COVID-19: Boosting Immunity & Fighting Viruses with Ayurveda

March 20, 2020

Due to experiencing heightened stress and concern in response to our global pandemic, I’ve been personally “upping my game” and going back to traditional medicine and Ayurvedic teachings.  Ayurveda offers numerous ways to support healthy immune responses; dietary, herbal and lifestyle considerations play big roles in how our immune system responds to stress and pathogens.

Dietary Recommendations

Take Care of Your Digestive System!  This is Important!

The digestive system really is the root of good health. Keep it in functioning optimally with plenty of warm, cooked, well spiced & nourishing foods.  Favor fresh fruits and vegetables and easy to digest items. Breakfast should be warm and easy to assimilate, lunch should be your largest meal of the day, and dinner should consist of a light & warm dish, like soup, or lightly steamed veggies and rice with agni enhancing spices (ex: cumin, coriander, fennel, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, fenugreek, mustard seed, curry, turmeric, sage, thyme, oregano, basil) Stay away from processed foods, preservatives, sugars, and heavy or oily foods.  Reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine intake.

Agni (digestive fire/strength) is also optimized when we eat with mindfulness (put away the phone and give yourself a break!  When the mind digests the food, the whole body digests it better) Try to maintain a regular eating schedule; eating meals at consistent times from one day to the next helps train the agni and digestive enzymes to “be ready” and expect food intake.

Drink More Water

Proper hydration makes any healthy measure you’re taking more effective.  Without adequate water, lymphatic fluid cannot flow properly; lymph fluid is about 95% water- a common cause for lymph stagnation is dehydration. Lymph fluid contains white blood cells that are instrumental in fighting infection all throughout the body. A healthy lymphatic system is paramount to staying healthy! Stay hydrated by drinking half your weight in ounces of water a day.  Avoid ice water as cold liquids suppress agni.

Start the Day with Lemon Ginger Tea

This ancient elixir not only supports hydration, but it flushes out toxins, supports immunity & stimulates agni.  Add fresh chopped ginger & a squeeze of lemon to 6-8 ounces hot water.

Reduce Dairy

Dairy items, especially ice cream and sweetened yogurt, can be problematic due to their mucus-forming properties.  These foods create excess mucus, which is a breeding ground for pathogens. Ayurveda generally avoids most dairy in the spring months. When eaten cold, they are extremely difficult to digest and contribute to ama (toxins) in the body.  If you do consume dairy, eat in small amounts and only eat it warm.  Do not mix milk with other foods.  Never mix dairy with fruit (when lactose, or milk sugar, mixes with fructose, or fruit sugar, ama is created.)

Consume Cumin, Coriander, Fennel (CCF) Tea Before Meals

Simply mix equal amounts of all 3 spices together; take 1 tsp with 2-3 ounces warm water before eating.  These spices support healthy digestive, immune & circulatory functioning.

Clove

The antioxidant antiviral and antimicrobial activity of clove is higher than many fruits, vegetables and other spices.  Add to oatmeal, cereal or baked goods.  I personally make “anti-viral” capsules with echinacea, turmeric and clove and use when my immune system feels compromised, feel an illness coming on or when I’m exposed to pathogens.

Turmeric

We are all familiar with turmeric’s anti-inflammatory benefits; but it’s also a natural antiviral that strengthens digestion while improving intestinal flora.  It also purifies the blood and stimulates formation of new tissue.  So many reasons to eat more turmeric!  Keep in mind that this herb is heat and fat activated- it’s more bioavailable when you cook with it and combine it with black pepper.  Look up “Golden Milk” recipe.

Consider Eating More Garlic

Garlic kindles agni, destroys toxins, supports the lungs, and offers natural support for the immune system.  It clears out harmful bacteria while preserving the body’s natural, beneficial flora.  (However, as garlic is a powerful antibiotic, Ayurveda does not use it in daily year round consumption.  Just like we don’t use prescription antibiotics when we aren’t ill or immune challenged, garlic and herbal antibiotics are treated with the same respect).

Herbal Support:

Consult with healthcare practitioner before beginning any new herbal regime.

Tulsi

Tulsi, a.k.a. holy basil, is a respiratory with antiviral qualities. It’s also a powerful nervine tonic that relieves stress, can soothe anxiety & gently rejuvenates the nervous system.  Drink 1-3 cups tulsi tea daily.

