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Ayurveda, Immunity, Rasayana, and Lymph
Rasa originates in the digestive tract as a substance called ahara rasa. Ahara rasa creates and maintains the part of your immune system that is in your gut (which is about 70% of our overall immunity).
Rasayana therapies, or Ayurvedic immunity therapies, are split into two categories:
- Food and herbs
- Healthy lifestyle and behavior.
The four main types of rasayana for immunity are:
- Ahara rasayana: food
- Vihara rasayana: lifestyle
- Acharya rasayana: behavior
- Aushadha rasayana: herbs
Sattvic Living, Gut Health, and Immunity
One of the goals of rasayana therapy is to boost sattva, or a feeling of peace and calm. Sattva is created by the quality of the foods you eat and the mental and emotional health created by your lifestyle and behavior.
We now know unwholesome foods, along with mental and emotional stress, can impact the health of our microbiomes (the microbes that live in our guts are called krimi in Ayurveda). An unhealthy microbiome impacts the robustness of our immune systems. Studies show that the connection between the gut’s microbiome and mental and emotion stress is bi-directional: one can affect the other and both independently have been shown to compromise immunity.
Studies have also found that a healthy immune system in your gut is linked to a healthy immune system in your lungs.. The connection is due to a bi-directional relationship between the microbiome in the gut and the newly discovered microbiome in the respiratory tract. Previously, the lungs were thought to be sterile, but researchers have discovered that they actually support a powerful microbiome, which in turn supports our immune systems.
When foreign microbes, or krimi, associated with many illnesses enter the body, they can inject genetic reproductive material into the epithelial cells of the gut and lungs. Ayurveda suggests infectious krimi are best treated by altering the host (the individual) or the prakriti (qualities) of the krimi (pathogen), rather than targeting the invader, the way Western medicine does with antibiotics.
3 Ayurvedic Herbs for Helping Your Immune System
Ayurvedic immunity treatments, in part, support your digestion and metabolism, as well as the respiratory epithelium, which promotes immunity.
Here, five herbs and supplements that can help heal your digestion and respiratory tract, and boost immunity:
1. Fresh ginger has been shown to boost your primary digestive fire, called jathara agni. Strong jathara agni can help prevent a pathogen from attaching to your respiratory tract, while stimulating innate immune cells (your innate immune response is your body’s natural first line of defense against foreign pathogens) to secrete IFN-B (acytokine that helps regulate immunity).
Recommendation: Take 1 capsule of LifeSpa Warm Digest before bigger meals. This formula, called trikatu in Ayurveda, has ginger, along with pippali and black pepper.
2. Neem plays a similar role as ginger in supporting a healthy microbiome and intestinal tract. In addition to breaking down toxic biofilms in the gut, neem supports your body’s natural antimicrobial response and blocks entry of certain viruses into your cells. Neem has also been shown to support the regulation of cytokines during an immune event, like an invading pathogen. In another study, neem leaf extract was shown to support a cytokine-driven pro-inflammatory immune cell signaling and the immune system’s natural response to kill pathogen cells.
Recommendation: Take 1 capsule of LifeSpa Neem Boost after meals.
Regulating immune response is critical in managing an immune event. Ginger and neem, as well as other Ayurvedic herbs, act as natural immunomodulators, helping to manage a potentially overzealous immune response, which can backfire by attacking healthy cells.
See also Neem: Ayurveda’s First Responder
3. In a handful of studies, triphala has been shown to be a powerful immunomodulator. Triphala also boosts immunity by increasing the release of neutrophils and killer T cell. During an immune event, neutrophils–a type of white blood cell–lead killer T cells to the fight. Neutrophils also have the ability to regulate immune response by dialing it up or down through a process called immunomodulation. When the immune system becomes overzealous, triphala supports immunosuppression.
Recommended: Take 1 capsule after meals, or as directed by a health care professional, of the Ayurvedic herbal blend Triphala. Triphala is a mix of amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki.
6 Ayurvedic Immunity Reminders
If you’re starting to feel sick, here are six go-to Ayurvedic strategies to support a robust immune system:
- Decrease stress. Easier said than done, right? Here’s a one-minute meditation to help.
- Eat a healthy, seasonal diet. Join our 3-Season Diet Guide for seasonal eating tips and recipes.
- Practice yoga and meditation. These traditions have been well-studied as immune system boosters and stress fighters.
- Eat ginger or take Warm Digest.
- Use neem supplementation.
- Use triphala supplementation.
- Boost your supplemental dose of vitamin D3 to 10,000 IU a day.
- Take 3,000 mg of vitamin C a day.
- Take 5-10 mg of melatonin before bed. (Melatonin is known for its immune-supportive properties).
What are you doing to protect your immunity?
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