How Ayurvedic Science Helps Your Immune System During Seasonal Changes
A blooming flower can soon pave the way for a crisp autumn leaf. The earthy smell after a rainy day turns into the scent of burning firewood on a chilly night in no time. In a similar way, our bodies also react to seasonal changes more often than we know. The winter months tempt us to eat a sizzling hot brownie whereas the summer days are incomplete without a cold slurpee in hand. Ayurvedic science helps our system with natural re-calibration and supports the sustenance of a healthy immunity in accordance with the changes in weather.
At birth, our immune system cannot sustain itself. Gradually, the body gains some immunity by interacting with the microbes in the environment that helps build a fighting mechanism. With growing pollution, the environment has become lethal and has compromised our immune systems. On top of that, our lifestyle choices work against the natural laws of nature as described in Ayurveda. People are always on the lookout for ways on how to improve immunity, especially in such challenging times. What can you do to boost your immune system? Read on to find out.
Seasonal Changes, Immunity, and Ayurveda
As per a study conducted by the University of Cambridge in 2015, our immune systems vary with different seasons due to the activity of our genes. It heavily affects our immune cells and also the composition of our blood and adipose tissue. The correlation between seasonal changes and immunity has been discussed extensively in Atreya Virachita Sara Sangraha that talks about the different seasons and the need for Dincharya and Ritucharya. Sage Sharangdhar, has emphasized the importance of transition phase diet between seasons or Ritu Sandhi Kaal.
The principle of Ayurveda lies in prevention instead of finding a cure. Hence, a lot of focus is given to the diet for healthy living. Healthy digestion helps maintain the body’s digestive fire (Agni). The concept of Ritucharya, meaning the “seasonal guidelines” and Ritu Sandhi Kaal give a detailed explanation of the foods one should consume during different seasons. This is in accordance with the body’s dietary needs as well as the seasonal availability of food. The industrialization has enabled the year-round availability of such foods but consuming this works against the Dosha or body energies.
In Ayurveda, the seasons have been divided into the northern solstice (Uttarayan) and the southern solstice (Dakshinayan) based on the sun’s trajectory. Both of them have 3 seasons each. Uttarayan includes Shishira (winter), Vasanta (spring), and Grishma (summer) whereas Dakshinayan includes Varsha (monsoon), Sharata (autumn) and Hemanta (late autumn). Each individual season has a primary Dosha among Vatta, Pitta and Kapha that are governed by a combination of the five elements (Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Sky). Ayurvedic scriptures mention them along with an explanation on how they affect our body and what we should consume during this time to maintain a healthy balance.
Ayurvedic Diet for a Healthy Immune System?
The Ayurvedic diet focuses on healthy and timely eating. The diet mainly talks about consuming seasonal foods that help enhance immunity.
Each season has a combination of the primary elements and the food consumed should be in accordance with it. The trick here is to consume foods that are opposite in nature to the Doshas. The Uttarayan seasonal period is from Mid January to Mid July and it is characterised by warm and dry weather. Hence, we should consume foods like rice, sprouts, green vegetables and medicinal herbs like tulsi and neem. The Dakshinayan seasonal period is between Mid July and Mid January when the moon is more powerful than the sun. The winds become cool and air moisture increases due to rains. It is advisable to consume barley, milk products, easily digestible cereals and edible fats.
Season wise Dietary Recommendation?
We know that in the US, we have 4 primary seasons. Hence the diet should be planned in accordance with the Doshas of the seasons to maintain a healthy living.
- Spring- The spring implies a change from winter to fresh blooms. During this period, easily digestible foods should be consumed that pacify the Kapha dosha. The taste palette should be bitter and astringent and barley, rice, grams, honey, ginger, turmeric and fennel should be eaten.
- Summer- The summer season brings in the sun at its peak and the body needs a lot of fluids to keep it cool. The digestion process gets slower and thus, needs accelerants like Ghee and Buttermilk. The ideal diet includes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially the ones that are rich in antioxidants.
- Autumn- The autumn months bring in a dry breeze that indicates a beautiful change in colors. This season aggravates the Vata and hence, easily digestible cereals should be eaten. Also, ensure to eat warm foods to balance the seasonal changes. Include lentils-based soups in your diet.
- Winter- The cold season is characterized by harsh winds and snow in most parts. It is essential to build immunity as people become prone to a lot of issues during this time. As a Kapha dominant season, one should consume lots of natural herbs and spices that help build immunity like ginger and turmeric.
The transition phase (Ritu Sandhi Kaal) starts 7 days after a season and continues 7 days into the next. During this period, light food and soups should be eaten the most. Also, hydrating is always important and should be carried out in all seasons.
Lifestyle Practices To Help Enhance Immunity?
Ayurvedic science focuses on the overall wellness of an individual that includes the mind, body and soul. To take care of the body, the scriptures talk of external factors including physical exercises and yoga, as well as internal factors containing diet and Pranayam meaning “exercise of the breath”. Various healthy practices have been spoken of that need to be included in our routine.
A warm bath will help facilitate blood flow and help open up your pores. It is advisable to do so on cold days. A daily oil massage helps maintain the Shrotas (microchannels) and supports the stimulation of Agni.
Apart from this, the benefits of regular physical activity are unparalleled. Ayurvedic exercises and Asanas help maintain the body’s natural flexibility and circulation. Engaging in these activities under the morning sun gives multifold benefits as it helps generate Vitamin D. Along with lifestyle and dietary changes, including Ayurvedic herbs for immunity that support the natural immune response of the body promotes overall health and well-being.
Benefits of Amla
Commonly known as the “Indian Gooseberry”, Amla is known to highly aid healthy digestion. It helps facilitate the natural development of Ojas, the substance that powers vitality and vigor. A strong Ojas means a healthy immune system. Amla is known as the Ayurvedic immune booster, due to its ability to bolster the natural defense mechanism of the body and encourage optimal immune response.
Benefits of Chyavanprash
Chyavanprash is an age-old secret that almost every kid in India has grown up eating. It contains an assortment of powerful and natural reserves of healing herbs such as Amla, that help bolster long-term healthy immune response. It is highly beneficial and supports a healthy respiratory system, natural digestion, detoxifies the blood and supports normal cognitive abilities.
Benefits of Kalmegh
Kalmegh or Andrographis paniculata is one of the many Ayurvedic herbs for the immune system, that augment the body’s natural immune response and promote optimal respiratory health.
Kerala Ayurveda Andrographis
Made from the extracts of Kalmegh, Kerala Ayurveda Andrographis capsules support the detoxification of the body and optimise normal immune response. Andgrographolide, an active principle in Kalmegh has the remarkable ability to support natural immune response of the body and your immune system faces its most significant challenges during seasonal changes as the transition lowers your immunity. If you are searching for Ayurvedic ways to keep your healthy immunity, you have to create a balance between your diet, Ayurvedic practices, and making lifestyle changes.