Winter has a bad name. It's called the flu season, the cold season, and the season when contagious diseases abound.
Yet according to Maharishi Ayurveda, winter doesn't have to be this way. Winter is actually the best season to improve immunity. It's not a weakening season if you know how to use it to strengthen immunity.
To understand how to improve immunity in the winter season, you first need to understand the unique concept of immunity in Maharishi Ayurveda. Bala, which literally means "strength," is the ayurvedic word for immunity. Bala goes far beyond the Western concept of physical immunity. Besides physical immunity, it includes psychological immunity, and spiritual immunity. Bala provides endurance against any disturbance to these areas.
In ayurvedic terms, immunity is connected with the digestion. When digestion is strong and appetite is good, then immunity is strengthened. Whatever weakens digestion, weakens immunity. It's that simple.
Raising Your Immunity Quotient
Besides diet and lifestyle, there are other factors that determine your immunity quotient. These include your heredity, the season of the year and your age. It is even possible to develop an established level of immunity that remains stable throughout all the ups and downs of life. The chart below explains these three levels of immunity
Three Levels of Immunity
- Hereditary (Sahaj) — the innate level of immunity, which you are born with.
- Seasonal (Kalaj) — fluctuating levels of immunity due to the change of seasons, different stages of life, and planetary cycles.
- Established (Yuktikrit) — a balanced, permanent level of immunity that can be realized by following an ayurvedic diet and lifestyle.
If someone is born with an innately low level of immunity, that fact cannot be changed. So that's why in Maharishi Ayurveda, we focus on strengthening the second type of immunity, which fluctuates with the seasons, age, and planetary cycles. One reason that winter is a good season for building immunity is that the digestion is stronger in cold weather. Just as your home's heating system works harder in cold weather, so your inner digestive fire stokes up when the air turns chilly.
Winter is the season when nature is ready to nurture us. Due to the digestive level being very high, people feel hungrier, and can actually digest food better in winter, thus nourishing their bodies more. People just think this season is bad for immunity because as appetite increases, people start eating more junk food and heavy, hard-to-digest foods, and thus weaken their immunity. But it's important to understand that we are creating the bad immunity; nature is not the culprit. For this reason, it's more important that people eat immunity-boosting foods in winter, and that they follow the ayurvedic daily routine. This should be your regimen in winter — to nourish the mind and body by getting more rest and eating well.
Other seasons are better for purifying, but winter is the time to build up and nourish anything — the hair, the nails, and the skin. It's also the best season for taking Rasayanas (herbal elixirs) and herbal products, because the high level of digestion helps people to assimilate them better.
Immunity-boosting Foods and Lifestyle Tips for Winter
In general, immunity-boosting foods include those that are fresh, organic, easy to digest, pure and wholesome. These include fresh, organic milk and yogurt, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and ghee (clarified butter).
Foods that are hard to digest should be avoided if you want to increase your immunity. "Commercially-processed foods, as well as canned, frozen, and packaged foods are old and difficult to digest, so they weaken immunity," explains The Council. "Leftovers, foods grown with chemicals, and foods laced with preservatives tax the digestive system and clog the channels of circulation, creating a sluggish, compromised immune system."
Foods that nourish and balance the body in the cold, dry, winter season are the sweet, sour and salty tastes. It's best to eat less of the astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes in winter, although all six tastes should be included in your diet. Warm, home-cooked, unctuous foods are ideal, as long as they are not deep-fried and are cooked with easy-to-digest oils such as ghee or olive oil. Avoid cold or ice-cold foods, as cold foods and drinks douse the digestive fire.
Lifestyle also impacts immunity. Staying up late, working at night, eating at irregular times, exposing the body to stress and fatigue, and sleeping during the day can all affect the digestion and body rhythms — and thus compromise the immune system. That's why it's important to follow the ayurvedic daily routine, to keep the digestive system and other bodily rhythms working smoothly, and thus keeping the immunity high.
In winter, when the days are shorter and the nights are longer, it's natural for the body to crave more rest. Try going to bed a little earlier, and you will wake up with more vitality and freshness.
Winter is a more inward season, when nature is at rest, so you can take advantage of this natural tendency by giving the mind and body extra nourishment in winter.
Products to Enhance Immunity
Amrit is the most powerful ayurvedic food supplement for boosting immunity and overall well-being, as shown in several research studies. Other studies have shown that it is 1000 times more effective than Vitamin C in scavenging free radicals, the reactive molecules that are responsible for disease and decay in the body. Many people who are on a regular program of Amrit have reported enhanced immunity, and doctors report noticing a lower incidence of colds and flu among their patients who take Amrit regularly.
Walter Gross's immunity had worn down due to a grueling work schedule that involved dealing with the public and extensive traveling. "An M.D. that I met at a convention suggested Amrit to help me build my immunity back up. I have taken it for about two years now, and all I can say is, 'It works!' I haven't had a cold, flu, or anything during those two years. Before, I took vitamin supplements — A, C and multiple — but I still got sick. I still take some supplements, but Amrit pulls them all together and makes them more effective. I'm 48 years old, and many customers think that I'm in my 30s. Many friends say I look younger, and ask how come I never get the latest 'bug.' I say it's all due to Amrit, and then I give them a week's supply to try. That's how strongly I feel about it. If they say, 'It's too expensive,' I say, 'You've tried everything else, why not try the best?'"
Another product that boosts immunity is Bio-Immune. Bio-Immune reduces impurities by improving the assimilation and metabolism of nutrients, focusing especially on the liver, bones, and bone marrow. It also improves the mind-body connection to help increase resistance to stress. The overall effect is to strengthen the whole immune system.
Vital Man and Vital Lady also help increase vitality and immunity. Vital Man boosts the natural resistance of the body by nourishing all the body tissues. It includes 24 herbs to help the body quickly replace dead cells with new ones, thus increasing energy. Vital Lady contains 25 herbs that work together synergistically to provide more vitality, inner strength, and immunity to mental and physical stress.
When colds and flu are circulating, Cold Weather Defense and Sniffle Free can help you strengthen your immunity before you get hit with symptoms. Cold Weather Defense eliminates toxins, boosts immunity and helps prevent viruses from attacking. Sniffle Free increases the body's defenses against colds by strengthening digestion and balancing the body's balance of moisture and mucus in the lungs and sinuses.
Finally, using massage oils on a daily basis will also help enhance immunity. You can choose from Moisturizing, Soothing, and Stimulating Massage Oils, and also special Youthful Skin Massage Oils. Daily ayurvedic self-massage, called abhyanga, is one of the most pleasurable ways to enhance immunity. Self-massage stimulates all of the organs of the body, flushes out impurities, and builds resistance to stress and disease.
If you follow the ayurvedic dietary guidelines and lifestyle for each season, take Amrit and other herbal food supplements to enhance immunity and create balance, ayurveda says you can develop an established, permanent state of immunity, when sickness is no longer a threat. This is the third level of immunity (Yuktikrit), which is the goal of Maharishi Ayurveda. "This is what 'bala' really means," says The Council, "a state without disease." So this winter, try giving your immunity a shot in the arm — and spend the cold season staying warm and healthy.
Spice-Wise: Boost Your Immunity
Spices are not only incredible flavor enhancers, but they are known for their therapeutic value as well. Try the Immunity-Boosting Spice Mix for enhancing immunity.
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