Ask the Ayurvedic Expert: Immunity


Asthma

Question:
I have had bronchial asthma for 12 years and use a prescription drug and a bronchial dilator daily. What's the ayurvedic recommendation for asthma? I've already been taking Amrit Kalash, both Nectar and Ambrosia, for over three years now and overall I feel much better.

Answer:
Asthma can be related to any of the three primary factors — Vata, Pitta or Kapha — that govern all of the functions of the mind and body.

When a Vata imbalance is dominant, the throat is aggravated. There is dryness, which shrinks the bronchial trees and leads to poor air circulation.

When a Pitta imbalance is dominant, the bronchi are more reactive, which creates toxins (amavisha), clogs the bronchi and generates excessive thirst and interior body heat. Breathing can be difficult.

When a Kapha imbalance is dominant, lubrication and moisture balance (Shleshaka Kapha) are disturbed and interact with impurities (ama) that clog the system and generate too much mucus. Allergic bronchitis is likely.

Each of these three kinds of asthma requires different treatment. A bronchial dilator, from the ayurvedic perspective, treats only the superficial symptoms. Maharishi Ayurveda gets at the root cause of the condition to break out of the cycle of pathogenesis.

Diet and lifestyle tips:

  • It's especially important to avoid extreme fluctuations in temperature or the taste of foods.
  • Take a bit of fresh ginger before meals.
  • Cook with a moderate amount of turmeric, cumin and clove.
  • Avoid heavy, cold foods; an excess of sweet-tasting foods; or any foods that have only one extreme taste.
  • Do a daily oil massage (abhyanga) before showering, especially during the winter weather.
  • Take Bio-Immune herbal tablets.
  • If an allergic reaction is involved, then also take Aller-Defense.
  • Regular bowel movements are important. Herbal Cleanse capsules may help.

Cold

Question:
Recently, after years of not experiencing a head cold, I came down with an exceptionally drippy, sneezy case. I tried an over-the-counter remedy and the symptoms were immediately relieved. Is there a purifying aspect to allowing the cold to throw off this abundance of liquid? Is it harmful to repress the symptoms?
D.T., Pennsylvania

Answer:
In ayurveda, it's commonly considered harmful to suppress symptoms. They are the body's attempt to deal with the imbalance. Drugs can suppress the immune system and the body's efforts to correct the underlying problem.

Suppose the cold is due to excess dryness and a Vata imbalance. Then, the mucus is how the body lubricates the system to eliminate the dryness. So the advice is to work with the body to restore balance.

In general, the culprits behind colds are digestive impurities (ama) and cold temperatures. Both factors can throw the body's digestive fire (agni) out of balance. The digestive fire helps regulate moisture in the body. An imbalance allows mucus to accumulate in the upper body (Shleshaka Kapha), which throws the body's drying mechanism (Vyana Vata) into overdrive.

Diet and lifestyle tips:

  • Take a bit of fresh ginger before meals. It helps stimulate the digestive fire (agni) and reduce ama.
  • Use turmeric in your cooking. It helps check the interaction between ama and lubrication (Shleshaka Kapha).
  • Follow an ama-reducing diet. That means lighter, nutritious foods, such as soups. These foods are easy to digest and allow the body to direct more energy toward healing itself. Avoid heavier, fatty foods such as meats and dairy.
  • Take the Sniffle Free herbal supplement. It helps balance the digestive fire along with lubrication (Shleshaka Kapha) and the drying mechanism (Vyana Vata). It also strengthens the body's natural resistance to cold.
  • To help you stay healthy, you can take Sniffle Free for about six weeks at the start of the cold season. If you already have a cold, start taking it right away and continue for about six weeks after you've regained your health.

Mucus

Question:
It's rare for me to get a cold, but I always have excess mucus in my system.
- M.C., Hawaii

The excess mucus (Shleshaka Kapha) indicates a weakened immunity in the upper respiratory tract. It can be related to excess heat, especially if you live in a hot climate. If it's due to heat, then the body is trying to keep from drying out by generating excess mucus.

This type of imbalance can lead to impurities (ama) blocking the circulation of nutrients. The result is weakened immunity.

Try an ama-reducing diet. This means fewer leftovers and fewer heavy foods, such as meats and dairy products. Increase light, well-cooked, nutritious foods. Avoid cold drinks and foods. Cook with turmeric. Avoid sudden changes in temperature, such as drinking ice-cold water when you've been in the hot sun.

Also use cooling products such as Organic Pitta Tea, Organic Pitta Churna, Organic Rose Petal Spread and Pitta Aroma Oil.


Postnasal Drip

Question:
What can I do for postnasal drip and sinus infections? Nothing seems to help.

Answer:
Postnasal drip is a symptom of Kapha imbalance and slow digestion. Such infections usually develop through a series of reactions in the body:

  1. Poorly digested impurities.
  2. The ama interacts with Shleshaka Kapha, which regulates lubrication and moisture balance in the body.
  3. This interaction produces a sticky toxin called Shleshma that accumulates in the body cavities such as the sinuses.
  4. The toxic Shleshma aggravates Bhrajaka Pitta, which regulates enzymatic changes and the skin.
  5. The aggravation of Bhrajaka Pitta leads to infection.

