Ayurveda can contribute helpful recommendations that have been used to address viruses and the common cold throughout the ages.
Firstly, if you have the slightest symptom of the beginning of ANYTHING, stay home, get plenty of rest, eat only when you are really hungry, and sip hot water throughout the day….and watch your symptoms. Make sure someone knows you are sick and stay in touch with them.
Ayurveda considers March and April to be especially important months for putting attention on digestion and immunity. Why? Our bodies are more susceptible to health problems when the seasons are changing because our body functions differently in each season.
Going from cold to hot or hot to cold, it is easy for our digestive system to become compromised. Too often as we enter the spring season, our desire to eat raw vegetables and salads collides with an inability to digest them.
When the food we eat is not fully digested, what should be a clear extraction supplying the organs and tissues with high quality nutrition becomes, instead, a toxic substance that clogs the channels and tissues. Ayurveda refers to this toxin as ama. The accumulation of ama can compromise our immune system and make us more susceptible to colds and flu.
Signs of Ama Accumulation:
- A thick coating on the tongue when you wake up in the morning
- Constipation and/or digestive issues like gastritis
- Bad breath
- Feeling sluggish and tired
- Chronic sinus issues, allergies, chronic colds or bronchitis
Balancing Kapha and Data
One of first organ systems to be affected by ama accumulation is the respiratory system. The build-up of ama creates conditions favorable to the accumulation of phlegm and mucus in the lungs and sinuses. An increase in Kapha can lead to sneezing, cough, and runny nose. According to Ayurveda, the common cold results largely from an imbalance of the Kapha and Vata. Kapha is responsible for the respiratory system and lungs, while Vata is responsible for immune system.
This is why people who are Kapha dominant, and/or in an unbalanced state due to diet or lifestyle, are more prone to colds and sinus infections. (Conversely, when Kaphas are healthy and balanced, they can have the strongest immune system. It’s a question of balance.)
Although, technically, colds are caused by the rhino virus, we all know people who never catch a cold and others who always do. The ability to withstand exposure to a virus is a function of your immune system. Balancing Kapha and Vata and reducing ama is vital if we want to avoid illnesses.
Ayurvedic Guidelines to Prevent Colds
- Stay Warm: Dress in layers so that you can be prepared for the fluctuations of heat and cold between inside temperatures and outside. Be sure to cover your head and ears when you go outside. The ears are one of the main seats of Vata. Drink warm liquids throughout the day.
- Sip hot water throughout the day. This will help the body flush out ama, pacify Vata and help hydrate your mucus membranes.
- Warm Foods: Follow the general Ayurvedic advice to drink liquids at room temp or warm/hot. If you drink milk, first bring it to a boil and cook with ginger root, cardamom, or clove in order to balance milk’s natural Kapha quality. Never drink cold milk.
- Avoid cold food, avoid most dairy and other sweet, Kapha-promoting foods. Yogurt in the form of lassi is okay at noon, but not at night.
- Fruit: Stick to apples, pears and other seasonal or dried fruits like dates. Stewed fruits are excellent at this time of the year. (Or any time of the year!) Again, try adding spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Avoid bananas, as they are quite cooling and harder to digest.
- Vegetables: Avoid cold veggies like carrots, cucumber, raw tomato, and salads—these are foods that can dampen Agni, our digestive fire. Favor warming veggies like baked hard squash, and green leafy veggies, lightly cooked.
- Soups: Soups are an ideal choice at this time of year. Soups are easy to digest and moisten and lubricate the mucosa in the nose and throat, making it harder for rhinoviruses to penetrate. Throw in lots of warming spices.
- Spices: Keep your insides warm with thermogenic spices — cumin is an excellent burner of ama. So are ginger, black pepper, coriander, oregano, thyme, sage, fenugreek, and fennel. Turmeric is an excellent spice that helps builds immunity and reduces ama. Turmeric is best used along with freshly ground pepper, as it makes the curcumin in turmeric more bio-available. Fresh ginger helps to enhance digestion, and improves both assimilation and transportation of nutrients to the tissues.
- Use oil, inside and out! To counterbalance the dryness of Vata give yourself a warm oil massage every morning before your bath or shower. Include a small quality of healthy oils like olive oil or ghee at every meal. Flaxseed oil is high in Omega-3 fatty acids
What To Do If You Get a Cold?
- Drink ginger tea. It acts as a decongestant and helps stimulate digestion. Ginger can reduce excess Kapha and stimulate circulation, making it an excellent medicine for colds and flus.
- Try Tulsi tea. Tulsi is considered to be one of the most purifying Ayurvedic herbs. If we are sick, tulsi can help reduce headaches and fevers, relieve congestion, as well as support digestion.
- Try drinking warm water with fresh squeezed lemon and honey to sooth a sore throat and help with coughing. (Remember, never bake with honey or put honey into water that is too hot to sip.)
- Mix honey with turmeric to soothe a sore throat. Take a 1/2 teaspoon 3 or 4 times a day.
- Gargle with salt water. Gargling loosens excess mucus and removes bacteria and fungi from the throat. The Mayo Clinic confirms that gargling with salt water can provide temporary relief for sore, itchy throats. Research from the University of Edinburgh has shown that gargling with salt water produces an anti-viral “bleach” in the throat that is very effective in killing the common cold virus. Gargling with salt water was shown to reduce the duration of the cold virus by about 2 days.
- Breath in essential oil drops such a eucalyiptus or camphor, that are known for opening up the sinuses and airways. Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove from its heat source. Take a towel and create a tent over the pot. Put in a drop or two of oil and breath deeply. Maharishi Ayurveda Products offers a blend of oils called Clear Breathe that is very effective.
- Only eat when you are hungry. Although generally Ayurveda recommends routine eating (sticking to regular meal times), this is an exception. When we are sick, our body is working hard to fight off the invading virus or bacteria. This pulls energy away from our digestive abilities. As a result you may feel less hungry than usual, and your digestion may be weaker.
The delicate nature of seasonal transitions is exactly the reason that Ayurveda recommends the purification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma or PK) to be taken at the beginning of each season. Consider adding seasonal Panchakarma to your yearly schedule. Getting rid of accumulated ama helps insure protection against colds, congestions, respitory infectcions and the flu.
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