If you're thinking about using Ayurveda to boost immunity, you're in luck. The entire science of Ayurveda is a holistic, preventive healing practice that encourages the development of a healthy immune system. Learn about Ayurvedic concepts of immunity and how to use Ayurveda for immunity.

Ayurveda for Prevention

Ayurveda is ideally a preventive science. This holistic approach to medicine outlines specific dietary and lifestyle practices for achieving body, mind, and spirit health and aims to prevent diseases from arising in the first place. This differs from conventional Western medicine, which often focuses on treating symptoms after they arise.

Ayurveda Concepts of Immunity

The Ayurvedic theory of immunity is called beej-bhumi, which translates to “seed and land.” The body is either an out-of-balance space where infections and disease can thrive OR a healthy terrain that stays in balance by being able to discern what is for it and what is not. If diet, digestion, and lifestyle are balanced and strong, this terrain is a healthy space that can disseminate harmful pathogens and propagate things that will do it good. 

A healthy, balanced being will produce a nectar-like substance called ojas. Ojas has a strengthening effect on the immune system, as well as creating a protective sheath around the channels, organs, and systems. 

Ojas is also only created when all the other layers of tissues (dhatus) are in balance and healthy working order. A person who is well and balanced produces ojas. So immunity is health, and immunity is the body’s way of being able to discern what is good for a person and knowing how to fend off what is not good for them. 

Ojas effectively helps to prevent anything that might cause an imbalance and contribute to disease. If one has a lot of ama or toxic buildup (the result of incomplete digestion), an imbalanced lifestyle, or overexposure to environmental toxins, then their body has low ojas and low immunity. As a result, it cannot function optimally, allowing viruses and harmful bacteria to find a home.

10 Steps To Use Ayurveda for Immunity

Ayurveda is truly a comprehensive science and evaluates all aspects of living in order to maintain health. Use these 10 tips from Ayurveda as a guide for improving immunity:

1. Improve Digestion

As noted above, the strength of your digestion is the foundation of your immunity to build healthy tissues and ojas. Keeping your agni or digestive fire functioning properly is key as it enables you to assimilate and extract nutrients from foods. If your digestion is weak, you cannot receive nutritional substances that are needed to fuel your body's health. In addition, compromised digestion can lead to undigested food, which can cause a build-up of ama (toxins). This ama can leave a toxic residue lining the channels, meaning nutrients will not be absorbed either. This all leads to a further decline in immunity and health. Follow these tips to improve digestion:

  • Do a cleanse! Ideally, speak to an Ayurvedic practitioner, who can lead you through a system cleanse and reset, getting rid of unwanted ama and toxicity and allowing for proper assimilation and absorption. 
  • Make meals easy to digest. Favor warm, cooked, well-spiced foods. Warm foods cooked well with the right herbs and spices for your constitution and environment are easier for the body to digest. Also, seasoning your food with high-quality bamboo salt – instead of processed table salt – will help boost immunity even more.
  • Eat your largest meal of the day at lunch. Your digestive fire is strongest in mid-day when the sun is highest in the sky. Take advantage of this time to eat your largest meal. By dinner time, your digestive fire has weakened, so eat a lighter meal, like soup or sauteed vegetables and grains, and allow several hours for digestion to complete before you go to sleep.
  • Eat with mindfulness. How, where, and when we eat is just as important as what we eat. So, be sure to eat in a calm, happy, seated, distraction-free environment. Also, try to maintain a regular eating schedule in which you eat at consistent times each day. This helps train the body for digestion.
  • Try a digestive supplement. A supportive botanical formulation (like PIOR Living Digestion) can help with food assimilation, detoxification, and metabolism, especially if you struggle with bloating or indigestion.

2. Eat Plenty of Fresh, Whole Seasonal Foods

To keep your body healthy, it's important to fuel it with fresh, wholesome foods. Choose organic fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and fats (especially Ghruta ghee) that are in season (preferably from your local farmer’s markets), as these foods will nourish your body best and help you build your ojas and immunity. 

In addition, avoid processed foods, preservatives, sugars, and refined carbohydrates. All of these foods contribute to ama build-up in the body, which decreases immune system function and aids inflammation.

3. Reduce Stress

Stress hormones suppress the immune system, which is why reducing stress is essential to immunity. You can have a perfect diet and otherwise healthy lifestyle, but if you have high levels of stress, your body won't be able to fight infection well. Evaluate the major stressors in your life and look for ways to reduce or decrease their effects. 