Diet and lifestyle tips:

  • Try an "ama-free" diet. That means lighter, easier-to-digest foods. Avoid leftovers and chemical additives. Favor fresh, pure foods. Stop intake of caffeine.
  • Sniffle Free herbal tablets aid the digestive fire to reduce ama and nourish moisture balance (Shleshaka Kapha).
  • Take the herbal supplement Aci-Balance.
  • Sip warm-to-hot herbal beverages throughout the day. Ayurvedic teas like Organic Vata, Organic Pitta, Organic Kapha, or Sniffle Free Tea are best.
  • Gargle with salt and hot water.
  • Add a few drops of Clear Breathe to hot water and inhale the vapors through the mouth and nose.
  • Add balanced spices to food.
  • Licorice tea is useful (Organic Vata Tea contains licorice).
  • Avoid day sleep.
  • Increase fluid intake to 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.
  • Avoid diuretics (under medical advice).
  • Try to avoid stressful, negative thoughts and emotions.

From an ayurvedic view, the root of this imbalance is poor digestion and ama. It winds up aggravating Pitta. See below for a more in-depth answer.

Long Answer

The main functions of Kapha in the body are fluid balance, structure growth and strength. All bodily fluids (tissue fluids), mucus and serous secretions, transcellular fluids (like synovial fluids and pericardial fluids), all the moisture in the cells, the nervous system and respiratory system can be considered as Kapha. An imbalance in Kapha leads to an imbalance in bodily fluids.

Kapha in a balanced state is strength to the body. In an imbalanced state it is impurity to the body. The main areas of Kapha in the body are the head, chest and joints. Kapha imbalance will increase Kapha in these areas. Depending on body type and individual exposure to certain imbalances, one of these three main areas receives the Kapha imbalance.

Those with Kapha imbalance are prone to certain disorders like cough (kaasa), cold, congestion (peenasam), running nose or rhinitis, allergic rhinitis, hay fever, sinusitis (pratisayam), or asthma (swasa). In all of these conditions, there is excess fluid secretion from the nose. Postnasal drip is one of the main symptoms in these disorders.

Although mucus normally is swallowed unconsciously, the feeling that it is accumulating in the throat or dripping from the back of your nose is called postnasal drip.

General causes of postnasal drip are:

  • low humidity
  • sinus or nasal infections
  • foreign bodies (especially if the drainage is from one side)
  • environmental irritants such as tobacco smoke or smog
  • structural problems such as a deviated septum, enlarged turbinates or enlarged adenoids
  • advanced age — the mucus membrane lining the nose can shrink with age, leading to a reduced volume of thicker secretions
  • hormonal problems
  • drug side effects (e.g. antihistamines)

There are three types of postnasal drip — one for each main ayurvedic body type: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Vata Postnasal Drip

Symptoms include:

  • nasal obstruction
  • small quantity of liquid, thin and cold in nature, present behind the throat
  • dryness in throat and lips
  • sneezing with difficulty
  • loss of taste
  • pain and hoarseness of voice

Maharishi Ayurveda recommendations include:

  • PN1 Nasya - 2 to 3 times a day lubricates the air passages. This also lubricates and removes the dried mucus from the nose and behind the throat, and also strengthens the mucus membranes of the nose, sinuses and throat and prevents any obstruction.
  • Organic Vata Tea - 3 to 4 times a day clears the throat and helps remove the dry mucus behind the throat, soothing the throat.
  • Organic Vata Churna (spice mix) helps the digestion; helps balance gas and bloating; and aids healthy elimination.
  • Moisturizing oil massage of the whole body and especially the head helps to pacify the Vata and increases immunity.
  • Herbal Di-Gest - 2 tablets 3 times a day
  • Clear Throat - 3 teaspoons after lunch and dinner.
  • Organic Digest Tone - 2 tablets at bedtime.
  • Vata-pacifying diet.
  • Avoid cold weather, cold food, leftovers.

Pitta Postnasal Drip

Symptoms include:

  • nasal inflammation
  • moderate amount, hot and yellow color in nature
  • presence of increased body temperature
  • loss of body strength

Maharishi Ayurveda recommendations include:

  • PN2 Nasya - 2 to 3 times a day. This lubricates the air passages; removes excess heat; and strengthens the mucus membranes of the nose, sinuses and throat.
  • Organic Pitta Tea - 3 to 4 times a day is soothing to the throat; removes mucus and inflammation behind the throat.
  • Organic Pitta Churna (spice mix) is soothing to the stomach; helps in assimilation of food and balanced acid production.
  • Aci-Balance - 2 tablets 3 times a day after meals.
  • Clear Throat - 15 ml (1 tablespoon) after lunch and dinner with Sniffle Free Tea.
  • Herbal Cleanse - 2 capsules at bedtime.
  • Throat Ease - 2 lozenges 3 to 4 times a day. Chew in the mouth.
  • Avoid fermented food, leftovers, excess savory and salt.

