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Ask The Doctor: Children in Vata Season

ISSUED // February 21

Ask The Doctor: Children in Vata Season

By John Peterson, M.D.

Keeping the little ones healthy, their immune systems strong and supporting children's overall health is easy with Maharishi Ayurveda.

As a family physician, I'm often asked about the basics. In Maharishi Ayurveda, the basics are easy but powerful methods of boosting the immune system and helping the body fend off the bugs that circulate in winter time.

The important thing to remember is that in following a more ayurvedic routine, you're swimming with the current of natural law, not against it. And when natural law is supporting us, lots of good things happen for our health.

Q: When does Vata season start?

A: You can tell children that Vata season starts when the cold wind comes to blow all the leaves off the trees. Vata is the Ayurvedic dosha (mind-body energy) governed by air and space; its qualities are cold, dry, quick, moving, rough, and irregular

Q: What's the most important thing for a parent to know about keeping kids healthy in Vata season?

A: Just what your mother told you when you were a kid — wrap up warm against the wind and the cold and get plenty of sleep. Kids nowadays often have too much going on — a lot more than I did when I was growing up. A regular daily routine with an early bedtime is especially important in the winter.

Q: Why is Vata season especially challenging for the immune system?

A: Transitioning from the cold, windy, and wet outdoors into a hot, dry inner environment is tough on all of us. The body produces extra mucus to counteract the drying up of the nasal passages. It's good to drink plenty of fluids — water and fruit juices, NOT sodas! It's good to keep indoor humidity around 40%. Applying a small amount of sesame oil up in the nostrils helps keep the respiratory passages lubricated.

Q: Are there any other MAPI products that would be good for children in the winter?

A: Most kids love the sweet taste of Organic Calm Vata Tea, which is especially soothing during this season. Sniffle Free Tea and Sniffle Free tablets are great to nourish the respiratory system. Bio-Immune and Cold Weather Defense also provide good immune system support. For individual recommendations, check with a Maharishi AyurVeda expert (Vaidya).

Q: What about dosage for children?

A: The teas are fine at any age. For younger children, you can reuse your own tea bag to make a weaker tea for them. Tablets should be adjusted according to age and weight. You don't really want to give tablets to infants. Breastfeeding moms can use most MAPI products for themselves, which helps their babies stay healthy, too. Learn more about dosage info for kids.

For Sniffle Free and Bio-Immune, ¼ tablet to pre-school kids and one half a tablet up until 5th grade or so. Once a child weighs over 80 pounds, a full tablet should be OK. Check with your Ayurvedic physician if you have questions.

Q: What about diet during Vata season?

A: Of course that depends on the child's constitution and imbalances. In general, warm unctuous foods are good. Soups are wonderful comfort food in the winter — soothing and nourishing. It's good to include more olive oil and sesame oil in the diet.

Q: What if my child seems to have Kapha imbalance during Vata season?

A: I'm glad you brought that up. It's good to remember that childhood is the Kapha time of life.

The classic Kapha imbalance, which can affect respiratory and sinus health, can often be avoided simply by removing heavy foods from the diet — these include yogurt, cheese, ice cream, ice-cold foods, peanut butter, bananas, avocados, deep fried and heavily-processed foods. Milk should not be taken along with a regular meal. It can be taken by itself as a snack or with something sweet. Milk, rice, wheat and ghee are considered sweet in Ayurveda. The old-fashioned after-school snack of oatmeal cookies and milk still seems to be good.

Q: Why do you think that respiratory issues in children are on the rise?

A: Environmental and food impurities are a big factor. If at all possible, feed your children organic food. The respiratory and digestive systems go hand in hand — so if you can improve digestion and elimination, that can help respiratory health.

Q: What about sleep issues in children?

A: Trouble falling asleep from time to time is a Vata imbalance. Make sure your children have a regular routine. You can massage their feet with warm sesame oil before they go to bed. (MAPI's Moisturize Herbal Massage Oil is Vata-pacifying.)

Q: What is your advice for children who are stressed?

A: The Transcendental Meditation® program is wonderful for children. In an ever-increasing number of schools, inner-city kids are learning TM, supported by the David Lynch Foundation. These kids REALLY have stressful lives, and they all report that school feels safer and learning is more fun once they learn Transcendental Meditation. Also, make sure that their schools still have recess, music, gym, and art classes. A kid's physiology just isn't suited to sitting at a desk all day.

Q: What are good snacks for kids?

A: Really fresh fruit is an ideal snack — especially pomegranates, apples, and grapes. Kids might like to learn how to use the juicer and make their own fresh, sweet fruit juices — made with just a bit of fresh ginger.

Nuts can be good. Let them try the experiment of soaking almonds overnight. Challenge them to peel off the skin in one piece and hold it up to the light to see what it looks like. They can open the two halves and see if they can find the baby almond tree inside. Almonds are good for the mind.

Q: One of my kids is a worrier, and once school starts she has occasional constipation.

A: That's another classic Vata imbalance. Give her a handful of raisins, dates, and figs at night. You can add some toasted sesame seeds to that. If she doesn't like that, try organic fig newtons. Also, you can make her special warm lemonade first thing in the morning — warm up pure water and add a squirt of fresh lemon or lime juice. Then stir in a spoonful of raw honey. If she drinks that all up, it will help stimulate a morning bowel movement.

Q: How can we support kids' immune system?

A: One word: REST! The healthiest kids I see in my practice come from families that unplug the TV after supper and have a good routine for an early bedtime. Studies also indicate that the Transcendental Meditation technique promotes immune function1 and can lower health care costs.2

Q: Do you have any Ayurvedic suggestions for supporting the immune system seasonally?

A:  For children over three years old, add raw, unheated, unfiltered honey—ideally produced with Vedic Organic Agriculture—to their diet. Ginger and turmeric tea is great for the throat — use ¼ teaspoon of a mixture of equal parts ginger and turmeric powders, and add to a cup of boiling water. Let it cool until safe to drink. After the child has enough tea, give her a spoonful of raw honey.

To support sinus health in older children, try ginger and turmeric inhalations. Add 2 teaspoons each of ginger and turmeric powder to 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, add 2 cups of cool water, cover the pot and put it on the kitchen table. Let the child hold a damp washcloth over her eyes. Drape a sheet over the child's head. Carefully open the lid a fraction of an inch to let the steam begin to rise. Let the child breathe the steam through the nose for 10 - 15 minutes. Stay with the child the whole time, moving the lid aside a bit more every couple of minutes as the steam cools down.

Q: At what age can children understand the concepts of ayurveda?

A: Ayurveda is just nature. As soon as a child knows that there are cycles in nature and can observe the changes that come with the seasons, they can understand the basic concepts of Ayurveda. All three of our children gave presentations on Vata, Pitta, and Kapha to their second- or third-grade classes. Their friends all understood the doshas. It's great to be able to understand why your Pitta math teacher gets grouchy just before lunch!


Learn more about how to zero in on your child’s unique health needs with Ayurveda.


© 1999, 2024 Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, Inc. (MAPI). All Rights Reserved. MAPI does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. See additional information.

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