The Immune system is the body’s first line of defense against the external environment. While there are several type of immunity, the basic tenet of Ayurveda states that immunity is based on inherited and acquired reserve. This is called ‘vyadhi-kshmatva’ or ‘self-avoidance of disease’. According to the Chakrapannidatta text, this force is ‘a strength within all of us that resists the causes of diseases and their aggressive tendencies.’ Immunity involves not only the strength of our immune system, but the health and resilience of the whole body, including the ojas, the heart, the eyes, the digestive system, and the body tissues.
In today’s society, the immune system is met with not only more, but different stressors than it encountered historically. We live in an environment with many inputs to the nervous system – living in closer proximity to one another in cities, filtering through pollution in the air and water at times, and coming into close contact with others’ immune systems in these settings. If accounting for the change in diet and lifestyle as well, the stressors experienced on a daily basis begin to add up. In such settings, and at times when the immune system is experiencing additional stress, during travel, the transition between seasons, and other seasonal threats, it is critical to offer some extra care.
Luckily, Ayurveda offers practical solutions and lifestyle suggestions to support a healthy immune system. Here are just 3 of many actions that can support immunity.
Optimize Your Sleep
Have you ever noticed you’re more prone to getting sick when you are low on sleep?
Sleep is essential for the repair and regeneration of all body tissues and cells. During sleep, the digestive system rests, the brain rests, and the body replenishes. This is why you might experience more lethargy or tiredness when your body is fighting off a pathogen.
A few simple steps can be taken to optimize sleep and ensure you get the best night’s rest for you system:
- Sleep in darkness, as much as possible
- Avoid blue light after sunset (computer and phone screens, bright lights), or be sure to use and application that fades blue light with a red light filter
- Drink tea or take a warm bath or shower before bed to prepare the system for sleep and signal the body to relax (or any other ritual of your own to wind down and slow the mind)
- Practice mindful, deep breathing before bed to bring your system into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest)
Develop a Mindfulness, Meditation, or Affirmation Practice
Have you ever said to yourself ‘Oh man, I’m about to get sick?’ How many times does that statement become your reality? Next time you feel the body is a bit vulnerable, consider utilizing an affirmation to affirm or declare health, rather than project dis-ease. For instance, when your system is feeling less than optimal, affirm ‘I am strong and healthy, my body is resilient’. Take the necessary steps (more rest, warm tea, warming and nourishing whole foods) to support your body, and trust that is will fight off whatever energy or pathogen is coming in.
Practicing mindfulness or meditation (check out the Knowledge Center on how to find your meditation style) can also support lowering stress levels, which in turn increases immunity. When stressed, the body produces adrenalin and cortisol, two hormones that elevate heart rate and blood pressure – the body’s sympathetic, fight or flight response. When stress is prolonged, the body is in a constant state of stress, lowering immune response and the body’s ability to rest, repair, and relax. Even just a few minutes a day can have a profound impact on the body’s health and resiliency.
Support a Healthy Gut
Within the immune system, gut bacteria play a large role in the body’s defenses, acting as the first point of contact for anything that comes into the body through the digestive tract. Without a strong and balanced gut microbiome, the body is susceptible to pathogens carried through food, air, and water. If bacteria are out of balance, the body cannot efficiently or effectively protect itself, as pathogens can then root themselves into the gut, and cause inflammation (the basis of all disease). As we know, the root of all disease begins in the gut.
- Because lifestyle is the largest factor on health and dis-ease, there is a lot of overlap in the practices one can implement to bring about balance, and ultimately health. Similarly to some of what we’ve already covered, a healthy gut can be supported by:
- Eating nourishing, whole foods rich in fiber
- Adding healthy fats to your diet (think nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, ghee)
- Practicing meditation or mindfulness to keep stress levels low
- Getting plenty of good quality sleep and rest (naps and time in Nature are a wonderful way to incorporate some extra rest as the body needs)
- Seeking additional support through pre- and probiotics, digestive enzymes, and a multi-vitamin, as well as foods and herbs with the bitter taste (all of which can be found in the My Healthy Digestion formula.)
Additional Points of Support
- Get outside. Earth, ground — the Earth has powerful healing properties.
- Exercise regularly to flush the system and support lymphatic drainage.
- Practice yoga to cultivate a healthy mind-body-spirit balance.
- Social connection – connect with friends and loved ones. Social support is one of the highest predictors of health!
- Emotional expression — find ways to express and release emotion. Without expression, emotion becomes trapped in the body and can develop into dis-ease when unaddressed.
- Essential oils on the bottoms of the feet, especially before bed, can support a healthy immune system. Clove, wild orange, rosemary, cinnamon, and eucalyptus are powerful immune boosters when used together. Be sure to use high quality, therapeutic grade oils.
- Adaptogens are another wonderful ally to call upon for support. As their name suggests, adaptogens support the body in adapting to new or habitual stressors on the body. They create resilience in the body by balancing out hormones and support lower stress levels and a decrease in inflammation.
YouVeda’s My Healthy Immunity contains adaptogens including amla, tinospora, holy basil and andrographis, to keep the immune system sharp while modulating cellular response. These herbs work together with your immune system to keep your body balanced against the challenges of the environment, bacteria and toxins. The formula also contains herbs that increase absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, for that extra boost! And it is tridoshic, so appropriate for any and every immune system. Most importantly, as always, a health body and system begins with a healthy mind. So take a breath, pause, and express some gratitude for your amazing body!