Everyone is talking about immunity now; Immunity is the ability of the body to resist a specific organism or diseases. However, in a holistic perspective, immunity is the ability of the body to protect itself and fight any threats to the health and wellness. It comes from a healthy balanced body-at least to some extent. Ayurveda considers immunity as an attribute of pure ojas. We will have pure ojas when tissues in our body are balanced and nourished well. Ojas is considered as the essence of body that is so obvious when we look at someone. Ojas gives wellness to us, and when we are sick that’s what reduced in us.
So, it is clear that we can’t create or improve immunity overnight. It is an outcome of committed personal care and healthy lifestyle. However, there are few things that can be done to boost immunity even in this eleventh hour.
What can I do now to improve immunity?
- Eat better (Please tag diet for immunity here)
- Take care of stress (Please tag mental wellbeing and COVID-19 here)
- Long term plans for immunity (Please tag Immunity: Long term plans here)
Diet for immunity
Until and unless gut is happy, body wone be well. Begin to work on your immunity from gut. One of the baselines for current immunity is that the body should be able to digest what you are eating. When the body is able to digest, tissues are nourished and you are well. When the body is not able to digest what you eat, there is indigestion or sluggish digestion that consumes body’s wellness and makes you to vulnerable to diseases or infection.
Now you will be wondering what is a healthy diet? It is all about what you are able to digest. Eating according to your body type (or imbalance if you have any) and season can help to ensure that you are digesting well.
A few points to keep in mind regarding diet during this outbreak of COVID-19 are,
What to eat:
- Prefer warm cooked foods
- Eat freshly made wholesome foods. Make sure to have varieties of grains, vegetables and proteins using local seasonal produce
Water and herbal tea:
- Ensure proper hydration. Drink warm water and herbal tea. Ginger and basil teas are great to improve respiratory immunity.
- Avoid old stale and unhealthy foods. Reduce nuts, dairy and gluten if you are prone to phlegm. Ayurveda says thatsweet, oily and frozen foods and drinks can trigger accumulation of phlegm in the body.
- Use of warming spices like ginger, carom seeds, basil, are recommended for respiratory immunity. Moderate use of fennel, fenugreek, mustard, cumin, coriander can support with good digestion and balanced doshas. Cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, garlic, etc are heating and really good to support you if you are prone to phlegm and respiratory incidents. However, you need to avoid over using them as it can overheat the body create Pitta imbalance leading to chest burns, acid reflux and so on. Turmeric, curry leaves and nigella/ black cumin seeds can help to boost immune system. Honey is also recommended in Ayurveda to balance Kapha and to improve respiratory health.
How to eat:
- Remember how you are eating is more important than what you are eating for proper digestion and nourishment. When you eat at the right time and right way, body would be able to digest that food completely and absorb maximum nutrients from that food improving your immunity and wellness. On the other hand even if the best nutritious meal in the world, if not eaten properly can result into indigestion or sluggish digestion causingaccumulation of toxins and affect your health negatively. So, make sure to eat when you are hungry. It is also important to avoid delaying meals when you are hungry and shovelling food to your mouth when you are distracted by work or movies. Mindful eating improves digestion
Home remedies to improve immunity:
- If your digestion and metabolism are good, 2 teaspoons of ghee or 1 cup of fresh milk (freshly collected unprocessed milk; if you can manage to get) are great to boost immunity. If fresh milk is not available, make turmeric latte . If you are prone to phlegm, make turmeric latte by diluting milk by adding equal amount of warm water (rather than using skimmed milk) or use goat’s milk.
If you are confused about your diet, discuss with an expert regarding the diet for you.
Diet is the foundation of health and immunity; eat well, be well (but remember one box doesn’t fit for all).
Mental wellbeing and COVID-19:
This highly volatile and uncertain situation is triggering anxiety in almost anyone. For many of us apart from the anxiety of health of ourselves and our loved ones, it is affecting us financially and socially as well. The effect of this pandemic on our livelihood and the uncertain future is causing humongous amount of stress to many. There is no need to mention that you need to take extra care for your mental wellbeing.
Stress and anxiety consume the body and affects wellness and nourishment and result in poor immunity. As we know a stressful period can trigger flare up of hives, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and many other auto immune disorders. So, it is important to maintain wellbeing to improve immunity and prevent infections.
Daily sessions of meditation:
Ideally an average of 20 minutes twice a day. If you are a beginner in meditation, practice breathing techniques or pranayama 10 minutes twice a day. A session of meditation can help your mind to be grounded again. AS you practice more and more, you will become less susceptible to stress and anxiety.
It helps to reduce anxiety and stress. A few ways to practice mindfulness are, observe breathing or look at the lines in your palm for 5 minutes or try to remember each and every detail of last 5 minutes. Practice 2-3 times a day.
Self-massage using sesame oil, coconut oil, mustard oil or Ayurvedic herbal oils according to your body type or imbalance can help to calm you. Apply whole body gently downwards. Whenever possible do oil massage on head as well. Even a dry massage on head or with a couple of drops of oil can help to relax you. If you are prone to acne, you may avoid on face. If you have a dry skin, apply more or less daily. If you have a normal skin once in 2-3 days. If you have an oily skin once in a week would do.
When worries and overthinking affects wellness for some, feeling down causes problems in other. A gentle scrub towards your heart helps the latter to feel lighter and better. Scrub improves lymphatic drainage and there by supports better metabolism. Scrub is recommended daily if you are feeling heavy, oily and down. Otherwise 1-2 times per week would do the job.
Immunity: Long term plans
As I mentioned earlier, immunity is a result of a balanced body and mind. Even though we can boost immunity by taking different herbs and supplements, we won’t be able to develop immunity if the body is not healthy enough. So, it is important to look after your health and address imbalances early.
Follow daily and seasonal regimes:
An important aspect of oneself in Ayurveda is following daily and seasonal routines. Daily routines are a set of selfcare options to support and boost health on a daily basis. Seasonal routines are changes to be made in daily routines to address the changes in weather and corresponding changes in metabolism and aspects of health.
Ayurveda recommends annual seasonal cleansing according to your body type to detox the body and to maintain health just like we do service of our car. It is known as Panchakarma or Ayurvedic detox. Panchakarma can be done extensively taking a number of days or simply from home. Discuss with your practitioner to find the best plan for you.
Address imbalances early:
Health is the total wellness of body and mind. Any deviation from that should be considered as ill-health and addressed early. Addressing imbalances early helps us to prevent future diseases and sufferings, and unnecessary deterioration of health. Sometimes a simple change in diet or lifestyle would be enough to correct the imbalance in early stages whereas even after trying every possible treatments, it may not be possible to heal the body completely in later stages.
So take this situation of COVID-19 as a time to reflect on your health, understand what can be done to improve it and make use of this time to implement from now onwards. Stay safe; stay healthy!