Immunity is top of mind for many of us at this time. Most of us know that our immune system is designed to fight pathogens and infection. If you’re seeking to strengthen your immune system and protect yourself, as well as your loved ones from virus, a cold or a nasty flu – this episode if for you.
In this two-part series, I want to share with you practical ways you can boost your immunity, according to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda. In Part One, you’ll learn seven habits you can implement into your daily life today to boost your immunity and stay healthy. In Part Two, I’ll share essential Ayurvedic herbs for boosting the immune system.
Welcome back to The Ayurveda Glow Podcast, a place to discuss how the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda can be applied to your modern, everyday life to help you feel vibrant in mind, body and spirit, enjoy optimal health, and glow from the inside out.
I’m your host, Katrina, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor & plant-based nutrition advocate based in Santa Monica, California. Through this podcast, I’ll be sharing with you what I’m learning in the areas of plant-based nutrition and holistic mind-body approaches to optimal health. I aim to explore each of these areas through the lens of Ayurveda.
Immunity is top of mind for many of us at this time. Many of us are seeking to strengthen our immune system to protect ourselves or our loved ones, especially your elderly loved ones, from a virus or the flu so that we can stay healthy.
I believe that knowledge and wisdom empower us all. So in this episode, Part One of a two-part series, I want to share with you science-backed, practical ways you can boost your immunity and optimize your health, according to Ayurveda.
Before we begin, I want to thank Dr Mark Halpern, founder of the California College of Ayurveda, where I have been studying Ayurveda. I gathered a lot of the resources I’m about to share with you in this episode from a message Dr. Halpern shared on the topic of immunity. So thank you, Dr. Halpern.
Let’s dive in!
What’s the difference between a bacteria and a virus?
First, let’s cover the basics – starting with the difference between viruses and bacteria.
I was curious what the difference is between bacteria and a virus so I did some digging and this is what I learned.
Nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, an expert in functional and integrative medicine, explains:
“Viruses aren’t like bacteria, so you can’t simply take an antibiotic to get over them. Bacteria stick to the outside of your cells, while viruses inject themselves inside your cells, using your own cells as a layer of protection. This makes it difficult to develop medications that stop viruses without injuring our own cells.” (1)
It’s for this reason that both Dr Halpern and Ann Louise emphasized that we need to “look to natural alternatives that help boost our immune systems” so that the immune system can do its job of fighting off “foreign invaders more quickly, and also help to strengthen cell membranes so the viruses can’t get in to begin with.” (2)
The takeaway is this: viruses are more difficult to treat because they are not responsive to antibiotics. It’s for this reason that the best way to get over a virus is to support your body in managing it through the immune system.
7 Ayurvedic Practices To Boost Your Immune System
There are a number of Ayurvedic herbs that are known to support the immune system but before diving into them, I want to mention some top-level practices you can take action on and immediately implement into your daily, everyday life to keep your immune system strong and stay healthy.
These practices are common sense and I imagine they will not be a surprise to you, but they serve as a good reminder, in case you’re not prioritizing these habits now.
I want to emphasize that each of these practices will support you on an ongoing basis if you practice them consistently. And this is key because in Ayurveda, optimal health begins with prevention of disease. It’s a lot easier to prevent disease than it is to treat a condition once it manifests.
Remember – your body has an incredible immune system but it needs the proper support to do its job. Ayurveda teaches that we can keep our immune system strong and optimize our health through diet and lifestyle, as well as by aligning with the daily and seasonal rhythms of nature.
One more thing – I’m about to share 7 daily practices. I know it may be challenging to make all these changes all at once. So, if you’re not doing these things now, perhaps consider choosing just two practices to start integrating first. You can add the other practices into your daily routine one at a time as you develop the new habits.
Here are some immediate actions you can take to boost your immune system:
1. Stop Smoking + Stop Drinking Alcohol.
First – and this seems obvious – is to stop drinking alcohol and stop smoking. Most of us today know that alcohol is harmful to our liver and smoking is harmful to our lungs. In addition, studies show that alcohol and smoking weaken the immune system and impair the body’s ability to defend against infection.
So the first thing you can do to support your immune system is to stop drinking alcohol and stop smoking. I know this is easier said than done for some people but if you want to keep your immune system strong so that it can fight viruses and keep you healthy, stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
2. Eat Whole, Real Food, Mostly Plants + Veggies.
Next, you want to eat a whole food, real food diet that includes colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies contain micronutrients and phytochemicals that help your body fight viruses and fruits and veggies will help boost immunity.
To make sure you’re getting a variety of nutrients, be sure to include foods with different colors on your plate. This is also called a Rainbow Diet.
Nature has designed a brilliant way through the color of the food itself to help us know whether we have a diversity of nutrients on our plate. So, you can be rest assured that the more colors on your plate, the more nutrients you’re consuming.
The emphasis here is on real, whole foods from Mother Nature, not processed or packaged food that can sit on the shelves for months or sugary food products.
The most nutrient-dense food is living food in the form of fresh fruits and veggies. Fresh fruits and veggies have the most prana or life force and contain the greatest amount of phytochemicals and nutrients that will support the cells in your body. I’ll be sure to drop links to all references below in the show notes.
