Ways to Boost Immunity this Winter
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 infections, or "bugs," are like seeds. If the body is filled with ama (toxins) and lacking in ojas (the finest product of digestion), 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 microchannels 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, couscous 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 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 take one tablet of the Maharishi Ayurveda herbal supplement Herbal Di-Gest with each meal to enhance digestion, or take two to three capsules of Herbal Cleanse at night if you are feeling constipated.
Another very effective way to purify the body of ama at the change of seasons is to take Elim-Tox-O, one tablet morning and evening, for 45 days in the spring and the fall.
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. This is the most effective time to take Amrit 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
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.)
The new Youthful Skin Massage Oils for Men and Women are ideal for any season, because they bring 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. These remarkable, newly-developed massage oils also have a trans-dermal effect on overall health, and thus help 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. Take Blissful Sleep if you have trouble falling asleep (a Vata disorder), or Deep Rest if you wake frequently, especially between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. with energy (a Pitta 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
At Maharishi Ayurveda we have recently developed a new formula called Protection Plus Respiratory System, which contains 24 herbs that act synergistically to protect the lungs from respiratory problems. This is a holistic, powerful formula to separate the ama from the Shleshaka Kapha, thus making it easier to cleanse from the lung area. It also cleanses the channels of ama and nurtures, lubricates, and restores balance to the lungs as the impurities are dissolved, strengthening the area against further infection. You can take it as a preventive measure, to avoid getting repiratory "bugs" that may be going around.
You can also drink a warm, immune-enhancing tea such as Sniffle Free Tea, 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, you can also use Sniffle Free Aroma Oil to help create balance and clear the sinuses.
Bio-Immune is a powerful supplement that strengthens neuro-immunal responses, purifies the liver and blood, and dissolves ama and amavisha. Take one tablet of Bio-Immune each morning and evening to enhance overall immunity.
Cold Weather Defense offers nutritional support to strengthen the body's natural immunity. It regulates fluid balance and mucus in the lungs and sinuses; removes toxins and shleshma from the lungs, and cleanses the microcirculatory channels that have been blocked by ama. It boosts immunity and removes toxins that weaken resistance.
Sniffle Free is aimed more at the upper respiratory system, and bolsters the body's natural resistance to the cold. Sniffle Free helps clear the channels, and when that happens, shleshma can be drained from the body. It strengthens the digestive fire, balances the production of moisture and mucus, improves resistance to cold temperatures, and enhances the bioavailability and circulation of vital nutrients
You can see that all of these 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. The problem with the symptomatic approach is that it doesn't solve the problem, which will likely come back again and again.
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.