The Importance of Mucus Membranes
The lining of the intestines and respiratory tract is surprisingly LARGE. It could easily cover a tennis court if completely flattened out! Mucus can be a double-edged sword, as it provides both natural protection to these linings, but, in excess, can congest them.
Lined with mucus-making cells, called mucus membranes, the intestines and respiratory tract are akin to the three little bears: they cannot be too dry or too wet; to function optimally, they have to be just right.
When the body’s mucus membranes are irritated by stress, pollens, pollutants, toxins, or seasonal changes, they can produce either too little or too much mucus. This can affect the health, well-being, and balance of the entire body.
Seasonal Impacts: Vata, Pitta + Kapha Imbalances
Sometime in mid-August, as heat of summer accumulates, most everything in the northern hemisphere begins to dry out. It is common to notice your skin becoming drier, your sinuses becoming irritated or sensitive, and even a change in your bowel movements.
Of course, nature has a solution to accumulation of summer’s heat and dryness . . . it’s called winter!
Nature goes from hot and dry in summer to cold and dry in winter. The cold of winter is a welcome reprieve, but dryness can potentially accumulate and aggravate mucus membranes in fall and winter. In Ayurveda, this is referred to as a vata imbalance.
Vata is made up of the air and ether elements and is, by nature, cold and dry. Vata naturally accumulates in the cold, dry winter. A vata imbalance is the accumulation of cold and dry environmental factors resulting in aggravation of mucus membranes. Mucus membranes lining the intestines and respiratory tract are the two most important protective barriers of the body.
At the end of summer, there is an accumulation of heat, called pitta in Ayurveda. Too much pitta or accumulated heat at the end of summer can aggravate vata (dryness) in winter, as both summer and winter can be dry. This can result in excess production of mucus, called a kapha imbalance.
To ensure mucus membranes are insulated from accumulating dryness, nature’s harvest provides cooling fruits and vegetables at the end of summer to balance pitta (excess heat), as well as warming, lubricating nuts, seeds, and grains during fall and winter to balance vata (excess cold and dryness).
Protect Your Mucus Membranes
In a perfect world, living in harmony with the seasonal harvest and eating seasonal foods, nature provides natural protection of mucus membranes.
However, today we live in houses with dry heat in winter. Many of us eat a diet that doesn’t vary throughout the year, and we migrate between house, office, and car cooled to 72ﾟ in summer and heated to 72ﾟ in winter.
Living predominately indoors disconnects us from nature, insulating us not only from changing temperatures, but also from light-dark circadian cycles.
One study shows that the average American experiences only 1-2 hours of sunlight per day in summer, and much of that is through the window of a car. In winter, outdoor sunlight exposure is much less for many of us.1
Herbs for Balancing Vata, Pitta + Kapha Mucus Imbalances
As seasons change, dry imbalanced mucus membranes make reactive mucus to protect against the heat and dryness of summer or the dryness of winter.
Excess reactive mucus in the respiratory and intestinal tracts can bog down cilia and villi, negatively affecting absorption of nutrients and intestinal detoxification. It can also congest the sinuses and upper respiratory tract as we approach winter.
Dry, depleted, or excess mucus can alter the natural environment that supports healthy beneficial bacteria, becoming a breeding ground for undesirable bacteria competing for resources with the trillions of beneficial bacteria required for optimal health and a robust immune system.
Nature not only harvests cooling fruits and vegetables in summer, and warming nuts, seeds, and grains to insulate and lubricate us in winter, nature also harvests numerous herbal plants to balance mucus membranes.
Ayurveda’s classic formula for a healthy respiratory tract is a combination of herbs called sitopladi churna, which consists of cane sugar, a type of bamboo called banslochan (Bambusa arundinacea), long pepper or pippali fruit (Piper longum), cardamom seed (Elettaria cardamomum), and cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia).
To make this formula beneficial for balancing a vata or kapha respiratory tract, at LifeSpa we combine this traditional formula with turmeric and an Ayurvedic bioenhancing formula called trikatu, which combines ginger, long pepper, and black pepper. We call this formula Mucus Destroyer.
Sitopladi has properties that allow for natural expectoration of mucus. It balances kapha (phlegm), vata (dryness), and pitta (aggravation, heat, and dryness) in the chest, throat, and respiratory tract.2
Sitopladi has been shown to support a healthy antioxidant effect3 and boost immunity in the respiratory tract.4
Trikatu is a combination of ginger, long pepper, and black pepper. In this formulation, these pungent herbs help balance mucus production, while boosting natural respiratory defenses. They act as bioavailability enhancers, or bioenhancers, as they drive absorption and boost effectiveness of other herbs in the formula.5,7
This bioenhancing effect is called yogavahi in Ayurveda. Numerous herbs are classified as yogavahi and are used as drivers or bioenhancers in many formulas.5
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a pungent root, well-documented to support a healthy immune system, external and internal skin (which lines intestinal and respiratory tracts), clear respiration, and natural expectoration of healthy lungs.6 Turmeric also supports a healthy environment of mucus membranes, which support proliferation of beneficial bacteria that compete with undesirable bacteria for growing space in the respiratory and intestinal tracts.6
We recommend taking this powerhouse of herbs whenever you feel too much mucus coming on. Have you tried Mucus Destroyer? What did you notice?