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“Boosting Immunity” is the current catchphrase during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are painfully aware now that we are more vulnerable to infections when we have co-morbidities and risk factors like type-2 diabetes and obesity. And most of us have become conscious that the stronger our immunity, the lesser our chances of catching any infection or the easier it is to recover from an illness!
The pandemic is not over; it will take a while to vaccinate everyone and there are conversations about variants, mutations, and another wave. We’ve also been reminded that, as humans, we’ve probably paid more attention to productivity than our own health and happiness and this renders us vulnerable to both chronic diseases and infections.
When Dr. Anthony Fauci, American physician-scientist, immunologist, and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the United States was asked what he does to protect his immunity during the pandemic, this is what he said:
“If you don’t smoke, you only drink in moderation, you get a good night’s sleep, have a healthy diet, you exercise, and you do something to reduce stress, that’s going to keep your immune system healthy…”
(And, of course, he reiterated the importance of masks.)
So what does the 5,000-year-old “Science of Life,” Ayurveda, a medical science in India and a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the United States have to say?
Exactly that! Ayurveda is about preventative, lifestyle, and personalized health care.
There are three tenets of prevention in Ayurveda or what we call the three pillars of health, Ahar (nutrition), Nidra (sleep), and Vihar or Brahmacharya (lifestyle or balanced living).
What I like to call: Eat, Sleep, Love!
Eat, Sleep, Love!
Having a nutritious diet, eating at regular meal times, hydrating enough, and minimizing junk helps promote good health; nobody will dispute that. Ayurveda has a unique concept of nutrition or inputs! It also includes breath and sensory perceptions and that makes perfect, intuitive sense. This is where the importance of stress relief, reducing negative inputs, and sensory or digital overload, and meditating comes in.
Pro-tip: Simple breath work can help you eliminate toxins. And if you meditate and do yoga, not only will that improve your breathing, sensory perceptions, and overall health, it will help you make better lifestyle choices!
Try and get enough sleep and do sleep at regular timings. Isn’t it your experience that a few late nights and your body will groan, feel inflamed, have random aches and pains, and you may feel depressed or on-edge?
A number of research studies corroborate that feeling you have. Ayurveda is the earliest medical science (according to Psychology Today) that recognizes chronobiology and the importance of a regular routine with adequate sleep; your biological clock and circadian rhythms have been set in a manner that your sleep is restorative and healing.
The third pillar of Ayurveda talks about a healthy, balanced lifestyle and brahmacharya. A lot of people mistake that for celibacy—but that sure isn’t what it means. In fact, Ayurveda encourages a healthy love life and has a whole branch dealing with sexual dysfunction, a healthy sex drive, and the reproductive system.
Brahmacharya simply implies connecting with a higher purpose. We’re all looking for meaning, and what greater purpose is there than to be loving, to be of service to humanity, and spread happiness?
And a balanced lifestyle implies reducing stress, getting enough exercise, not smoking or drinking (or drinking in moderation), and eating a healthy diet.
It all sounds uncannily like the advice Dr. Fauci gives. There is a reason, don’t you think? All truths converge and all sensible health care advice is similar!
To quote Margrit Mikulis, President, National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) who released this statement at the start of the pandemic:
“Conservatively speaking and at this time, there are no known nutrients, botanicals, vaccines (well, there are now!), or prescription or over-the-counter medicines available to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19…but our community should be encouraged to employ the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda, which by nature upholds prevention as a core principle.”
Indeed, prevention is always better than a cure and these measures sound simple but can reset your health and provide a framework to boost your immunity!
The World Health Organization (WHO) had cautioned way before COVID-19 that the 21st century is going through an epidemic of stress. Undoubtedly, mental and physical health has suffered even more in the last year. But we’ve also been reminded that there is more to life than achievement and productivity.
And while social distancing has caused some loneliness, I’d like to send you a virtual hug and remind you that we’re together in this!
This is a good time to ask yourself: How has stress served your mind-body complex? How do you attend to yourself and your immunity? How much importance do you give to self-care?