Lowered immunity is primarily a vata imbalance, and a state of depletion, dryness, and low digestive fire (agni). Below are various Ayurvedic tools to reduce vata when you first start to feel the onset of something:
- Avoiding any cold or dry foods. That means eating nourishing, warm temperature, and moist foods that diminish vata in the diet and help to maintain a healthy digestive fire. This is one reason why kitchari is great when you need extra support and why soups and teas feel so good.
- Neti. Neti is not intended when you are so congested that there is occlusion of the sinuses/nasal passageways—it’s painful. Utilize neti if you are at the stage of dry mucus membranes/ light runny nose/but still breathing through the nose without any problem. (Nasal saline spray for kids). I recommend using the neti pot in your morning routine, as this is the time we are most congested (kapha time of day) and a morning neti helps to wake you up and help resolve postnasal drip during the day. If you feel you’ve got some water still circulating in your sinuses, I recommend a few half sun salutes, with three to five full breaths in each pose to move the water out. Even just a simple forward fold will help to bring water to the frontal sinuses where they can easily drain when you stand back up.
- Nasya. I put two drops of warm sesame oil (or any vata reducing oil) in each nostril. I also put two drops in each ear. All before bed because, ideally, we are lying down to receive the oil in the ENT (that’s Dr. shorthand for ear-nose-throat) passageways. Are you still going to benefit if you put some warm oil in at another time of the day? Of course, just make sure your sinuses have had a chance to dry out from your neti-ing. So ideally, the neti pot happens in the a.m. and then warm nasya at bedtime, or at least several hours later.
- Kitchari. Mung helps to detoxify and rejuvenate at the same time. That’s my kind of bean (lentil? bean?… it doesn’t matter how we classify it, what matters is what it does).
- Spices. Garlic, ginger, any kind of pepper = bolster the immune system + reduce vata + maintain agni.
- Humidify. Warm baths and humidifiers are great. If you don’t have a bathtub or humidifier, just put a big pot of water on the stove and put it on low for a few hours. It’s great to add essential oils or herbs to the pot as well. Some of my favorites are ginger, cardamom, eucalyptus, frankincense, and cinnamon (all have therapeutic properties that help with cold symptoms). Be warm and moist on the outside just like for the inside.
- Avoid foods that are too heavy… ice cream or fried foods, for example. This frees up more energy for healing instead of digesting, and also helps with maintaining healthy agni. Most colds start with vata imbalance and end with a kapha imbalance (congestion, lethargy), so we want to balance vata without aggravating kapha.
- Oil enemas (to only be done under the guidance of a qualified practitioner).
- And finally… Rest. Be still. Snuggle.