Try these immune-boosting lifestyle tips, foods, and supplements for feeling balanced and whole as we head into another cold and flu season.
Ayurveda’s Immune Defense Plan
According to Ayurveda, numerous strategies boost natural immune response. These include lifestyle changes (called behavioral rasayanas), along with regular intake of certain foods, herbs, and spices.
Here, a list of changes you can make starting today to protect your health.
Reset Your Circadian Clock
Ayurveda 101 is all about living in sync with natural light-dark and seasonal cycles—called circadian rhythm. Recent studies show a strong link between immune system health and our internal circadian clocks. This suggests that a circadian imbalance may significantly compromise immune response.2
The ultimate regulator of our circadian clocks is melatonin. Melatonin is a three billion-year-old molecule, whose major role is not to induce sleep (as commonly believed), but to reset our circadian clocks during the periods of darkness. Much like a night janitor, melatonin cleans us up, playing a huge role in health, immunity, and longevity.3,22
We RecommendReset Your Circadian Clock This Weekend
Melatonin Deficiency Linked to Weak Immunity
Melatonin has also long been studied as an effective strategy for immune system support, and melatonin deficiency is directly linked to compromised immune strength. .
While immunity system declines have often been linked to aging, 5-7 recently, we’ve seen immune and melatonin deficiencies in young people, due to circadian disruption .2 Increasing nighttime light exposure, later bedtimes, and blue light from screens, which directly blocks melatonin production, have been linked to weaker immunity.2,4-7
Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Weak Immunity
Vitamin D is also a circadian regulator and powerful immune booster.8,9 When the sun rises, it blocks melatonin while boosting immunity. That is why it is best to take vitamin D in the morning and melatonin at night as part of a comprehensive immune-boosting circadian reset. Studies suggest vitamin D is a key factor in linking innate and adaptive immunity, both of which may be compromised when vitamin D is deficient, which affects as many as 80% of Americans in winter.8-10
Optimal vitamin D levels for immunity should be maintained between 45-80 ng/mL. For adults, 4,000-5,000 IU per day is typically needed, but a vitamin D test is the only way to know what your levels are.
Meditation and Immunity
No shortage of studies link stress to compromised immunity. One meta analysis cites 300 studies confirming the strong connection between the two.11,12
There is also no shortage of studies linking a stronger immune system with regular meditation. One study on mindfulness meditation measured significant beneficial changes on the following immune system parameters.13
- Increased circulating and stimulated inflammatory proteins
- Increased cellular transcription factors and gene expression
- Higher immune cell count
- Healthier immune cell aging
- Stronger antibody response
Exercise and Immunity
Exercise may be a fundamental immune-booster, helping more sensitive populations fight off bugs. A 2015 study at the University of Texas in Houston concluded that moderate-intensity exercise was “immune-enhancing,” likely due to reductions in stress and inflammation, maintenance of the thymus gland mass, and alterations in immune cells. The researchers also found that exercise may help improve vaccine response in at-risk patients.
Nose Breathing and Immunity
Our paranasal sinuses produce large amounts of the immune-boosting gas nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is NOT produced when we mouth breathing. Instead, NO is produced in the sinuses so it can be delivered into the blood-saturated lower lobes of the lungs, where it has been shown to deliver powerful immune stimulation.15 Breathing through the mouth will deliver zero nitric oxide, and thus not carry this immune stimulation effect.
During sleep, when the mouth is closed, NO, one of the body’s most effective antiviral gases, is breathed deeply into the lungs. During the day, with talking, socializing, and eating, we are exposed to numerous undesirable microbes that can infect us. Each night, if breathing through the nose has become habit, nitric oxide from the paranasal sinuses washes over and disinfects the delicate lung and bronchiole tissues. It is nature’s way to do an eight-hour immune respiratory sweep each night after a long day of exposure.25
We RecommendAyurvedic Nose Breathing for Stress and Immunity
Don’t Forget Hand Washing and Masks
While not specifically Ayurvedic, wearing a mask and washing your hands regularly are still a critical part of immunity protocol, especially when it comes to COVID-19.
We RecommendHand Washing + Masks: What You Need to Know
John Douillard’s Herbal Immune Optimization Protocol
As expected, we’ve been swamped with emails and phone calls about the best way to support the immune system during these times. The following protocol is what I suggest.
The first plan is to be used before an immune event (to boost existing immune strength) and the second is your first defense plan (to be used at the onset of an immune event).
Herbal Support Prior to Immune Event
- Ashwagandha | 2 caps 2x / day with food
- Chyawanprash | 1 tbsp / day after food
- Citrus C | 1 cap 2x / day with food
- Melatonin HP | 1 tab 45 minutes before bed
- Mucus Destroyer | 2 caps with breakfast16-20
- Vitamin D3 (Liquid Sun) | 4-5 drops / day in winter
Herbal First Defense at Onset of Immune Event
Days 1+2, Then Reduce Dose as Needed
- Immuno-Blast | 15 drops every 2 hours
- Chyawanprash | 1 -5 tbsp every 4 hours
- Citrus C | 2 capsules 3x / day
- Mucus Destroyer | 2 capsules 4x / day
- Cough Kicker (Respiratory Restore) | as needed for cough
- Turmeric Paste | 1 tsp / hour
To make 1 tsp Turmeric Paste, open 2 Turmeric Plus capsules and mix with 1/2 tsp raw organic honey.
Let us know which of these strategies you try and how it goes for you!