Nourish Your Immunity During
There has been much concern regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as various seasonal cold and flu viruses. Some of the most effective and empowering actions we can take now are to prevent illness and maintain our immunity.
In the northern hemisphere, as we are leaving the throes of winter and entering the newness of spring, we find ourselves fully in the season of Kapha dosha. Kapha is comprised of Earth and Water elements and is the energy of structure and lubrication, holding the body together. It has the qualities of slow, heavy, cold, dense, soft and sweet. Its primary sites in the body are the lungs and stomach.
When balanced, Kapha is steady, grounded and affectionate. Kapha imbalances can include possessiveness, attachment or laziness. Physically it may manifest as weight gain, respiratory congestion, excessive sleep or lethargy. To balance Kapha, we want to bring in warmth, lightness and stimulation.
The Coronavirus has an affinity to the lungs, which are one of the seats of Kapha. In Ayurveda, to protect the lungs, prevent viral infection and strengthen Kapha, we look at a number of measures. While there are many, we’ll focus on a few key seasonal lifestyle tips and remedies here:
- Food is medicine. Eat warm foods with heating spices like ginger, black pepper and garlic. These foods will stoke the digestive fire and bolster lung strength. Add them to meals such as: spicy dal soup, miso-ginger soup and stir fry. I like to add freshly chopped ginger root, turmeric root and garlic to many dishes.
- Minimize foods that are cold, sweet, milky and sugary, such as ice cream and sweetened yogurt. These foods create excess mucus, which is a breeding ground for pathogens.
- Favor honey over refined sugars. Enjoy plain or elderberry honey in your teas.
- Hydration is essential. Drink warm or hot beverages and avoid having them cold or iced. Cold drinks and food can weaken the digestive fire, thus slowing digestive processes.
- Maintain proper sleep hygiene. Going to bed at the same time each night and getting enough sleep support your circadian rhythm and immunity.
- Engage in regular, invigorating exercise such as brisk walking while breathing deeply, through the nose.
- Practice Kapalabhati Pranayama (Breath of Fire) to eliminate mucus from the respiratory tract. See qualified yoga teacher.
- Make sure to keep stress and fear at bay. These feelings and emotions weaken immunity.
- Eat lots of vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, tangerines, lemons, strawberries, broccoli, bell peppers and kale to boost your immunity.
- Enjoy Chyavanprash – the Ayurvedic jam that rejuvenates the whole body and enhances proper immune system function. It is rich in vitamin C and is full of adaptogenic herbs. Find Chyavanprash at: banyanbotanicals.com
- Use a neti pot with saline water to rinse mucus and debris from sinuses and prevent infection.
- Super Nasya Oil – sinus oil for clearing and protecting the sinuses. If you don’t have Super Nasya Oil, you can use plain sesame oil, coconut oil or ghee. My teacher, Dr. Vasant Lad, suggests dipping your little finger in oil and lightly applying it to the inside of each nostril. Then, gently sniff to draw the oil upward. Super Nasya Oil is available at my office or directly from ayurveda.com. The Nasya Oil from Banyan Botanicals is also great.
- Vitamin D3 – I like the liquid form. Carlson is a good brand. 4000-5000 IU daily or as suggested on the bottle or by your practitioner.
- Wonderful antiviral herbs – ginger, turmeric, licorice, garlic, lomatium, elderberry, astragalus, echinacea, schizandra and cordyceps. Can be taken in tea, tincture, capsule or powder form.
- Essential oils are highly antimicrobial. You can enjoy them in a home or car diffuser, a hot bath or applied directly on your body, mixed into your massage oil. A few seasonal, Kapha balancing oils I like are: rosemary, eucalyptus, orange, frankincense, thyme, ravensara and lavender.
Ayurveda also teaches us how to boost our immune systems through building Ojas. Ojas is the refined essence of all bodily tissues and maintains cellular immunity. It is the ultimate healing nectar. A person with healthy Ojas has a strong immune system, endurance and a sense of calm and contentment. The amount of Ojas we have is determined by the amount we were born with, the quality of food we eat, and how we nourish ourselves on a daily basis.
Increasing our level of Ojas is not just about building it up, it is also a matter of not losing or wasting it. We may lose this vital energy through the senses, due to overstimulation, which can leave us feeling depleted or overwhelmed. The yogic practice of Pratyahara helps us preserve our vital energy. Pratyahara means withdrawal of the senses. This may look like choosing what news we read and listen to, how much electronic activity we are engaging in and getting proper sleep and rest. Other ways to build ojas include laughter, joy, hugging and stress reducing practices such as walking in Nature and meditation.
May we proceed with kindness toward each other and ourselves as we navigate our wellness paths. It is a good time to connect inward, while, at the same time, not getting too isolated. It is in our connections to each other, ourselves and Nature that we thrive!
Lokah Samastha Sukhinoh Bhanvantu
* May all beings in all places be happy and free *
*** The information provided here is coming from my clinical and personal experience. It is not medical advice. Check with your doctor directly if you are having immune symptoms or seeking medical advice.
Sarah Kruse practices at Embrace Ayurveda, within Tilia Natural Health in Seattle.
Learn more about Ayurveda at: EMBRACE-AYURVEDA.COM