As the temperature drops, with it comes the realisation that winter is well and truly on its way. Unfortunately for many of us, the transition from autumn into winter is one often marred by the onset of the typical coughs, colds and other respiratory ailments that plague us in the colder months of winter.
However, it doesn't have to be this way; Ayurvedic medicine has a variety of evidence based approaches that can be called upon to radically optimise our immunity and in doing so help boost our own inherent defence mechanisms against the onslaught of germs, viruses and bacteria that do their best to consign us to a miserable few day suffering in bed.
Try adopting these three simple approaches into your daily routine and observe the corresponding heighten levels of health, well-being and vitality that accompanies it:
1. Re-vamp your diet for winter
The key thing to be aware of here is to cut back on the amount of cold, raw and uncooked foods you are eating and in its place increase the consumption of cooked, grounding, warming and nourishing foods. For most people this is common sense; the cold green smoothie and salad that feels so good in the hot summer months seems far less appealing in the middle of winter - this is just the body’s inherent intelligence telling you what you need to stay well. Alongside the food you eat, increase the consumption of herbal teas, dense and hearty root vegetables, spices like ginger, garlic, chilli and cayenne pepper and cooked grains like oats, brown rice and buckwheat are all great inclusions to your immunity boosting diet. Porridge for breakfast with stewed fruit and a nutritious vegetable soup for lunch or dinner are also perfect for maintaining energy.
Chywanaprash is like the multivitamin of Ayurveda, and anyone aiming to follow the Ayurvedic way typically includes Chywanaprash as a fundamental component of their daily lifestyle routines. Chywanaprash can be used in so many ways to manage disease and boost wellness but when it comes to boosting winter wellness, it has two key qualities. Firstly, it is jammed packed with immuno-stimulating compounds such as Amalaki (which has more vitamin C than any other fruit or vegetable on earth) and Holy Basil which is clinically proven to stimulate immuno-protection. Secondly, the fruits and herbs that go into making Chywanaprash contain incredibly high levels of antioxidants which are integral to optimising our body’s ability to protect itself. To put this in perspective, one 15g serving of Chywanaprash contains the same amount of antioxidants as the combined total of 1 avocado, 1 kiwi, 1 tomato and a portion of broccoli, celery, potato, and romaine lettuce! Viewed in that light, it really is one of the most powerful superfoods on the planet and one of the key immuno-boosting components of an integrated winter wellness health plan.
3. Nasya Therapy
In Ayurvedic medicine, Nasya therapy holds a special role to play as one of the primary means of regulating Prana, or the life force of the body, similar to the concept of Chi in Chinese Medicine. Nasya therapy involves the application of medicated herbal oils into the nasal passages. Nasya therapy can be used to manage a large number of medical conditions depending upon the medicated oil being used. Fortunately however, it also has a fundamental role to play in preventing infections in the cold winter month. The nostrils are the primary entry point for invading pathogens entering into the body. Ordinarily, the mucous membranes in the nose are wet and sticky which help to “trap” pathogens before they can enter into the body and cause problem. In cold weather, the mucous membranes in the nostrils dry up meaning that it is easier for the pathogens to pass through into the body and cause infections. The application of oils into the nostrils help to keep the mucous membranes in the nose nice and moist, allowing them to trap invading pathogens as they pass through and in doing so having a direct impact on the prevalence of colds and winter infections. As a result, Nasya therapy offers one of the most effective approaches for reducing the prevalence of cold and infections as winter draws in and forms an integral part of an optimal daily routine in Ayurvedic medicine.
In summary, Ayurvedic medicine states that if we give our bodies the support and nourishment its needs during the winter months, the routine coughs, colds and infections need not be an unavoidable reality of a cold northern hemisphere winter. Rather, it states that by adopting a variety of quick, easy and effective approaches into our daily life, we have at our disposal all we need to enjoy optimal health and wellbeing during the winter months. The above three approaches offer, to my mind, some of the easiest and most effective of these approaches.