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Posts Tagged ‘cold’

It’s that time of year. Cold and flu season has hit with a vengeance. My sister-in-law recently came down with strep throat – again. Many of my yoga students have missed class in the last few weeks with a bad case of something. It’s shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons in recent history.

I’m a strong believer that the best way to treat a cold or the flu is to prevent it. In honor of the Super Bowl this weekend, we could say the best offense is a good defense.

Trying to get over the flu is FAR more uncomfortable than taking a few extra steps to stay healthy. We have so much power to strengthen our ability to fend off the predictable onslaught of winter bugs. Even those of us who haven’t come down with any symptoms are likely expending energy fighting off the variety of microorganisms currently in circulation, so taking some extra immune-boosting precautions can help all of us tremendously.

I hope my top “stay healthy” tips below will inspire you. (For additional inspiration, check out Dr. Aviva Romm’s great blog post on how her physician and herbalist colleagues treat the flu.)

1) Sleep. MORE. Make sure you are regularly getting 7-8 hours each night. This is critical right now. Sleep is your access point to your immune reserves. At the very first inkling that something is off, put down whatever you’re doing and go to bed, and sleep as much as your body will let you. Do it again the next night.

2) Neti Pot. Every night, cleanse your sinuses using a neti pot with a saline rinse to remove any airborne germs, pollutants, and allergens that you may have breathed in that day that are just waiting for a weak moment to pounce. It is recommended to use warm distilled or purified water and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (non-iodized). It is important to get the right amount of salt so that it doesn’t sting the nasal passages.

3) Nasya oil. In the morning, protect your nasal passages with a medicated nasya oil (my favorite “Super Nasya” is formulated by my teacher Dr. Vasant Lad and is available at Ayurveda.com/shop). Lay down with your head tipped back and drop 2-3 drops in each nostril and sniff. The medicated oil, infused with eucalyptus and other anti-bacterial herbs, lubricates the sensitive mucus membranes of the sinuses, improving their defensive filtering power.

4) Herbal support. If you interact with lots of people, or have children bringing home their classroom’s collection of microorganisms, consider taking an immune-boosting herbal formula for a short time. It is always best to consult your health care provider before taking an herbal supplement, especially if you are taking any prescription medications, since there may be unanticipated interactions. My favorite Ayurvedic immune herb is Kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata), which is the primary ingredient in Banyan Botanicals’ Immune Support Formula. Under its latin name, it’s turning up in many mainstream immune formulas – ask at your health food store or botanical medicine source. Elderberry syrup and yarrow tea are additional immune boosters.

5) Hot ginger tea. Keep your digestion moving by drinking copious amounts of warm ginger tea throughout the day, which kindles digestive agni and keeps you hydrated, two important factors in maintaining your body’s natural ability to fight off interlopers like bacteria and viruses.

6) Avoid cold and heavy foods. These are the foods that produce Ama (the sludgy side-effect of poor digestion that clogs up our immune response). Heavy kapha-genic foods that are taxing for the body to digest divert our healing energy in order to process them – foods like cheese, iced drinks, cold milk, yogurt, ice cream, and anything fried. Stick with fresh organic fruits and well-cooked vegetables, your favorite sick-day soup, or Ayurveda’s traditional easy-to-digest kitchari. This time of year, I’m eating kitchari a couple times a week!

7) Keep your head warm. Wear a hat, even if you’re only going out for a short time, or even if you’re tempted by the thought that “it’s not THAT cold.”  Kapha tends to gather in the head, and we don’t want to give it any invitation to accumulate there. Keep a scarf by the door and wear it over your throat and ears every time you go out.

(*Bonus Tip) Probiotics. If you have recently taken a course of antibiotics, be sure to stock back up on healthy intestinal flora by taking a high quality, multi-strain probiotic supplement.

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Over the past few weeks here in Austin, we have been treated to the ostentatious grape scent of new mountain laurel blossoms and the slow-motion explosion of red bud trees. There is no mistaking that winter is over and rasa, the life-nurturing juice, is emerging in the earth again. While the return of moisture is certainly a relief for our gardens and our parched spirits here in drought-ridden central Texas, it also heralds a shift in the earth’s energy towards Kapha dosha. According to Ayurveda, spring is known to be the Kapha season: a marked difference from the dry, cold, Vata-aggravation typical of winter. The heaviness and moisture prevalent during spring can easily upset our body’s equilibrium.

With the surge of moisture evident in plants that are budding and leafing out again, many of us begin to experience symptoms related to an excess of these Kapha energies – increased phlegm in the sinuses and lungs, heaviness in the head, a sense of lethargy or stagnation, or mood swings towards depression. I found myself fighting a nasal-y head cold for the past few weeks and noticed sniffles and coughs around me everywhere I went.

The solution to these challenges, according to Ayurveda, is to seek influences opposite in quality from Kapha dosha, which is heavy, dull, oily and cool. Therefore, lightness, sharpness, dryness and warmth help to restore balance. One of the most powerful strategies to combat Kapha’s heaviness and phlegm is to eat foods that reduce Kapha. For a time, avoid heavy foods like cheese, yogurt, red meat, fried food, wheat and oats, as well as cold foods like ice cream – and really all sweets – or iced drinks.

Instead, choose warm and spicy foods to help liquefy Kapha that may be clogging the channels as mucus. Bitter greens and vibrant, energy-infused sprouts are the earth’s perfectly timed gifts at this time of year. Drink warm water with your meals, and keep active to prevent stagnation.

And when the clouds part, get outside! Soak up the sun’s vibrancy and breathe deeply – spring is the perfect time for movement. Kick your yoga practice up a notch or take a brisk walk through nature. Get your body moving, and your spirit will thank you. I am feeling called to get outside into Austin’s beautiful green belt of undeveloped land, this amazing strip of green that cuts by my future home (which, yes, is still in progress…).

For those of you who live nearby, mark your calendars for a free lecture I’m giving on March 30 titled, “Applying the Principles of Ayurveda in Daily Life,” at 7:00pm at the Yoga Yoga 360 Wellness Spa. Call 381-6464 to save your seat now – we had over 100 people register for the last talk I gave! I hope to see you there.

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