In addition, create time and space for taking proper care of yourself. Try to devote attention each day to activities that uplift and expand your being to help you reduce stress. 

4. Meditate and Practice Pranayama

Ayurveda advocates for daily meditation and pranayama practice. Regular practice creates positive imprints in the mind, body, and spirit, meaning a person can become healthy and relaxed. Meditation and pranayama decrease stress, calm the nervous system, and encourage an awareness of a person’s internal and external environment, which further calms the mind and protects ojas. 

Prana is the life force, and ayama means expansion and extension. So, Pranayama is the increasing of life force by means of specific exercises with the breath. 

As B.K.S. Iyengar so artfully explains in his book Light on Yoga, “normal breath flows irregularly, depending on one’s environment and emotional state. In the beginning, this irregular flow of breath is controlled by a deliberate process. This control creates ease in the inflow and outflow of the breath. When this ease is attained, the breath must be regulated with attention. This is pranayama.”

By regulating the prana within your body, the nervous system is regulated, meaning hormones can function properly, which in turn allows proper communication within the bodily systems. Proper internal chemical communication and a lack of mental and physical confusion leads to a healthy immune system.  

5. Get Quality Sleep

Sleep is essential to immune system functioning. If you don't have sufficient sleep, your body cannot produce the cytokines and antibodies that fuel the body's first line of defense. Quality sleep is achieved by the number of hours you are sleeping, the time you are sleeping, and the level of rest you achieve. Although the number of hours you sleep can differ slightly based on your dosha or constitution, the average person needs eight hours per night (both under-sleeping and over-sleeping are detrimental to our health). 

In addition, Ayurveda says the best quality sleep occurs when we go to bed by 10pm and wake by sunrise. Therefore, a general recommendation is to sleep from about 10pm to 6am daily. 

Quality of sleep is also affected by a variety of internal and external factors. Some of the biggest factors include temperature, light, noise, stress, and caffeine. We should strive to sleep in peaceful, cool, dark, and quiet environments, and minimize our stress and caffeine intake. It’s also important to minimize bright lights before bedtime as this can have a negative impact on our circadian rhythms.

6. Engage in Moderate Exercise

Moving the body every day is vitally important to encourage blood flow and circulation. Try to engage in moderate exercise daily, like asana practice and walking. Frequent strenuous workouts or sports can actually tax the body and the breath, depleting Prana. Learn how to use yoga for immunity.

7. Keep Your Doshas Balanced

One of the most fundamental aspects of Ayurvedic medicine is the dosha system. Each individual has a certain constitution; this is their Prakruti. Everything that we do either directly contributes or detracts from our being’s balance. In Ayurveda, disease only occurs after the body and mind have been imbalanced for some time. After a while, the imbalance starts to manifest as physical symptoms, which eventually become disease. That's why it's important to understand what your constitution is, so you can learn about the foods and activities that help you maintain balance.

8. Adjust for the Seasons

It's important to note that seasonal changes can impact our digestive capacity and susceptibility to toxic build-up and imbalances. During the transition between one season and another, our digestive fire fluctuates. We also get a build-up from the previous season and need to adjust to the incoming one. This can lead to incomplete digestion and the build-up of ama. If we neglect to adjust our diet and lifestyle to the new season, ama becomes more prevalent in our bodies. This is why illnesses are high in the autumn and early spring. Use these guides to navigate the seasonal changes:

9. Commit to a Daily Routine

In Ayurveda, a consistent dinacharya (daily routine) is essential for maintaining health and balance. That’s because routines help cement our circadian rhythms, allowing for better bodily functioning. Read our Ayurvedic Morning Routine Guide for specific practices.

10. Incorporate Ayurvedic Remedies and Herbs for Immunity

There are many different Ayurvedic remedies and medicines that are specifically developed to help improve immunity, but only one is recommended for daily use: Chyawanprash. Chyawanprash is one of the most powerful immune-boosting Ayurvedic medicines you can take daily. This polyherbal jam contains a huge variety of health-enhancing herbs, which are carried in a base of ojas-boosting Ghruta, honey, jaggery, and sesame oil. You can also learn about Ayurvedic herbs for immunity or vigor and vitality, like turmeric, cumin, holy basil, gotu kola, and ashwagandha.

Ultimately, using Ayurveda for immunity is about holistic, preventive living. The more you embrace an Ayurvedic lifestyle, the more you'll naturally be able to increase your immune system so it functions optimally when you need it to.

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