During the cold winter months many of us have already experienced some form of the common cold or flu. With spring on its way, it is a good time to discuss how to strengthen our immune system and decrease our susceptibility to common colds and flu for this up coming year.
It is next to impossible to avoid exposure to cold and flu, especially in school, work, restaurants and cafeteria environments. Even if we have little to no contact with others, we still can develop such conditions. >From an Ayurvedic perspective, it all comes down to susceptibility, as it relates to dosha and the accumulation of ama, or toxic metabolic by-products. If our internal environment is out of balance, then the external environment can easily encroach upon it. For example, eating too much cold, mucus producing (kapha aggravating) foods can shift our internal environment, thus making us more susceptible to colds, especially in the fall and winter months.
In Ayurveda the winter and spring seasons are associated with kapha dosha. Kapha has cold, heavy, wet, slimy, sticky, and hard qualities. These qualities accumulate in the cold months and become provoked in the spring as the weather warms up and starts to thaw them out. When kapha and ama are left to accumulate, they eventually enter into and congest the rasa dhatu, or lymphatic tissue. This can lead to repeated colds, coughs, flu and respiratory congestion. For this reason, Ayurveda recommends doing a cleansing program, such as panchakarma, or a modified home cleanse, before the change of seasons to support the body through these vulnerable times. But most importantly we should shift the diet and daily routine to meet our needs as they relate to the changes in nature.
As spring approaches, the digestive fire starts to slow down a little, so it is wise to eat lighter meals with lots of spring greens, fruits, garden vegetables, fresh juices, and plenty of pure water. We may also become more sedentary during the cold months, so before spring comes it is good to increase our daily exercise by taking more walks, biking, jogging, doing yoga, and so on. This helps to burn kapha and ama, strengthen the metabolism, increase circulation, and it also invigorates and refreshes the mind.
Proper meal times are crucial for health maintenance and prevention. If we eat a light digestible breakfast we will be ready for lunch, the biggest and most important meal of the day. The digestive fire is the strongest from noon to 2 p.m. Dinner should be medium to small, depending on one's needs, and eaten ideally no latter than 7 p.m. so as to digest it well before going to sleep. This kind of meal plan can have a profound and positive effect on our health and overall wellness.
Eating well is important, but equally so is elimination. Ideally we should have at least one complete bowel movement per day, especially in the early morning. If waste matter sits in the colon for too long, the body starts to reabsorb toxins into the general circulation. The colon eventually can become overloaded with ama, which inhibits proper absorption of nutrients. To ensure healthy elimination it is helpful to increase fiber and good quality oils like ghee, flax and olive oil to the diet. The Ayurvedic herbal compound triphala is also a valuable remedy to promote bowel tone and elimination.
Trust Your Healing Responses
Even when we do our best to avoid getting sick we still can, as it is part of life. It is important to remember that getting a cold is our body's way of kicking out excess phlegm and ama. So we shouldn't't be so quick to suppress symptoms with over-the-counter medicines or run to the doctor for a round of antibiotics, as an easy way out. In fact, this can drive the condition deeper, and make us more prone to it in the future.
Likewise, fever is the body's way of burning ama from the lymph and blood. If the fever is relatively mild to moderate, let it run its course. If we first trust our body, and support this process, it can make the difference between getting well quickly or remaining sick for a longer period of time.
If we are aware of our unique body constitution, eat a doshic and seasonal diet, and get sufficient exercise and rest, we can greatly reduce our chances of getting sick, and even if we do, our immune system can effectively do its job to restore balance.
Clinical Ayurveda offers much in the way of treating even the most stubborn cold and flu, or sinus and upper respiratory tract infections. In the clinic, we have treated successfully many people and seen them get well from even the nastiest colds without any conventional treatment. We have also rescued a few from endless cycles of antibiotics, which just seemed to worsen their conditions.
Tips to Prevent Common Colds and the Flu
* Wake with the sun (or before sunrise).
* Ensure proper bowel movements.
* Do daily meditation, yoga asana and pranayama.
* Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
* Eat regular nourishing meals, and not too late in the evening.
* Drink warm or room temperature beverages.
* Get plenty of exercise.
* Get plenty of rest, especially vata and pitta types.
* Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of plain water daily (vata types-up to ten glasses).
* Take walks in the morning and after dinner, especially if dinner is after 7 p.m.
* Take 1000 mg of vitamin C (ascorbate) daily.
* Drink mild fresh ginger tea after meals.
* Go to bed by 10 or 11 p.m.
* Avoid taking antihistamines, antibiotics and other such drugs as much as possible.
* Eat a small amount of local bee pollen to strengthen ojas.
* Jala Neti (sinus flushing with salted water).
* Regular oil massage.
* Vata management therapies.
* Apply a few drops of warm sesame oil in the ears at bedtime.
* Avoid bad food combining.
* Avoid over eating.
* Cut back on dairy product such as cheese, yogurt and milk in the cold months.
* Take 1 tsp of amalaki powder once a day in the morning first thing or at bedtime (high in vitamin C).
* Take triphala daily in a dosage of 1/2 to 1 tsp or two to three 500 mg tablets, in a cup of hot water before bedtime.
If You Are Getting a Cold...
• Keep your body warm, especially the feet, chest, throat, and head. To promote sweating, drink hot spice tea, tulsi tea, or even warm water, and lie down in bed, well covered, especially at bedtime.
• Drink a glass of warm water mixed with one teaspoon of lemon juice and one teaspoon of honey 2-3 times a day.
• In the case of a dry cough, mix cardamom, dry ginger, black pepper and cinnamon in equal parts with turbinado sugar or rock candy. Grind them and make a fine powder. Take half a teaspoon twice a day with honey or warm water after meals.
• In the case of a sore throat, chew a clove or two of cardamom with rock candy or a few raisins. Gargling with equal parts sea salt and turmeric in warm water is also beneficial. This can be done two to three times a day.
• Avoid cold drinks, ice cream, sweets, fried foods, and dairy products.
• Drink a warm, expectorant tea made of equal parts ginger and licorice to help with respiratory congestion.
• Avoid sweet fruit juices, breads, meats, nuts, and pastries. A light and warm diet, like boiled or steamed vegetables, vegetable soup and fruits which are not juicy like papaya and apple, is a better choice.
• Increase Vitamin C (ascorbate) daily intake to 3000 mg.
Home Remedies for Colds
Half a teaspoon fresh ginger juice mixed with half a teaspoon of honey can be taken three times a day. You can also warm the mixture before taking it and add a teaspoon of warm water.
Half a glass of warm water mixed with one teaspoon of lemon juice and one teaspoon of honey can be taken 2-3 times a day.
For dry cough, especially if it is more troublesome during the night, take fresh ginger root and peel off the skin. Cut it into small pieces of about a half inch long. Apply some salt and then chew it. Black salt or rock salt gives better relief.
Yoga & Mantra for Healing
April 16, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Blue Lotus Ayurveda Center - School Facility
$50/person (lunch included). Pre registration Required.
This workshop will focus on some of the subtle aspects of a yogic routine, such as yoga postures, pranayama (breathing techniques), and mantra repetition to promote overall health, clarity, and peace of mind.
Health Consultations in Greenville, SC
with Vishnu Dass
April 2nd and 3rd.
Limited spots available.
For information or to schedule an appointment, contact:
1622 E. North St., Suite 2
Greenville, SC 29607
May 14, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Blue Lotus Ayurveda Center - School Facility
$50/person (lunch included). Pre registration required.
This workshop will focus on the Ayurvedic energetic approach to Eastern and Western herbs, as well as some of their common uses. Learn how Ayurveda views herbal properties and qualities, and explore the main methods of herbal preparation, formulation and administration of herbs from an Ayurvedic perspective.
Getting Ready for Spring
Treat yourself and prevent health issues with Ayurvedic cleansing and rejuvenating therapies as the weather transitions into spring.
Gift Certificates Available!