The Sanskrit word for immunity – vyadhikshamatva, and its translation – ‘forgiveness of disease.’
In the wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine, the concept of good health is not relegated to just ‘not being sick.’ Our entire constitutions are completely balanced and invigorated when we truly experience ‘good health’. Aside from balancing the doshas – vata, pitta, and kapha, as well as making sure our digestive fire, called agni, is working to its utmost, we can practice some very sound techniques that will help boost immunity.
According to Ayurveda, even the most deadly disease would never affect a person in ‘good health’.
Here are 10 sure-fire ways to make sure you are that person:
1. Keep the Immune System in Proper Balance by Eating the Right Foods
A weakened immune system predisposes one to all types of illness. It is also possible that an immune response becomes overactive or misdirected, targeting the body’s own tissues for foreign invaders and attacking them, such as in cases of cancer.
Our diet can go a long way in balancing this ‘fighting response’ within the body. By absorbing the right nutrients and eliminating the toxins we don’t need, our immune systems stay strong. Consuming leafy greens, highly pigmented fruits, whole grains, as well increasing the consumption of nuts and legumes, you can give the body exactly what it needs to stay strong.
In Ayurveda, ama (store toxins from undigested food) is one of the primary reasons for diseases to develop. If the body is unhealthy or has ama, the name for stored toxins in Sanskrit, then an environment is created in which invaders are encouraged to thrive. Ama can be created from both physical and mental indigestion. (That means that the thoughts you think can be toxic, too!) When too many toxins are stored within us, we are then fertile ground where parasites feed and begin to settle into weak places in the body.
Indigestion and ama formation prevent nutrients from reaching the tissues and weakens immune function. Be sure to detox regularly if you consume lots of unhealthful foods, are exposed to many environmental toxins, or don’t eat a Sattvic diet. While you don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian, strictly, those dietary practices are in alignment with Ayurvedic wisdom. Harvard has found that L-carnitine in red meat leads to higher incidence of heart disease, for example.
Here are 7 ways to detox toxins from your body.
3. Keep Agni Strong
Your digestive fire, or agni, is vital to true health. Immunity is absolutely influenced by the power of agni, our ability to digest, assimilate, and absorb nutrients in our bodies. If agni is impaired by an imbalance within the tridosha, metabolism is affected and the immune response and natural resistance are always compromised. When we eat things that harm our digestive fire, Ayurvedic practitioners say we are commiting prajnaparabda, a crime against wisdom.
This causes extra ama formation, leading to a toxic environment in the body. This also interferes with the natural intelligence of each cell which is encoded with a will to live, be healthy, and work together as a whole, communicating with the other cells of the body. Ayurveda always strives to restore this intelligence. You can sip hot water, or ginger tea throughout the day to boost agni.
4. Do Yoga and Meditate
There are hundreds of studies which show that yoga and meditation positively affect the immune response in the body. They do so primarily by lowering stress. Yoga is even correlated to healthy gene expression in immune cells. Changes happen quickly, too, according to one Norwegian study. “There are rapid (within two hours of start of practice) and significant gene expression changes… during a comprehensive yoga program.”
5. Limit the Intake of Alcohol
Alcohol can impair white blood cells mobility. Alcohol also combines with red blood cells to create “blood sludging,” in which red blood cells clump together and cause smaller blood vessels to plug up. This reduces the flow of oxygen to many vital organs. With less than an optimal amount of oxygen, your organs and your immune system will not operate at their best.
6. Eat Consistently, at Regular Times Throughout the Day
Regular meals allow the body time to assimilate nourishment and get rid of what it doesn’t want. It also helps the body to feel as if it isn’t ‘starving’ and trigger hormonal responses that are undesirable. This also increases digestive fire.
7. Add Medicinal Herbs
There are thousands of medicinal herbs that boost immunity. Garlic, Echinacea, ginseng, ginger, turmeric, ginkgo biloba, olive leaf, astragalus root, amla, and more are at the ready to help your body defend itself against invaders. Many keep your white blood cell count high, and others act as adaptogens, helping to support the vital organs in whatever way they need help with the most.
You can try Ayurvedic formulas of sitopaladi and mahasudarshan, traditionally used to prevent colds and flu, as well as Western herbs osha and echinacea, which are powerful immunostimulants.
8. Exercise Regularly According to Your Dosha
There are over 5000 years put into the study of which type of exercise if right for your dosha. You may benefit more from going on long walks, while others might benefit from short, quick bursts of activity. The master Ayurvedic physician Charaka wrote, “From physical exercise, one gets lightness, a capacity for work, firmness, tolerance of difficulties, elimination of impurities, and stimulation of digestion.” You can always tailor your physical movement to your specific body and personality type.
9. Get Good Sleep
The body is very busy while you are resting. During deep sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. When we have balanced cycles of rest and activity, our immune cells can regenerate properly. A lack of sleep interrupts this process. It can cause increased rates of diabetes, heart disease, depression, and other illnesses.
10. Practice Pranayama
Pranayama is the ancient yogic and Ayurvedic habit of redirecting pranic energy through the breath. Pranayama cleanses and strengthens the physical body while calming and clearing the mind. It is important to practice with the proper posture to allow the breath to move freely in the body. Alternate nostril breathing has been proven with scientific studies to positively affect the immune response in the body. You can also check out these breathing exercises for better immunity.
“Because we cannot scrub our inner body we need to learn a few skills to help cleanse our tissues, organs, and mind. This is the art of Ayurveda.” ~ Sebastian Pole
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.