In current times, the importance of a strong immune system is paramount. When you have a weak immune system, it reduces your body's ability to defend itself against pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and parasites. You become easily susceptible to catching infections and diseases.
Thankfully, the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda provides us with several safe and natural ways to boost our body’s immunity. As per Ayurveda, strong immunity is a result of better digestion, good metabolism, healthy liver functioning, and a balanced hormonal function.
In this interview with an Ayurvedic doctor and author Dr. Sharad Kulkarni, we understand how we can strengthen our immunity with Ayurveda.
Q1. What are the signs of a weakened immune system?
If you suffer from recurring infections, it’s a sign of a weak immune system. When your body cannot fight invading germs and viruses efficiently, you fall sick more often throughout the year.
You might suffer from frequent skin infections, respiratory infections, and fungal infections. Delayed wound healing, anxiety, fatigue, and a weak digestive system could also be a sign of weak immunity. A CBP (complete blood profile) test can help you test the strength of your immune system by measuring White Blood Cells count, which is responsible for fighting pathogens.
Q2. In Ayurveda, immunity is strongly connected to the strength of our digestive system. What are the food items that can help and what should be avoided for a healthy immune system?
Yes, as per Ayurveda, your gut is the gateway to health. A weakened digestive system is linked to all diseases. Did you know that almost 70% of the immune system is in your digestive tract? A powerful digestive system is capable of killing harmful substances and get rid of them as waste.
When weak, it gives way to stomach problems such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, or bloating
To maintain the health of your digestive system, eat freshly cooked home food. Avoid eating food after 6 hours have passed since its preparation. Other food items to avoid are cold and refrigerated foods, oily and junk, outside food/hotel foods, uncooked meat, and untimely food.
Q3. What are some factors that affect our immunity negatively as per Ayurveda?
You might think that the strength of your immune system is decided at birth. But, that’s not true. Very rarely are people born with a primary immune system disorder. For most people, their erratic and irregular lifestyle is the reason behind a weak immune system.
The following factors affect your immune system negatively -
- Overthinking and anxiety
- Untimely, unhygienic foods, cold foods, or spicy and processed foods
- Lack of exercise
- Excess strain to eyes and other senses
- Alcohol and smoking
- Erratic sleep schedule - staying awake late at night
Q4. Can anxiety weaken our immune system? How can we manage anxiety and other negative thoughts?
Sustained release of cortisol due to anxiety suppresses the White Blood Cells count, thus causing a weakening of your immune system over time. Stress also makes it harder for your body to recover, as your stress response is weakened your immune system.
It is possible to manage anxiety by taking care of the following in your daily routine.
- Yoga and Pranayama
- Healthy diet
- Proper night sleep
You can also take regular massages with Ayurvedic body massage oils to help your body release stress.
Find a pleasant place with adequate sunlight and fresh air. Ensure that you spend some time practicing yoga and meditation there. Absorption of vitamin D is also helpful in strengthening your immune system. Listening to calming music is also helpful in managing anxiety.
Q5. What Ayurvedic herbs help in strengthening the immune system? What is the correct way to take them?
Tulsi, Aloe Vera, Guduchi(Tinospora), Neem, Amla, Bhringraj, Triphala, Spirulina, Ginger, and Pepper are the known Ayurvedic herbs and spices that help in strengthening the immune system. They are available in powdered form and can be taken with honey or boiled in water and consumed. It’s recommended to consult an Ayurvedic doctor and take these herbs under their supervision. They will guide you about the right herb and its dosage.
Here are a few Ayurvedic super ingredients that you can add to your diet to boost immunity.
Amla - It is one of the richest sources of vitamin C and is perfect for overall immunity. It can rejuvenate and revitalize the body systems. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It is best to consume amla in raw form, though the powdered form is also available.
Ginger - It is loaded with anti-microbial compounds that help fight infections, and boost immunity levels. It also aids digestion and helps with respiratory ailments such as cold, cough, pneumonia, asthma, and bronchitis.
Tulsi - It is a medicinal plant that has anti-infective properties. It helps with respiratory tract infections such as cough, cold, sore throat, and asthma. Fresh tulsi juice taken twice a day is known to boost health.
Black Pepper - It is both an antioxidant and an antibacterial agent. Therefore, it contributes to overall wellness tremendously. The piperine in black pepper aids in lung detoxification. It also increases the production of T-cells, which help fight infections.
Q6. What role does exercise play in boosting immunity?
Yoga, Pranayama, and regular exercise are all factors that boost a strong immune system. You should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity three days a week. This can include walking, cycling, yoga, swimming, or other low-impact workouts. Any form of activity that boosts blood circulation strengthens immunity. Respiratory exercises and pranayama also boost the immune system.
The following yoga poses can help boost immunity -
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose) - Helps restore balance, steadies breathing, increases awareness, releases tension, and boosts blood circulation.
- Vrikhshana (Tree Pose) - Strengthens the spine, aids nerve-muscle coordination, invigorates the entire body, increases stamina, and keeps you focussed.
- Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose) - Relaxes the nervous system, reduces stress, and improves sleep.
- Utkatasana (Chair Pose) - Improves strength, energy, and balance. Stimulates the heart, engages the core, and massages the abdominal organs.
- Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) - Improves blood circulation in the body, aids digestion, reduces blood pressure, calms the mind, and reduces stress.
The important takeaway here is that a weak immune system can be repaired by making lifestyle changes. Ayurvedic texts vividly describe simple daily routines (Dinacharya) and seasonal routines (Rutucharya) are the means to align with the forces of nature and preserve health and immunity.