"The immunity, vyadhi-kshamatva, is a strength within all of us that resists the causes of diseases and their aggressive tendencies." Chakrapanni Datta
Importance of a strong immune system
What a challenging time it has been, with our immune system facing the greatest challenge of all. If the virus has shown us anything it is our vulnerability to unknown pathogens. With the Covid-19 virus mutating – which viruses do, even with the vaccine, we are not guaranteed protected.
As viruses and other environmental pathogens tend to live amongst us, now more than ever we have realised the importance of having a strong immune system, if not for prevention than to avoid long term effects. It is time to look towards the wisdom of traditional practices such as Ayurveda for natural ways to build our resistance and our ability to recover.
Immunity according to Ayurveda
The Ayurvedic view of immunity is based on the concept of inherited reserve and acquired reserve. In the Ayurvedic Classics, it is literally known as 'vyadhi-kshmatva' or 'self-avoidance of disease'.
Vyadhi-kshmatva is composed of two words – Vyadhi + Kshamatva where Vyadhi means 'Disease' or 'Illness' and Kshamatva means 'to resist'.
Ayurveda defines 3 types of immunity:
Sehaja vyadhi-kshmatva– That which we inherit by birth and is genetic.
Vyadhija vyadhi-kshmatva– That which develops when an antigen pervades our body. Our immune system generates specific antibodies against that specific antigen to protect our body.
Yuktikrit Vyadhi-kshmatva: That which is acquired through a healthy diet, lifestyle, and general well-being.
Factors that either build our immunity or cause it to decline are:
- Our unique Prakruti (natural body constitution), healthy Kapha’s tend to have a better immune system than Vata’s.
- Health of Ojas (the essence of our Dhatu’s or body tissues)
- Agnibala or our digestive power
- Balance or equilibrium of the Doshas within us
- State of Mind or Mansika Doshas
Health of Ojas:
The quality of your inherited (Sahaj) and acquired (yukti) organ reserve is generically known as Ojas. Ojas holds a special place in Ayurveda as it nourishes and orders the functioning of the body. To fight infections and pathogens is to build Ojas –the essence of our inherited organ reserve, digested nutrition, and our experiences. If it is depleted, disease can set in.
Agnibala, our digestive power:
A good digestion and Gut health are key in Ayurveda. A healthy digestion nourishes the tissues (sapta dhatu), which in turn feeds the heart and builds immunity. If digestion is impaired, then it cannot metabolize the appropriate nutrients required for nourishment of the tissues and results in the depletion of Ojas. A weak digestive fire accumulates toxic, known as ama, which can clog the channels and obscure nutritional absorption and emotional assimilation.
State of Mind – Mansika Doshas
The seat of Ojas is the heart and therefore emotional balance and nourishment plays an integral part in normal functioning of our immune system. From the heart originate prana; the source of breath, manas; mental balance and rasa the source for nutrition. Therefore, Ayurveda emphasis on daily rituals (Dina Charya) that nourish both the physical body and emotional heart for a strong immune system.
Increase immunity the healthy way.
To enhance our immune function from an Ayurvedic context comes from having a balanced healthy diet, lifestyle including daily rituals and incorporating herbs, that maintain balance of the Doshas, strengthen our digestion and build healthy tissues (Ojas).
Diet and your immune system:
The foundations of a healthy immune system are based on a whole food diet, avoidance of eating poor quality foods that have been refined, heavily processed and are stale or rancid. Avoid over-eating and stimulants such as coffee and alcohol which lower Agni and immunity. Our Nutrition directly affects Ojas and builds or weakens our immunity. Natural, organic food is always best but not always essential, its far more important to have a whole food diet.
Include vegetables that are loaded with macro and micro-nutrients, antioxidants, carotenoids, all essential for a healthy defensive system. Eat a diet rich in vitamin A, B, C, E, iodine, selenium, manganese, zinc. Increase chlorophyll rich foods such as spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, spirulina, parsley, and broccoli. Yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, squash and pumpkin rich in beta-carotene.
Most fruits are loaded with various vitamins and minerals that are required in traces and play a major role in the healthy functioning of our body and strengthen our immune system. Add fresh fruits such as Berries, apricots, apple and among citrus fruits –oranges, which are a rich source of Vitamin C that helps to build new cells and strengthen our immune system. Dry fruits and nuts such as Almonds, walnuts, and raisins, are a good source of potassium, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, all essential for a strong defence.
Pulses are a rich source of protein and our building blocks. I tend to favour Green Gram (mung beans) – as its easier to digest and rich in folate and potassium, antioxidants. Sprouted Mung beans are a great way to boost your immunity.
