Ayurveda in its truth is not about suppressing symptoms but about treating imbalances or disease at its root cause. Ayurveda sees flu, fever, coughs, and colds as a symptom of improper diet, disturbed digestion, inappropriate lifestyle, and being overactive as the winter months approach.
IMMUNITY, OJAS & AMA:
Ayurveda indicates that a strong immunity comes with good digestion, agni (digestive fire), balanced hormones, liver quality, and thus metabolic functioning. Ayurveda places great emphasis on the concept of Ojas, which represents the essence of the immune system. Ojas directly translates from Sanskrit into “vigor”. Within the Ayurvedic knowledge Ojas comes from the subtle essence of Kapha. Kapha is responsible for giving the body vigor, vitality, strength, and immunity. It is more so defined as a reflection of agni and the essence of all functioning organs and tissues in the body. As you can imagine, when agni is low, undigested food will cause a toxic build up we call as Ama. When Ama is high, it leaves us vulnerable to fever, colds, and coughs. It in turn is the ideal environment for a virus to thrive. Due to this cascade of pathology to disease, we must keep our Ojas strong and vital to protect the body from imbalance.
DOSHAS & IMBALANCE:
In Ayurveda, the three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—are integral to our constitution and well-being. Imbalances in these doshas can make the body more susceptible to colds and flu. An aggravated Vata dosha, for instance, may lead to dryness and increased vulnerability to colds. An aggravated Kapha dosha might result in congestion and phlegm during the flu. Colds with an infection and/or fever indicate Pitta dosha aggravation. Following a dosha specific diet and lifestyle to keep your body in balance will aid in prevention of colds and flu.
DINACHARYA, RITUCHARYA & DIET:
Ayurveda recognizes that seasonal changes can influence our health significantly. Prevention of these imbalances are supported and maintained by diet (Ahara), daily practices (Dinacharya) and seasonal practices (Ritucharya). Just like the Doshas comprise certain variations of elements, as do the seasons. Ayurveda teaches us that “like increases like” and opposites balance out. The idea is to consume foods that are opposite in quality to the elements each season is made up of and of course within your doshic profile. Winter is characterized as a Kapha season with heavy Vata following right behind. This season comes with cold weather, heaviness, moisture rich weather, dry air, and a grounded overtone. Most of these qualities are that of Kapha, which is why winter is the Kapha season with the dry aspect referring to Vata. Both doshas are needed to be kept at a balance for optimal immune defense.
Cold and flu are more prevalent during the transition from warm to cold seasons mainly because we choose poor diet and lifestyle routines during this time and not in accordance with the changing of seasons. With winter approaching, holidays are right around the corner. Quite often we engorge ourselves in rich foods of celebration, alcohol and many sweet treats. Our lifestyle routines go out the window and imbalance is imminent. In order to keep within balance and keep our immunity or Ojas strong, Ayurveda has many suggestions.
WINTER DIETARY SUGGESTIONS:
– Focus of warm, cooked, mildly oily seasonal foods – Hydrate with warm to room temperature water and teas – Pacify vata with oils and dairy like ghee, almond oil, olive oil, flax seed oil, butter and goat milk products – Enjoy the seasonal vegetables such as cooked root veggies, spinach, asparagus, beets, brussels sprouts, leeks and onions – Protein like chicken, turkey, venison, freshwater fish and eggs – Whole grains and legumes such as barley, rice, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, lentils, and whole wheat breads – Snack on fruits heavy in antioxidants and vitamins like berries, cherries, dates, oranges, lemons, limes and prunes – Spice up your food with a plethora of digestive, immune boosting and warming spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne, cumin and clove – Avoid: cold foods and drinks, excess dairy and oils, heavy, processed and artificial ingredients
The daily routine (Dinacharya) is a cornerstone of Ayurveda, encompassing practices such as regular exercise, yoga, meditation, and maintaining a consistent sleep pattern. These routines are vital for managing stress and promoting overall well-being, which is crucial for immune health. The winter months bring dryness and reduces Bala (strength). It is especially vital that a daily routine is set in place during these months so we don’t accumulate too much Kapha in the Kapha season. This might look like some extra weight, a buildup of mucous or respiratory distress, cough, and sluggishness. Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of waking, sleeping, eating and working at the same time each day, while other parts of your days can be variable and incorporate different practices.
– Ayurveda suggests waking by 7am in the winter. More sleep is permitted as winter is a time to go inward and rest – Having a morning routine to keep immunity up including teeth brushing, tongue scraping, self- abhyangha (self oil massage) with warming oil like sesame and a warm shower – Nasya oil in each nostril to lubricate nasal passages and awaken the mind – Warm water to activate and cleanse the digestive tract – Morning movement is best in winter during Kapha time, 6-10am. Breaking a sweat and pushing yourself a little harder than usual is advisable during winter months – Sleeping around 10-11pm is recommended
To keep Ojas strong and immunity high, Ayurveda recommends a variety of herbs to take during the winter months:
– Tulsi – Chanvanaprash – Buhnimba (known as Andographis) – Triphala – Guduchi – Sitopaladi and Talisadi
Always talk to your Ayurvedic Practitioner to make sure an herb is right for you and proper dosage.
By integrating the wisdom of Ayurveda, we can develop a well-rounded approach to addressing colds and flu. Understanding our unique dosha constitution, adopting a balanced diet, and establishing healthy routines are essential steps in supporting our immune system. Prevention is often more effective than curing, and taking proactive steps towards immune health optimization can lead to a healthier, more vibrant life. Ayurveda’s ancient principles offer a holistic approach to staying well and resilient, especially during seasonal transitions.
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