In the face of an ever changing environment, our immune system represents one of the most intricate, sophisticated and complex systems in the body. When functioning properly it allows us to experience abundant health and wellness. Not only does this mean the absence of disease or illness but results in an overall sense of vitality, energy and enthusiasm – physically, psychologically and emotionally.
However, there are myriad factors that can negatively impact upon the strength and effectiveness of our immunity. These include stress (which has a significant immunosuppressive effect), inadequate rest and toxins. However, there is one crucial and perennial factor that comes around every year to challenge our immunity and that is winter. As winter advances so does the annual cold and flu season. Not only does this expose us to more pathogens but the bad weather means we spend more time inside, cooped up and exposed to the circulating viruses and bacteria. Add to this the lack of sunshine and vitamin D and the weariness and lethargy (such as Seasonal Affective Disorder) that can accompany it, winter can have a substantial impact upon our physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing.
In the face of this threat, the common Western approach is to begin taking a multi-vitamin or daily shots of Vitamin C. Doing so will undoubtable help, but it is akin to putting a plaster on a very deep wound; it will help to slow the blood loss but will never be enough to heal the wound. Thus daily vitamin supplementation will help but the most effective way of boosting our immunity and resistance is to ensure that our bodies receive the natural nourishment it needs to keep us healthy. Ultimately our bodies, as an evolutionary species, know how to keep us healthy – we just need to give it the correct tools to do so.
It is viewed in this light, that Ayurvedic medicine can offer us so much in terms of preparing our body for winter to ensure that we stay fit and healthy until Spring. Ayurvedic medicine places a huge emphasis on eating in a way that is constitutionally correct for you as an individual during the winter months. This will ensure that the whole, natural and un-processed foods we consume nourish and strengthen the body rather than deplete it. Thus learning what types of foods you, as an individual, should be eating is key. But more than that, Ayurvedic medicine places great importance on ensuring that our digestion is working efficiently; we could be eating a nutritionally perfect diet, but if the nutrients
inherent to that diet are not properly digested and assimilated to the rest of the body, it will not provide the immune boosting properties that it should. Maintaining optimal digestive function in winter can be tricky as the cold weather naturally slows down our digestive capacity. However, Ayurveda offers numerous, simple approaches for addressing this such as utilising ginger and lemon tea, adding warming spices to your food and eating whole foods that place less demands on our digestive capacity.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Ayurvedic medicine has a unique discipline called Rasayana which literally translates as 'rejuvenative medicine'. Rasayana aims to increase the strength, resiliency and immunity of our bodies via specific lifestyle routines, medicinal herbs and unique herbal tonics and supplements, the most powerful of which includes the celebrated Chywanaprash. When Rasayanas are built into your daily routine, they offer a safe, evidence based and most importantly effective means of maximising our strength and immunity.