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Ayurvedic perspective on boosting our Immunity with Diet.

Ayurveda has talked about importance of maintaining our health and health preservation for thousands of years. The goal of Ayurveda is beautifully explained in this shloka from Charaka Samhita “Swasthasya Swasthya rakshanam aturasya vicar prashmanam cha” meaning “It is not only important to preserve the health of a healthy individual but also important to remove the imbalance”.  Health preservation can be done when a person has high disease resistance and excellent immunity.

Ayurveda talks about immunity in terms of increasing Bala i.e. disease resistance, strength, immunity and Ojas. One of the better ways to increase Bala and Ojas is through consuming proper diet.  According to Ayurveda Ahara or diet its taste, smell, color should be such that it has a pleasurable effect on the mind and senses.  Foods consumed should be pustivardhak (nourishing), medhya (increasing intellect) and balya (increasing strength and immunity). Ahara should contain foods belonging to all the six tastes which are sweet sour salty pungent bitter and astringent to ensure a balanced diet. A lot of importance is given to freshly cooked meals. The fresher the food the better it is for digestion also it reduces the Ama (undigested metabolites or toxin) formation.

Milk and ghee are considered as balya, medhya and ojo vardhak (increasing Ojas). Research shows that Ghee has high content of butyric acid which has anti-inflammatory properties and thus is immunoboosting in nature.  Research has also shown that spices and herbs such as Turmeric, Ginger, Cloves and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties and thus are considered immunoboosting.

An important aspect in Ayurveda about increasing Bala and boosting immunity is the concept of ‘Rasayana’. In Ayurveda Rasayana is defined as “Yat Jara Vyadhi Nashanam Tat Rasayanam” meaning that “which fights aging and disease”. Amlaki (Indian gooseberry), Guduchi (Tinospora Cordifolia), Ashwagandha and Licorice (Glyrhiza Glabra) are considered as ‘Rasayana’. Research done on these plants have also shown to have immunomodulatory effects. Chyawanprash an herbal jam primarily made of Amlaki and mixture of different Ayurvedic Herbs is recommended for daily consumption in Ayurveda.

Ayurveda also emphasizes that diet should be consumed in proper quantity. Ahara that is too less might cause Vata imbalance and consumption in excess quantity of Kapha increasing foods could cause Agni (digestive fire) to slow down or Agni mandhya. If Agni or person’s digestion is not proper it can lead to Ama formation. Accumulation of this Ama overtime could result in decreased immunity overtime and hence predisposition to certain disease states. Another important aspect of Ayurvedic diet is the concept of virudhha anna or incompatible foods. In fact Ayurveda states that certain food combinations may lead to more Ama formation.

According to Ayurveda One should avoid certain food combinations such as eating cooked and uncooked foods , heating honey, cooking milk and meats, sweet and sour foods, milk and bananas and cold water and cold beverages before during and after meals.  As stated earlier consumption of these incompatible foods over time may lead to allergies and thus affect overall immunity of the body.

Ayurveda has not only provided us with ways to boost our immunity but also provides proper instruction on diet as well. The concepts of Virudhha anna teach us about food incompatibilities.  Consuming proper foods at right time, right quantity, in season and compatible to our prakriti could help with increasing Bala, Ojas and ultimately strengthen our immunity. Along with food including herbs and spices in our daily diet also provides with the necessary boost to the immune system. Lastly using ‘Rasayana’ as part of self-care may also have beneficial health effects.  Thus Ayurveda teaches us not only how to eat, when to eat, what to eat, but what more we can include in our daily diet to boost our immunity. Thus we can aptly conclude “ Sama dosha Sama agnishcha, Sama Dhatu mala kriyah, Prasanna atmendriya manah, Swasthya itbhidiyate” meaning “ when dosha, agni, Dhatu are in balance, mala’s are excreted correctly and our spirit mind and senses are in balance then we can be healthy”.

References:

1. Agnivesha. In: Charaka, Dridhabala, Charaka Samhita, Sutra Sthana, 26/81-103. Reprint. Vaidya Jadavaji Trikamaji Acharya., editor. Varanasi: Krishnadas Academy; 2000. p. 149.

2. Mukund Sabnis. Viruddha Ahara: A critical view.Ayu. 2012 Jul-Sep; 33(3): 332–336. 10.4103/0974-8520.108817

3. Yadav VS, Mishra KP, Singh DP, Mehrotra S, Singh VK. Immunomodulatory effects of curcumin.Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2005;27(3):485-97.

4. Masram, Pravin & Chaudhary, Suhas & Patel, Ks & Kori, VK & RajagopalaS,. (2014). A brief review on ayurvedic concept of immunity and immunization. AyurpharmInt J Ayur Alli Sci.. 3. 230-240.

Turmeric & Fennel Tea

Recipe yield: 2 servings*

* 1 serving: 1 Cup (8 fl oz)

Ingredients & Materials:

2 cups water

1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric powder

1/4 Teaspoon whole fennel seeds

Optional : Mishri (Rock sugar) or organic cane sugar per taste as needed.

1 Medium saucepan

1 Steel Strainer

Stove

Cooking Method:                               Prep Time: 5 minutes                                          Cooking time: 5 minutes                   Total Time: 8-10 Minutes

1. In a saucepan or kettle, add the water and all the ingredients

2. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes

3. Turn off the heat.                                         

4. Let the tea cool for 2 mins

5. Strain the tea and serve it, sip it warm. Add rock sugar or organic cane sugar to taste if needed.

6. Enjoy the 2 spice turmeric & Fennel tea by itself or with a meal!

**Information provided in the article is for education purposes only. It not intended to provide medical advice or substitute medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making changes to diet and lifestyle. Article and recipe written by Gauri Junnarkar MS, BAMS, RD, LD, CDE, LMT. Gauri is the founder of AyurNutrition: Integrative and Holistic Wellness practice in Dallas Fort Worth. Gauri is an Ayurveda & Nutrition expert, classically trained Vaidya (Ayurveda Practitioner), Registered Licensed Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and Speaker. She is the Co-author of the book ‘Primer on Ayurveda’ and host of the wellness show ‘Wellness bites with Gauri’ on YouTube.

Gauri Junnarkar 

MS,RD,LD,CDE,LMT,BAMS

Ayurnutrition – Balance Nourish Rejuvenate

Ph: 972-999-0203

Author: Primer on Ayurveda

www.ayurnutrition.com

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