3. Prioritize Sleep.
Third is quality, restorative sleep.
I know it’s common in our busy modern world to miss out on quality sleep. Sleep, however, is something to prioritize if you want to boost your immune system because it’s during sleep that the body repairs and rejuvenates itself.
In fact, studies show that during sleep, the body’s stress hormones dip, which helps immune cells known as T cells fight off infection. So to keep your immune system strong, be sure to make sleep a priority each night.
And, on the topic of sleep –
It’s not just how much sleep you get but when you sleep. For most people, this means going to sleep by 10pm and getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
4. Get Mild to Moderate Exercise.
Another way to support your immune system is through mild to moderate exercise. “Mild” is the key word here because if you wear yourself out, you’ll weaken your immune system, so you don’t want to overdo it.
Mild exercise everyday though, perhaps in the form of yoga or walking or another exercise you enjoy, will also support the respiratory system and help the lungs stay healthy.
5. Spend Time In The Sun.
Sunlight is a natural immune booster, so it’s a good idea to go outside and expose your skin to the sun for as little as five to ten minutes each day to boost immune cell activity. Once again, don’t overdo it.
Studies show that as little as 5-10 minutes of sun exposure is enough to boost the activity of T cells, which are the white blood cells involved in immune function and fighting infections.
6. Don’t Overeat.
In Ayurveda, good immunity depends on good digestion. It’s for this reason that Ayurveda teaches that it’s not just what you eat but how you eat and what your body absorbs that supports your immunity and overall health.
With this in mind, a simple thing you can do to boost your immunity is to simply be mindful of how much you’re eating at each meal and make sure to not overeat. You want to eat until your ¾ full, then stop eating.
When we eat too much, the body simply cannot process everything and the excess becomes what in Ayurveda is referred to as ama, or toxins. Eating too much causes the digestive system to work harder. When this happens, the digestive system and metabolism are suppressed and the immune system is weakened.
So, when you eat, make sure you eat mindfully, being sure to chew each bite and only eat until you’re ¾ full and stop. This will support your immune system.
7. Stay Positive.
One of the many things I appreciate about Ayurveda is that Ayurveda has long recognized that the mind and body are intimately connected.
The good news is that modern science, including the science of epigenetics, now supports what Ayurveda has been teaching for thousands of years.
We now know, for example, that when we are stressed and caught up in fear-based thoughts, the stress hormone cortisol is released into our bloodstream. This stress hormone is designed to protect us in the short-term, but overtime, if we continue living with stress all day every day, the ongoing stress weakens our immune system.
Science now shows that every thought that goes on in our head is biochemically based. And those neurochemicals affect receptor sites on every cell in your body. In other words, the cells in your body respond to your thoughts and feelings.
So now that we are aware of this strong mind-body connection, it makes sense to reduce stress by choosing which thoughts you focus on. If you feel like you’re going to get sick, your chances of getting sick are greater. If you watch the media all day with its nonstop programming of fear-based news, you are literally feeding your mind and body more stress and this is weakening your immune system.
So, get enough news to be informed but try to keep it brief. Turning off the news and media and being present in the moment, spending that time in nature, listening to calming music or enjoying positive company will support your immune system.
Also – remind yourself that no matter what the circumstances may be, no matter what is happening in your environment, in the world, or in your life right now, your body can handle whatever comes.
As Dr Halpern explained in his message on immunity, “it’s not about lying to yourself, it’s about getting in touch with that part of yourself that knows you’re going to be okay, that you’re connected to something greater than yourself, that you’re a part of the greater whole. If you can get to that place, you are going to be more balanced and this will help you live a more harmonious life.” (3)
Modern science supports this as well, showing that staying positive can help keep the healthy neurochemicals flowing which in turn help the white blood cells fight virus and disease. By keeping the white blood cells healthier, they’ll be more reactive to any threat.
On that note, some practical steps you can take to reduce or manage stress include practicing yoga, meditation or visualizing your wellbeing.
So these are seven top level diet and lifestyle practices you can incorporate as daily habits to boost your immunity.
In the next episode, Part Two of this two-part series, I’ll share recommended Ayurvedic herbs to boost your immunity and support your health.
Thank you for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed this episode and learned practical actions you can take right away to stay healthy and boost your immune system. These practices will support your immunity not just at certain times or seasons of the year, but every day, and throughout the various seasons of life.
We all know that our health is our most valuable asset. Without it, we cannot enjoy our life to the fullest or experience our full potential. I look forward to sharing more in the next episode.
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Bonus: Immunity Boosting Recipes E-Book
As a special bonus for this episode, I created an Immunity Boosting Recipes E-Book for you with some of my favorite go-to recipes that support immune health. My hope is that the delicious ingredients and herbs in these recipes nourish your mind, body and spirit. You can get this free Immunity Boosting Recipes E-Book by going to: https://katrinah.com/immunity.
Thank you for joining me today. I appreciate you so much. Wishing you health, happiness and a gorgeous day.
p.s. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. It’s not a substitute for professional care by a doctor and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For personalized support, please seek out the advice of a qualified healthcare professional for your specific health concerns. Thank you. Stay healthy.