Boosting Immunity in the Winter
Dec 28, 2014 10:32AM
● By Nicholas D’Orazio
A natural approach to health teaches self-protection from colds and flus. The fundamental strategy is to build up the body’s natural defense system; that is, the immune system. Natural medicine uses the analogy of seeds and land to represent the relationship between an infection and the body. If they body is weak, run down or filled with toxins, it is fertile ground for infection to take hold, just as land that is suited to a particular plant will sprout many seeds.
Here are five suggestions drawn from the traditions of ayurvedic medicine to bolster the immune system against infections.
Eat immunity-boosting foods, which means fresh, organic and easy to digest. Regularly drinking hot water is a good way to detoxify the body. Ayurvedic tradition favors warm soups, cooked greens and other vegetables, fruits and whole grains, as well as immune-enhancing herbs such as echinacea and basil and spices including turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, fennel, cinnamon and black pepper. Create an immune-boosting spice tea by boiling a quart of water and adding one teaspoon each of cumin seed, coriander seed, fennel seed and freshly grated ginger root. Steep the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes, and then strain it. Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice. Cool slightly and add a bit of raw honey. Store the tea in a thermos and drink it throughout the day.
Avoid immunity-disrupting foods and beverages, including cold or iced drinks; heavy, hard-to-digest foods and those that are sticky, like caramels and nut butters. Reduce consumption of refined white sugar, fast foods and commercially processed foods that contain preservatives and additives. Ayurveda also recommends avoiding old and left-over foods, canned and frozen products and anything deep fried. Instead, eat freshly prepared, homemade organic foods.
Get adequate sleep, at least eight hours per day. In general, it is better for healthy adults not to sleep during daylight hours. Ayurveda recommends going to bed before 10 p.m. and awakening before 6 a.m.
Be sure to eliminate regularly. The immune system is closely related to digestive health. If digestion is strong and elimination is good, then the body is healthy and resistant to infection. Having at least one or two daily bowel movements is normal. If elimination is inadequate, toxins can build up in the body. Ayurveda advocates drinking a glass of warm water with a little lemon to help the process. Eating seasonal, well-ripened fruit is another elimination aid.
Keep vitamin and nutrient levels high. Vitamins A, C and D are important for fighting infections. It may be especially prudent to have vitamin D levels checked by a medical professional.
If sickness does happen, it is best to stay at home and avoid exposing others. Drinking plenty of hot liquids, getting adequate rest and following all of the described preventive measures will expedite recovery and increase comfort. One ayurvedic home remedy is to ingest one teaspoon of turmeric three times daily in a cup of warm milk or warm water. Another traditional remedy is to mix two teaspoons of raw honey with half a teaspoon of ginger juice squeezed from the freshly grated root.
Nicholas D’Orazio, M.D., practices integrative medicine at Strasburg Health Associates, located at 181 Hartman Bridge Rd., in Ronks. He was formerly the medical director of the Lancaster, Massachusetts Ayurvedic Health Center. For more information, call 717-687-7541.