With news of the Coronavirus spreading as rapidly as minutes in a day it is important to keep our head above water and remain calm. This will protect us from added stress which compromises our immunity and of course, our respiratory health.
So before I get into it, let’s backtrack for a second to 2002, when the first of two coronaviruses, SARS (severe acute Respiratory Syndrome) was responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and caused global outbreaks. There was also MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus, which emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and affected at least 2,500 people. We survived then and if we take care of ourselves, listen to our body’s intelligence and follow some guidelines, we will survive this now as well.
Coronaviruses generally target and affect respiratory systems i.e.nose and lungs and can pass to another person via droplets from their nose or mouth. While time is necessary to understand the full extent of how Coronavirus is transmitted and how people are infected, we know what we know and that is that we must strengthen and maintain the integrity of our respiratory and immune systems so we are not vulnerable in the elements.
Ayurveda is a preventative science of medicine that, for over 6,000 years, has used herbs, foods and lifestyle practices to successfully build immunity and inhibit illness. As you may know, according to Ayurveda we are all made of three doshas; Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Maintaining a balance of these biological energies is essential for preventing disease and living a long and healthy life. When these doshas are out of balance, ama (toxins) form in the body and we are more vulnerable to illness.
Right now (late winter) Kapha dosha, which is located in the lungs as well as the upper region of the body and is responsible for respiration, is accumulating and if we are not mindful now of our diet and lifestyle, Kapha will be aggravated come spring. This is why so many people are vulnerable to allergies, coughs, bronchitis, mucous etc…
With Coronavirus and Kapha season happening in at the same time I want to share some simple but effective precautions you can apply to strengthen and protect respiratory system.
- Avoid cold, damp and oily foods that will only further aggravate Kapha. Instead allow your diet to ignite your digestive fire, maintain heat, liquefy mucus, and remove excess moisture out of your system. Consume lighter meals from now through spring to prevent accumulating toxins.
- Cook with immune-enhancing and pungent/astringent/bitter spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, clove, cayenne and black pepper. These will enhance agni (your digestive metabolic fire) which will boost your immune system and reduce ama in the body.
- Bitter herbs help reduce buildup of mucus and pungent help thin it out making it easier to expel. Think turmeric, dandelion, black pepper, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
- Astringent fruits like pomegranates, apples and pears are ideal. If your digestion can handle astringent and dry legumes like black beans, lentils and kidney beans, by all means have fun with these.
- Avoid unctuous, heavy and watery fruits like bananas, avocados coconut, dates, figs, cucumbers, olives and sweet potatoes. If you must, maintain moderation.
- Avoid dairy as much as possible right now. Kapha i.e. your respiration does not need this added heaviness and blockage.
- If you live in a very wet/humid climate make sure not to over-hydrate. Drink warm water when you are thirsty and after sweating.
- Honey is the favored sweetener for Kapha as it has a scraping (lekhana) effect in our body’s vessels and channels meaning it is able to scrape away buildup and waste. Do not heat your honey as this will remove its medicinal benefits. Instead add it to warm water and sip on this throughout the day. NOTE: This is not the time to indulge in sweets made with refined sugars.
- Turmeric is a must-have as it is the only classical Ayurvedic spice that digests ama in every tissue of the body. It also soothes the bronchial system, especially when mixed with coriander and cumin. Add to all meals.
- Avoid creating ama with processed foods, ice-cold foods, cold drinks, sugar, rich fried foods and vegetables from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet peppers). Keep your immunity up with fresh, warm and home-cooked meals and teas.
- Adequate sleep is essential to enhance immunity and resist disease but Kapha out of balance can overindulge in sleep so best thing is to go to bed between 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. and get up between 6-7 a.m.
- If you are not sleeping well (most often related to overactive Vata), trust Ayurveda with simple remedies like a warm nutmeg and turmeric latte an hour before bed and while it may not be easy at first and will require a certain discipline, maintaining a sleep schedule so your body can harmonize with the circadian rhythm is crucial. Remember, you can eat all the organic food, drink all the fresh juices and take all the yoga classes you want but if your sleep and stress levels are compromised, so is your digestion and overall immunity.
- At its worst, Kapha is represented by excess fat, mucous, phlegm, pus and other fatty/fluid stagnation that ama (toxins) loves to find refuge in. This means exercise will be especially important during this season to boost digestive health which boosts immunity and helps expel ama. Avoid cooking with a lot of oil and instead use water to prevent sticking when possible.
- Daily massage is important for opening channels, stimulating the digestion, removing toxins from the body, and pacifying the doshas making it a vital therapy in strengthening immunity and preventing respiratory problems. It’s important to note that massage is NOT recommended if you already have a cough or other respiratory imbalance, because it can push ama deeper into the system.
READ MORE HERE about Ayurvedic Herbs for a healthy Respiratory system.
- Take Vitamin C every day on its own or Chyavanaprash, an Ayurvedic jam made with Amalaki fruit (one of the most potent sources of vitamin C and 1/3 fruits in Triphala). Chyavanaprash boosts immunity. I LOVE IT (this one is my favorite) and will not miss a day without it (my hair stopped greying by the way since I started taking it. I have not colored it in almost six months.). And of course, fresh fruits and veggies will supply you with healthy doses of C.
- Going to the library, school, office or café? Wipe down the computer, mouse, table and chair handles with 91% rubbing alcohol before settling in. I poured some in a little spray bottle and keep it in my purse. Pretty simple.
- Be considerate of others and remember that we are coexisting in public spaces. Do not cough or sneeze in your open hands and touch something in a public space that someone else will touch. That’s not a thoughtful way of coexisting.
- Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc and also fine for keeping a balanced kapha dosha. Toast and add to soups, warm salads and other savory dishes.
- Take a lung tonic every day. This is the time to strengthen our lungs and supplement with herbs specific to lung and respiratory health. The brands I trust are Herb Pharm, Wish Garden Herbs, Athreya Herbs and Banyan Botanicals’ Immune Bundle!
- Sip on teas that support the respiratory system. I love Alvita, Traditional Medicinals and Organic India I also love Mountain Rose Herbs for lung tonics, syrups and loose teas.
- Best lung teas? Warming peppercorns and sipping in a tea with a cinnamon stick and honey is a perfect way to build lung tissue and detoxify your respiratory system. Peppercorns also do a good job of keeping the airways open over time. Licorice supports the proper function of the lungs. Tulsi warms the respiratory system and removes toxins in the lungs. Mullein removes mucous from the lungs. Osha is all around one of the most beneficial herbs for respiration and Marshmallow Root eases pain and swelling of the mucous membranes that line the respiratory tract and is wonderful for dry cough.
- Avoid eating out as much as possible and relying on others to have the standards you need in order to stay healthy. Getting on a plane and using their pillows, blankets and not wiping down your window, folding table, movie screen, armrests and head rest makes very little sense. Please be smart and take control of your own well-being.
- Most of all please calm down and practice common sense. A chaotic and fearful mind prevents progress for yourself and those around you. Teach your kids how to properly wash their hands. If they are sick, keep them home from school. Keep 91% alcohol (or buy 100% online) in a little spray bottle as well as some wipes. Touch handles and credit card machines with a tissue, your sleeve or knuckles. Keep hands out of eyes and mouth. Wash hands very often. Stay home from social events unless you must go. Be calm and kind to avoid stressing out your nervous system. Also, definitely practice some Pranayama breathing exercises to strengthen your respiration and soothe your worries.
This too shall pass.