata pacifying diet in fall and early winter (from October 15 to February 15). Eat all six tastes, but eat more of the sweet, sour, and salty tastes, as these enhance Vata. Vata-pacifying foods include nourishing grains such as rice and couscous; sweet, juicy fruits such as cooked apples or pears; squashes, zucchini, and asparagus; and light, easily digestible proteins such as panir (a freshly made cheese), lassi (a yogurt drink that aids digestion) and vegetable proteins such as mung dhal. Asparagus is especially good for enhancing the immune system.
Lifestyle Tips for Boosting Immunity
A warm bath each day is very necessary to warm the body, open the pores, and regulate your body’s internal thermostat. This is important in both Vata and Kapha season.
Don’t forget to do your daily Ayurvedic massage before your bath. Daily massage is very important for opening the channels, stimulating the digestion, removing toxins from the body, and pacifying the doshas. It is especially soothing to Vata dosha, which is seated in the skin. All of these factors make massage a vital therapy in strengthening immunity and preventing respiratory problems. (It’s important to note that massage is NOT recommended if you already have a cough or other respiratory imbalance, because it can push the ama deeper into the system. Also refrain from a full-body massage during menstrual flow.)
There are Ayurvedic massage oils, specially herbalized that may be helpful. Ask your physician to see which might be best for your health needs. is ideal for any season, because it brings needed moisture to alleviate dryness of the skin. Designed to penetrate the deepest layers of the skin, the oil is absorbed by the skin much quicker than any other massage oils. This remarkable, newly developed massage oil also has a trans-dermal effect on overall health, and thus helps enhance immunity as well.
Adequate sleep is especially important in Vata season, as it counteracts the lively, moving Vata. It is also essential for anyone in any season who wants to enhance immunity and resist disease. Ask your physician about herbal formulations to support improved sleep or other sleep conditions: If you have trouble falling asleep (a Vata disorder), or if you wake frequently, especially between 2: 00 and 4: 00 a.m. with energy (a Pitta disorder) or if you sleep eight hours through the night but still feel exhausted when you wake up (a Kapha disorder).
Exercise is another important aspect of the Ayurvedic routine, because it helps enhance agni and burns away toxins. It’s important to choose the right exercise for your body type and for the season, though. Daily walks and yoga postures are good for balancing all the doshas and especially suit Vata types, while more vigorous daily exercise is required by Kapha types to stay healthy. Exercise is especially important during Kapha season, because it helps to boost agni and your immunity when toxins are flooding the body.
Herbs for Health
Ask your physician about Ayurvedic formulas with herbs that protect the lungs from respiratory problems. These Ayurvedic formulas separate the ama (toxins) from the Shleshaka Kapha, making it easier to cleanse the lung area. These specialized herb formulations also cleanse the channels of ama and nurture, lubricate, and restores balance to the lungs as the impurities are dissolved. This strengthens the area against further infection. Some physicians recommend it as a preventive measure, to avoid getting respiratory “bugs” that may be going around.
Ayurveda also encourages warm, immune-enhancing teas twice a day with your meal or after it. The herbs in this thermogenic tea will help balance Kapha immediately. If your head is feeling heavy or congested, there are aroma oils to help create balance and clear the sinuses.
Other herbals are immune-supporting taken during the winter season to support respiratory health:
- Some strengthen neuro-immunal responses, purifies the liver and blood, and dissolves ama and amavisha.
- Some offer nutritional support to strengthen the body’s natural immunity. They regulate fluid balance and mucus in the lungs and sinuses; removes toxins and shleshma from the lungs, and cleanses the micro-circulatory channels that have been blocked by ama, boost immunity and remove toxins that weaken resistance.
- Some target the upper respiratory system, and bolster the body’s natural resistance to the cold, and clear the channels (shrotas), and when that happens, shleshma can be drained from the body. These Ayurvedic botanicals can strengthen the digestive fire, balance the production of moisture and mucus, improve resistance to cold temperatures, and enhances the bioavailability and circulation of vital nutrients.
Most Ayurvedic formulas are aimed at restoring balance, and they help repair the underlying imbalance, and strengthen the immune system, rather than treat the superficial level of the symptoms. Whereas a symptomatic approach doesn’t solve the problem, but only treats a symptom instead of a root cause – a core imbalance.
DISCLAIMER: These results may not be typical. Results with products may vary from individual to individual. Information in this article is presented for the sole purpose of imparting education on Ayurveda and neither the information nor the product is intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, or are pregnant or lactating, please consult a health professional. Before making changes to your diet or routine, it is recommended that you speak with your physician.