Kapha Postnasal Drip

Symptoms include:

  • head congestion
  • thick fluid; cold and white color in nature
  • frequency of discharge is severe
  • itching in nose and eyes
  • sensation of obstruction in throat

Maharishi Ayurveda recommendations include:

  • PN3 Nasya - 2 to 3 times a day prevents the sticky, thick mucus in throat; helps to eliminate any obstruction in air passages; and strengthens the mucus membranes of the nasal sinuses.
  • Organic Kapha Tea - 3 to 4 times a day to help eliminate excess mucus and strengthen the digestion.
  • Organic Kapha Churna (spice mix) strengthens the digestion, stimulates the appetite, and prevents excess mucus in the throat after digestion.
  • Aller-GI - 1 tablet 3 times a day after meals.
  • Clear Throat - 15 ml (1 tablespoon) after lunch and dinner with Sniffle Free Tea.
  • Elim-Tox - 2 tablets at bedtime.
  • Throat Ease - 2 lozenges 3 to 4 times a day. Chew in the mouth.
  • Avoid heavy, greasy foods; leftovers; nut butters; sweets; jelly and jams; and yogurt.

General Points

With postnasal drip associated with allergen reactions or other respiratory issues, you can add the following herbs.


Yeast Infection

Question:
I have a systemic yeast infection, candida. As a result, I suffer from chronic colds, fatigue, headaches and stomach aches. I've tried a number of "alternative" approaches, but nothing works.
- M.D., Illinois

Yeast infections are basically due to weak immunity. Here's what happens:

  • Too many sweets and heavy carbohydrates decrease the digestive fire.
  • Weak digestion allows impurities (ama) to accumulate.
  • The digestive impurities aggravate lubrication (Shleshaka Kapha) in a toxic reaction (Amavisha). Next, enzymatic changes (Bhrajaka Pitta) and circulation (Vyana Vata) are disturbed. This weakens the immune system.
  • Weak immunity allows the yeast infection to take hold.
  • Kapha-type symptoms begin to appear — fatigue, dullness, colds.

If immunity is strong, infections aren't a problem. This traditional analogy makes it clear. The body is like a farm. A virus is like a seed. The seed won't grow unless the farm land is fertile and feeds it.

Antibiotic drugs are designed to attack the seed. They kill the virus along with healthy bacteria. The drug becomes ineffective when a resistant strain of the virus develops.

The ayurvedic approach is to strengthen your immunity. Digestive impurities (ama) serve as food or fertilizer for the yeast virus. Reduce the ama and the virus will starve.

With ayurveda the virus is secondary and your immunity or personal balance is primary. In India, candida infections are rare. The spicy diet helps keep the digestive fire high and ama low.

Diet and lifestyle tips:


Avoid the Flu

Question:
Every holiday season, I tend to fall victim to bugs going around. What can I do to prevent this?
- S.N., Massachusetts

Answer:
Holiday time also means the dreaded "flu season" in many parts of the USA, especially areas with colder climates. Something about this time of year appears to make people more susceptible to bugs, though some do manage to stay healthy regardless. According to ayurveda, sickness primarily results from an imbalance in your physiology that may be compromising your natural immunity. People who stay healthy have a strong immune system and a strong digestion/metabolism. A Shleshaka Kapha imbalance results in a buildup of moisture and phlegm in the lungs. When ama (internal toxins) also builds up in the channels of the respiratory system because of a weak digestion and combines with the aggravated Shleshaka Kapha, the result is Shleshma, a type of toxic substance that makes your lungs and respiratory system vulnerable to bugs and infections.

Dietary and lifestyle tips:

  • Protect yourself from extreme temperatures, both too hot and too cold.
  • Avoid iced beverages, because they weaken the digestion.
  • Eat pure fresh foods to provide maximum nutrition to the body. Preservative-laced foods and leftovers tax the digestion and are devoid of Prana, or life-energy.
  • Take Cold Weather Defense as a preventive measure and to bolster your natural immunity. Starting 45 days before the onset of the season is best.
  • Protection Plus Respiratory System also provides excellent overall support for the lungs and the respiratory system.

Canker Sores

Question:
How can I decrease the outbreak of canker sores in my mouth and on my lips? I've tried everything.
- J.P., California

Answer:
Canker sores are related, from an ayurvedic perspective, to excess Pitta in the body. Specifically, they result when digestive impurities (ama) interact with Bhodaka Kapha, the subdosha which governs the tongue and sense of taste.

We don't offer an herbal formula specifically for canker sores. The approach would be to take measures to decrease the Pitta and ama. Some people with canker sores find they are sensitive to citrus fruits or sour pineapple, which aggravate Pitta. Here are a few tips, but you may want to see an ayurvedic physician for a more individualized program.

Diet and lifestyle tips:

  • Detoxify the body. Take Elim-Tox-O for 45 days — this formula gently cleanses ama from the body without increasing Pitta.
  • Reduce Pitta-aggravating foods, such as sour-tasting foods, pungent spices and nuts.
  • Eat lots of sweet juicy fruits — they are both cooling and cleansing.
  • Soak a handful of raisins in water overnight. Drain and eat them the next morning.
  • Use Organic Pitta Churna to season your foods during cooking, and sip Organic Pitta Tea.

Disclaimer
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.