Chyavanprash

A traditional Ayurvedic herbal jam made in a base of amalaki fruit and other powerful adaptogenic immune enhancing herbs. The herbs are cooked with ghee and honey, creating an easy to assimilate balancing nutritive formula that kindles agni, protects the body from stress, and supports the immune system.  Take 1–2 teaspoons daily.

Triphala

Triphala means “three roots” containing Amalaki, Bibhitaki & Haritaki.  These roots have health-enhancing nutrients, including vitamin C and other antioxidants.  Triphala helps to tone and strengthen the bowels & encourages healthy elimination (a big player in your bodies immunity and ability to remove toxins, a.k.a. ama, from the body)  Take ½ tsp with warm water in the evening before bed.

Sitopaladi and Talisadi

These traditional Ayurvedic formulas support the immune system and enhance respiratory health.
Sitopaladi upports the functioning of the lungs and sinuses and encourages healthy expectoration. formula also helps to eliminate excess doshas from the head and chest, thereby promoting clear, healthy respiration.
Talisadi contains the same ingredients as sitopaladi, but with the addition of talisa, black pepper, and ginger—making it more heating and aggressive regarding lung viruses. Take ¼–½ teaspoon of either of these formulas with warm water 2x day.

Other Antiviral, Antibacterial & Immune Enhancing Herbs

Ginger, licorice, astragalus, echinacea, schizandra and cordyceps. Can be taken in tea, tincture, capsule or powder form.

 

Lifestyle Recommendations:

Daily Nasal Rinsing and Oiling (Neti & Nasya)

Using a neti pot with saline water daily rinses mucous, debris and bacteria from your nostril, reducing the chances pathogens make their way into your respiratory system.   After nasal rinsing, putting a small amount of oil in the nose helps lubricate the nasal membrane, further supporting clear and protected sinuses and combating potential dryness from the salt water.  Dry or irritated nasal and respiratory membranes are more prone to viral contamination. You can purchase nasya oil online in a dropper or simply place your pinky finger in sesame, olive or coconut oil and gently massage the inside of your nostrils.

Prioritize Sleep

Sleep is essential to immune system functioning. Studies show that when animals are completely deprived of sleep, they suffer a total loss of immune function—resulting in death! In humans, sleep deprivation severely compromises our immunity. Sleep deprivation suppresses production of the infection-fighting cytokines, antibodies, and cells that are your body’s first line of defense against the virus. Try to go to bed and get up at about the same times each day; aim for about 8 hours of sleep every night.

Get Moving

Proper exercise releases stress & tension, moves stagnant emotional energy and improves circulation. Moving every day improves digestion, enhances detoxification mechanisms, encourages proper elimination and regular bowel movements & helps us sleep better—all of which serve to protect and support the immune system.

Avoid Total Isolation

Health officials recommend “social distancing” to keep ourselves safe. While we need to exercise caution regarding travel, large gatherings and social spaces, our health can suffer if we isolate ourselves completely. Isolation can disrupt vagus nerve functioning—the brain-gut connection that regulates our immune system and stress responses. Yet even as we limit our social interactions, it’s important to remember that we are all in this together. You are not alone in whatever you’re experiencing. This realization of our connectivity to humanity is essential to our well-being. Throughout the history of humankind those who learned to collaborate with others and intelligently adapt have prevailed.

Try to maintain a sense of social connectedness by walking & spending time outside with others, eating meals with family, and meaningfully connecting with people via electronic devices.

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

More people are being affected by the fear and anxiety regarding COVID-19 and not actually from symptoms themselves. The future seems uncertain; there’s a lot of questions and unknowing.  This fear in itself challenges our immune responses.  The irony is that stress hormones actually suppress the immune system— this suppression is an evolutionary mechanism, reallocating vital resources in order to ensure for our immediate survival in a high stress situation.  Reduce time spent unnecessarily spent reading or watching news about COVID-19- this often creates unnecessary stress and worry.  Instead, create time and space for stress reducing activities: time outside, hobbies you enjoy, yoga and meditation.  Watch a funny show.  Read an interesting book.  Cook a delicious meal.  Turn on some tunes and dance;)

 

 

At this time, I have modified my Ayurvedic Consultation and Mental Health Counseling practices.  I have moved to online video consultations, assessments and sessions.  I am also available for outdoor “walk and talks;” where we meet outside and complete our session out of office ( locations vary depending on your needs). I am offering these services at 50% off normal rates to support our community during these trying times. If you would like additional support with building your immunity, are interested in Ayurveda, or are seeking mental health care services, this is the perfect time to do so.   Please reach out.  Sat Nam.

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