Spices: Adding spice to your winter diet is a natural way to maintain and restore the functions of the immune system. Spices such as ginger, turmeric, Tulsi and garlic have anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties and possess immune-modulator properties as well as keeping the digestion strong.
Milk and Ghee
Milk and Ghee paly a vital role in Ayurveda towards building Ojas. Milk is considered a complete food, full of nutrients, provided you are not lactose intolerant. I usually recommend my clients to have Golden Milk (milk with turmeric) over the winter months and sometimes even recommend adding 1 teaspoon of ghee for those with Gut issues.
Lifestyle and Daily Rituals
Along with a healthy diet, a healthy lifestyle is also important. Yoga, Pranayama, and regular exercise are all factors that boost a strong immune system. Being outdoors in nature with enough exposure to Vitamin D are invaluable to a healthy immune system.
Daily rituals (Dina Charya) are the cornerstone of maintaining good health. A good winter wellness routine would be:
- Starting the day with a glad of warm water and honey, to stimulate the digestion and help move the bowels. Honey is also a great for eliminating toxins.
- Brushing your teeth and scraping your tongue
- Oil pulling using sesame oil or medicated mouth wash to remove pathogens.
- Keeping our bodies naturally lubricated through daily abhyanga (self-massage) and avoiding dryness from the winter months, which builds our bodies defence, calms the mind, and grounds our central nervous system. Dhanvantari Tailam is suitable for massage throughout the year. Allow to soak in for 20 minutes before you shower.
- Nasya: Instil 1 -2 drops of Anu Tailam in each nostril to lubricate the nasal passages and protect them against pathogens.
Building Resilience - Your Herbal Allies
Our chosen herbal allies are those that promote a strong digestion, nourish Ojas, balance the mind and therefore boost our immunity.
Guduchi:(Tinospora cordifolia) is our star herb with an immune modulator action. It has various other properties like antiviral, antibacterial. that help to fight against various pathogens by developing specific antibodies by its immune modulator action. It is an effective remedy to accelerate the body’s immune power, whilst also eliminating toxins from the body.
Strong Digestion: Shunti or Ginger (Zingiber officinale), also called a ‘Vishavbheshaja’ in the classics, which means the one that has the potential to fight against all the diseases acts as a powerful stimulant for the immune system by keeping the digestion strong managing toxins (Ama). Pippali plays a similar role, both being the main ingredients in a classical formulation called Trikatu.
Nourishing Ojas:Amla (Emblica officinalis) a well-known ayurvedic herb that has traditionally been used for the purposes of enhancing immunity and longevity. All the parts of amla are useful, but its fruits are rich in antioxidants and used as the main ingredient in Chywanprash, known for its immune boosting action.
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is a wonderful strengthening (Balya) herb full of antioxidants, it supports the immune system by improving the quality of tissues in our body. Together with Shatavari and Bala they nourish our tissues and help build Ojas.
Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is an overall tonic for the body and one of our favourite herbs for the mind as it helps to pacify physical ailments along with psychological ones. It also supports and strengthens the lungs and respiratory system by removing excess Kapha, relieving symptoms of colds, congestions, cough, bronchitis, and sore throat. Having Tulsi daily helps to boost immunity and prevent recurrent infections.
Yastimadhu or Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is another good herb for our mind (medhya rasayana) it helps to increase intellectual power and improves cognitive skills. It is a nourishing (Rasayana) herb, which nourishes the heart and the brain to feed Ojas, thus along with overall health it also improves immunity.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) with its anti-inflammatory property is known to fight infections and boosts immunity. Because of all these reasons, it is the herb of choice in auto-immune disorder. This herb helps to detoxify the blood and lymph, thus supports the immune system.
Sitopaladi: A traditional formulation used for centuries to combat colds and flus. A natural expectorant it supports healthy functioning of the lungs and sinuses. Commonly used for treating coughs, low digestive power, low grade fever & allergic rhinitis.
Our Immune support kit is designed to enhance your immunity and healing towards a speedy recovery when it is low.
Our immune system does a remarkable job in defending us from disease every single day, sometimes it fails. Enhancing it and keeping it functioning well, requires balance and harmony in our nutrition, our lifestyle, and the psychological stress in our life. General healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand, choosing prevention above cure.
For a more tailored approach it is always best to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner who can diagnose and formulate a personalised plan for you. Contact us or to find a Practitioner close to you contact the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association https://apa.uk.com/
Up next: Cleansing the ayurvedic way