Winter Immune Defense with Ayurveda
The winter blues. The cold temperatures, the flu and cold season, and the dark days. We all know them and feel them. But according to Ayurveda, winter can be regarded as a more beneficial season.
It is said that winter is actually the best season to improve immunity, (rather than decrease it).
In Ayurvedic terms, immunity is connected to your digestion. When your digestion is strong and your appetite is good, then your immunity is strengthened. Whatever weakens digestion, can weaken immunity. It’s really that simple.
In Ayurveda, besides diet and lifestyle which are big factors, there are other life aspects that determine your immunity quotient. These include your heredity, the season of the year and your age.
- Hereditary or Sahaj: the innate level of immunity, which you are born with.
- Seasonal or Kalaj: fluctuating levels of immunity due to the change of seasons, different stages of life, and the planetary cycles.
- Established or Yuktikrit: a balanced, permanent level of immunity that can be realized by following an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle.
If someone is born with an innately low level of immunity, that just cannot be changed. So that’s why in Ayurveda, it is super important to focus on strengthening the second type of immunity, which can fluctuate with the seasons, one’s age, and even the planetary cycles. This doesn’t mean that you cannot establish a stable immune system. You definitely can!
One reason that winter is a good season for building immunity is that the digestion is stronger in cold weather. Just like your house turns on the heater, your inner digestive fire heats up when the air turns chilly. This is a good thing!
Due to the digestive level being very high, people feel more hungry, and you can actually digest food better in winter, therefore nourishing their bodies more because it needs it, (with all the fire burning).
The problem is that sometimes, as the appetite increases, people may eat more junk food, holiday sweets and heavy, hard-to-digest foods, and then they weaken their immunity.
This debunks the theory that nature is to blame . . . by following a good Ayurvedic daily routine and eating more superfoods that boost the immune system plus by getting more rest, you can nourish the mind and body during winter.
You may have heard of spring cleaning and summer cleanse . . . that’s why the other seasons are much better for purifying vs. the winter is the season to build up and nourish the whole body, (including the skin, hair, and nails . . . for those of you into beauty).
What are the best foods to eat?
In general, Ayurveda recommends those foods that are fresh, organic, easy to digest, pure and wholesome. These include fresh, organic milk and yogurt, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and of course the revered ghee (clarified butter)!
Foods that are harder to digest should be avoided if you want to increase your immunity.
This means toss the packaged and canned goods from the holiday basket you just got.
The tastes to focus on in the winter are sweet, sour and salty. It’s best to eat less of the astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes in winter, although all six tastes should be included in your diet. Of course, warm, home-cooked, hearty foods are ideal, as long as they are not deep-fried and are cooked with easy-to-digest oils such as ghee or olive oil. Also avoid cold or ice-cold foods or drinks, because those will put out the digestive fire.
And rest, rest, rest.
Lifestyle also can impact immunity. Staying up late, working at night, eating at weird or irregular times and exposing the body to stress or fatigue can all affect the digestion and body rhythms which in turn compromises the immune system.
It also gets darker in the winter, so you will want to get into bead earlier anyway. Follow this natural flow so you can wake up fresh and rested.