Ebola: Fear of the Unknown
Ebola in the news is scaring everybody, me included. Ebola and pandemics cause great fear because the stakes are so high and there is not a clear understanding of how the disease infects people. Modern medicine has not found a way to control or cure Ebola, but it is working hard at solving the problem. As individuals we each have to do our part to prevent the spread of the illness. This is where a holistic approach to our health is essential. We each have a responsibility to build our immunity so we are stronger to fend off illness and/or fight an illness if we become sick. There will always be germs and viruses, and it is impossible to avoid them. The best we can do is to strengthen our health while practicing good hygiene to avoid germ transmission as much as possible. Frequent hand washing is essential.
Ayurveda view on Immunity:
To understand the unique concept of immunity in Ayurveda, it is helpful to know the meaning of the ayurvedic word for immunity (Bala), which literally means strength. Bala goes beyond the Western concept of physical immunity. It also includes psychological immunity and spiritual immunity. Bala provides endurance against any disturbance to these areas. Ayurveda treats the whole person in both body and spirit. Health is found in prevention by a lifestyle that is proactive. A virus is likened to a seed and the body is compared to soil. A seed needs a receptive environment to grow in. When a person is weak in their body or spirit, the seed can take root in that soil. Ayurveda recommends building health by following a basic daily routine that has some adjustments for each individual’s unique body type.
Besides diet and lifestyle, there are other factors that determine your immunity level. These factors include your heredity, the season of the year, and your age. However, it is possible to develop an established level of immunity that remains stable by understanding how to manage the levels of immunity.
The Three Levels of Immunity:
- Hereditary (Sahaj) – the innate level of immunity which one is born with.
- Seasonal (Kalaj) – the fluctuating levels of immunity one experiences because of the change of seasons and different stages of life.
- Established (Yuktikrit) – the balanced, stable 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 intrinsic factor cannot be changed. However, one can compensate by strengthening the seasonal and established immunity.
The Gut and Immunity Connection:
In general, immunity is connected to digestion. When digestion is strong and appetite is good, then immunity is strengthened. Types of foods that are immunity-boosting include foods that are fresh, organic, easy to digest, pure and wholesome. These include organic milk, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, quality oils like ghee (clarified butter) and extra virgin olive oil, legumes, and unprocessed foods. Warm, home-cooked foods are ideal. Avoid cold or ice-cold foods, because cold foods and drinks harm digestion. Commercially processed foods, as well as canned, frozen, and packaged foods are considered old and difficult to digest. A probiotic and fermented foods are also recommended to strengthen the gut and digestion.
Lifestyle also impacts immunity. Staying up late, irregular waking times, working at night, eating off schedule and exposing the body to stress and fatigue can all affect the digestion and body rhythms thereby compromising the immune system. This is why it is so important to follow the ayurvedic daily routine, to keep the digestive system and other bodily rhythms working smoothly which will keep the immunity high.
Handling Disease Naturally- the Ayurveda way:
While Ebola is much different than a regular cold and requires immediate medical attention, there are some tools one can use to treat illness in general. At the first sign of a cold or flu, one should take extra measures. Acting immediately before the illness settles in is very important. First, get plenty of rest and stay at home. One should take a few days off to help the body get back on track. If one continues their usual routine, their condition may get worse and the recovery time will be longer. This really isn’t the time to push. Rather, one should follow the body’s natural rhythm. If it tells you to slow down by getting ill and the weak feeling that accompanies illness, listen to it and take the time to heal and strengthen.
Drink lots of warm water to help flush toxins from the lungs. Eat wholesome, warm, nutritious and easily digestible foods such as cooked leafy green vegetables and vegetable soups. Heavy foods like meat, dairy, oils, nut butters and sweets should be avoided. Spices like fresh ginger and turmeric help balance the production of mucus and enhance the body’s immunity. Raw honey is astringent which helps to dry up mucous and the honey is a good source of antioxidants. There are also herbal remedies like tulsi and elecampane root that strengthen respiratory function.
Ayurveda and its holistic approach give a person control over their health and a sense of empowerment. Your actions do impact your well-being.