Coughing, sniffling, sneezing- not only children but adults around us are constantly suffering from these. It is in the weather, the air is bad are some of the excuses you get to hear when someone is down with cold, cough or the flu. No matter what season or weather changes, focussing on strengthening your immune system should take care of these minor issues.

What does Ayurveda say about Immunity?

Ayurvedic culture states that immunity is the power of one’s body to prevent the development of diseases or to resist a developed disease. A strong immune system destroys the disease. Each individual is different and so is their immune system. Some people might not catch the disease even after coming in contact with it, while others might.

Common viral infections like flu, cold, cough, sneezing top the chart of a weak immune system.

In Ayurveda ojas or protection is the term used for a strong immune system. Ojas is the positive essence of kapha– that which gives the body strength and immunity. A strong agni yields a healthy ojas. There is also the ability of the body to discriminate between foreign bodies and healthy cells and tissues. This intelligence and ability in Ayurveda are called tejas. It is because of tejas that human body cells know how to communicate with each other.

What does Ojas do?

A person with a strong Ojas is easy to spot. Such a person will be healthy, fit and have a glowing complexion and skin texture. When the ojas is strong, then all of the seven tissue layers function together in harmony. A strong ojas begins with having toxic-free rasa or the first tissue layer. The quality of this tissue layer depends on what we eat. Thus, what we intake in our body is the most important factor that determines our immunity system and how strong it is.

Causes of lower immunity?

  • Genetic factors
  • Stress and poor mental state- this diminishes the ojas
  • Negative emotions like anger, pain, guilt, envy
  • All sorts of pollution around us
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Unhealthy lifestyle- lack of proper food, lack of exercise, binging on fast food, obesity

What are the important times when we need to protect out Ojas?

  • Period of recovery
  • Periods of unusual stress
  • During changes in weather and seasons
  • Cold and flu seasons
  • Times of changes in routine, example, start of a school year after vacations
  • Major transitions in life like marriage, pregnancy, a new job, a loss in family 

How to strengthen your immunity with Ayurveda?

1. Changes in your Diet

Choose easy to digest foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and dairy products. Unprocessed meals and non-packaged, fresh foods help in strengthening the Ojas. Eat with mindfulness, maintaining a regular schedule. Follow a ‘vata-pacifying’ or ‘pitta pacifying’ or ‘kapha pacifying’ diet. Including garlic in your diet will offer natural support to the immune system. Garlic is considered as a rajasic food and can clear harmful bacteria from the body. Choose organically grown foods that are free of chemicals. Meat is not a recommended protein because it is difficult to digest and also creates ama.

2. Change your cooking style

Try and cook food with immune-boosting spices. These include turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and cardamom.  Mild spices added to your vegetables can quickly turn your food into ojas. Spices support digestion and make nutrients easily available to your body. These spices are also detoxifying and enhance the immune cells. Spices help ojas reach deeper into the tissues.

3. Healthy eating habits

Cook your food but not too much. Too much cooking, steaming your food reduces its immune boosting effect. The food should be soft and easily chewable rather than mushy. Meals should be eaten at a proper time every day. This helps your digestive system enter routine and helps boost immunity. Meals should be light at breakfast and at night when the digestive system is slow. Food should be eaten in proper quantity. One should avoid overeating or munching every hour. Ayurveda also recommends sipping a cup of warm water with every meal so that the meal is part liquid. Eat and choose seasonal foods. Eating a cold salad during winter or a bowl of hot soup during summers disturbs the Vata.

4. Herbs to strengthen Immunity

Herbs are a natural way to boost the immune system and these are easily available too. Mulethi or root of licorice attacks unwanted bacteria, thus protecting one from sicknesses such as flu or cold. It also has other benefits if you use it in cooking. Ginger root is good as it calms the stomach and relieves joint pains. Amla or Indian Gooseberry helps the body absorb nutrients from foods. Amla berry has fatigue-fighting properties if you are feeling lethargic or sick. Tulsi or the holy basil leaves are very good for relieving cold and cough. Tulsi leaves go very well with organic honey.

5. Minimise stress and have a balanced sleep

Excess stress and lack of sleep disturb the immune system. Stress hormones suppress the immune system. Studies have also shown that when animals are deprived of sleep, they suffer a loss of the immune system, thus resulting in death. In humans, sleep deprivation has shown an increase in cancer cells. Eight hours of sleep every night is important.

6. Get appropriate exercise

Proper exercise not only keeps you fit but also helps reduce tensions, stress and boosts your digestive system and immunity. But one should not overdo it. Improper exercise can result in strain muscles, harm the digestive system and cause stress. One should exercise as much as the body allows and the exercise should be according to your liking. Even a daily twenty-minute walk can do wonders for your mind, body, and spirit.

7. Yoga, Pranayama, and Meditation

Yoga helps remove stress, tensions and encourages fluidity and strength in the body. Ayurveda recommends yoga to remove the doshas in your mind and body.

Pranayama has Prana or the breath which is the most important aspect of life. It restores fluidity and energies in your body, releasing tensions and supporting the nervous system. Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing offers a powerful support and also a great starting point for Pranayama.

Meditation makes you more aware of your body and your inner self. It calms the nervous system, decreases stress and re-patterns the brain.

8. Abhyanga and regular detox

Regular Abhyanga or Ayurvedic massage is useful in building immunity by ensuring good blood circulation and by cleansing the body of toxins. Abhyanga is considered an important practice for balancing the doshas.

Monthly, seasonal, and annual detox also go a long way in keeping you healthy and fit. Ayurveda prescribes eating light during the time of change in season. Eating light frees the body’s energy for repair, renewal, and adjustments.

Ayurveda can help you to realign and balance your energies in sync with the changes taking place outside and within. Protects your ojas and strengthen your immunity with Ayurveda.