The secret to strengthening your immune system is to build it when you feel well. Waiting until you are sick is too late.
What is the immune system?
If your body were a kingdom, the immune system is your army.
Much like a real military, the immune system consists of a vast network of tissues and cells that are constantly paroling for invading pathogens. Once the immune system detects a foreign body, it initiates an attack and destroys them.
The main cells responsible for the major functions of the immune system are the white blood cells.
Our white blood cells are stored in different places in the body, which are referred to as lymphoid organs. These include the following:
Thymus — a gland between the lungs, located just below the neck.
Spleen — an organ that filters the blood. It sits in the upper left of the abdomen.
Bone marrow — found in the center of the bones, it also produces red blood cells.
Lymph nodes —small grape-like glands, positioned throughout the body, linked by lymphatic vessels.
Because the immune system is a carefully fine tuned orchestra, a small imbalance anywhere can potentially cause a big problem. In auto-immune conditions, for example, the immune system mistakenly targets healthy cells, rather than foreign pathogens or faulty cells. In this scenario, they cannot distinguish self from non-self.
Everyone’s immunity is different, but generally is observed to grow stronger as we get older. However, mindfully keeping your body’s defense system fortified is a benefit to your overall vitality. Because, let’s be honest - no one likes being sick…
Strong immunity is a product of strong Agni (digestive fire), quality liver function and a balanced endocrine system (your hormones).
There is a theory of immunity in Ayurveda called the beej-bhumi theory, which means "seed and land." The idea being that your body is fertile land, and the seeds are potential pathogens floating on the wind. If the body is flooded with toxicity (Ama), and lacks vital energy (Ojas), this creates the conditions where infection is more likely to take root in the body and multiply.
If you feel like you’re getting sick all the time, or can’t seem to shake symptoms of common infections like the cold, a sinus infection or the flu, then it’s time to rally the troops and actively build up your defenses.
5 Daily rituals to strengthen your immunity
Heal your sleep cycle
Sleep is like a tectonic plate for immunity. Even the smallest shift in this rhythm can create great waves of dis-ease in your life down the road. Going to bed too late, or struggling to sleep through the night are real life problems for many of you, and I encourage you to keep pursuing a healthy sleep life on journey. Read more about Ayurveda and Sleep.
Chyavanprash jam is basically Ayurveda’s version of Western Herbalism’s Elderberry syrup. It is made with Indian Gooseberry (amla), sugar, ghee and a variety of traditional digestive spices. A delicious and efficient way to take immune boosting plant medicine into the body.
You’ve heard it before, but here it is again, “laughter is the best medicine.” Joy dramatically drops the levels of stress hormones in your body and boosts white blood cell production. Plus it feels good! Simple, free and effective medicine right there.
Move your body
It doesn’t matter if you make it to a workout class, or you shake your booty at home. Breathe, sweat, feel your heart pound in your chest, as much as you can. Physical activity helps flush out stale prana from the lungs, increases white blood cell activity and reduces stress. But you already know that, so hop to it soldier!
Did you know your body has 4 times more lymph vessels than blood vessels? The lymphatic system helps moves white blood cells, throughout your body to do their job.
Dry brushing is Ayurveda’s self-care tool for massaging the lymphatic system and also has a variety of other awesome benefits as well. Read more about Dry Brushing.
Non-seasonal food like salads, smoothies, cold foods and beverages, crackers and raw food in general.
Foods that dampen the digestive fire and weaken the spleen, such as processed foods, canned, frozen, and packaged foods, leftovers, foods grown with chemicals, and foods laced with preservatives.
Avoid dairy in late winter, especially if suffering with sinus congestion, a cold or prone to allergies and asthma.
Be well and prosper!