Lord Dhanvantari, the God of Ayurveda

Enhancing your Immune System with Ayurveda

Modern medicine is just beginning to acknowledge the fact that 80% of the immune system is localized in the digestive tract. Ayurveda has recognized that for thousands of years.

Ayurveda, the “Science of Life”, describes the immune system as the balanced functions of three subtle energies:  Prana (universal principle of energy or force),Tejas (brilliance), and Ojas, (vital energy). In order to maintain wellness, Ayurveda teaches that the body must maintain balance, and that all balance is rooted in digestion and nourishment.

Strong immunity is a product of good digestion. Two primary forces are at work within the digestive system: Ojas, that vital energy, is concentrated in the heart chakra, and is the product of complete and balanced digestion.  Ama is the toxic by-products that result from incomplete digestion. It is the digestive impurities caused by eating hard-to-digest foods or by following unhealthy eating habits. Ama therefore compromises immunity and health.

At the foundation of immune maintenance is Agni, or digestive fire. When Agni or digestive fire strong, the body metabolizes the food efficiently, and Ama (waste) has much less chance to accumulate. Ayurveda therapy focuses on kindling the Agni, the digestive fire of the body to digest toxins ensuring optimal physical and mental wellbeing. 

What can we do now:

Although Panchakarma therapy, a week-long purification process, is probably the most effective way to remove toxins, it is an intense commitment of time and money, and needs to be supervised by a trained practitioner. Perhaps something to do in the future.

But here we are now, in the midst of COVID, in need of some remedies and immune boosts that are more accessible from home. Whether you are feeling run down or just wanting to maintain strength and balance, it helps to incorporate an Ayurvedic regimen at home to help remove Ama, prevent its build-up and to boost your immune system.

Try the following cleansing routine: Eat. Drink. Move. Sleep.

Eat a light diet for a few weeks, to help burn away rather than accumulate Ama. Eat warm, light, nourishing foods, including mildly-spiced vegetables and lentils.

Drink plenty of fluids, but particularly hot or warm filtered water.

Move – walking, swimming, biking. Daily yoga and pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) promote digestion by stimulating Prana (life-force). Finish this rejuvenating work with a massage with warm herbal oils such as the sesame oil, that helps not only our skin but also the tone of our muscles and promotes relaxation.

Sleep: Go to bed by 1 0pm to enhance your sleep hygiene and allow your body to replenish. A bedtime routine reduces stress and restores balance.

Avoid generating excess Ama:

Only eat a meal when you are genuinely hungry, and eat until you are satisfied, but not full. This allows your digestive processes to work more efficiently.

Avoid processed foods, cold foods or drinks, and heavy foods, such as fried foods. Try to avoid vegetables from the nightshade family, such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet peppers, as these create Ama.

In addition, the food that we eat is important, but the way we eat it is too. It is desirable to eat slowly, to chew the food well, so that we can maximize the process of digestion as well the absorption of the nutrients. 

Cooking: Ayurveda recommends cooking with a variety of spices to facilitate the digestion and increase absorption of the nutrients. In addition to adding to the aroma and flavor, the spices have the ability “Yogavahi”, which means that they have healing, immune stimulating properties. The spices facilitate the digestion and help the body to fully absorb the nutrients from the food.

The different spices have their own specific immune stimulating properties: 

Turmeric has a strong immune stimulating effect that is due to its ability to remove toxins from the body.

Cumin helps to reduce the Ama by creating heat that cleanses the body and facilitates the strength of ojas energy. 

Ginger is known as a natural digestive aid, balancing the intestines, and allowing for more efficient absorption of nutrients.

Cardamom and Cinnamon are commonly used to pacify the stomach.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin C has long been associated with pumping up the body’s resistance against infections and pathogens. Vitamin B2, B6, C, D and E are essential vitamins for maintaining cell strength and nerve function.  Iron, zinc, folic acid, magnesium, selenium and calcium are vital in fortifying your body’s defense against pathogens.

Probiotics: The human microbiome comprises more than 500 different bacterial species living symbiotically with each other and with their human hosts. The highest concentration of these bacteria is found in the intestines.

Most of the “natural flora” are considered “good.” They help to foster healthy digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Some bacteria, however, are “bad” – or pathologic – and carry the potential for disease and discomfort. When an imbalance between the two occurs, digestive issues result.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that form part of a natural and healthy gut flora. They help to recalibrate the balance between “good” and bad bacteria, restoring the natural intestinal milieu.

Healing Herbs:   Supplements and Teas

1. Ashwagandha: Alternatively known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, Ashwagandha translate from Sanskrit literally to mean “smell of horse”: and it is believed that taking Ashwagandha on a regular basis gives you the vitality and strength of a horse. Apart from boosting immunity, ashwagandha also facilitates good sleep.

Ashwanghanda is the staple of Ayurvedic therapy, along with Triphala. It is used as an adaptogen and anti-stress support used traditionally to help improve not only the physical wellbeing of a person but also the emotional and mental health. Ashwagandha enhances one’s energy and relieves stress and anxiety.

2. Triphala consists of cleansing and detoxifying ingredients that help to remove the Ama that compromises a person’s immunity. Triphala is taken daily and is considered a mainstay of Ayurvedic wellbeing.

The good news is that building your family’s immunity is less costly or complicated than you may have been led to believe on social media. Amidst the uncertainty that is prevalent in the country try these suggestions. And remember to wear a mask during the Pandemic.

To learn more about Dr. Natalie Geary and her work, visit https://VedaHealth.com

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Written by Natalie Geary MD

Explore Wellness in 2021