Best Practices for Protecting Yourself this Flu Season
It might be old news for the rest of the country, but it's finally gotten cold enough here in SoCal to officially welcome in the flu season. Last year, most of us escaped the flu due to heavy quarantining, but this year I've noticed the bugs are back in business.
That being said, Ayurveda provides us with plenty of easy-to-implementing dinacharya or daily self-care practices that can help keep our bodies ready to fight whatever bad bugs come our way. Not everyone who gets exposed to germs gets sick - our immunity and health have a whole lot to do with who wins the fight.
Here is a simple protocol to keep yourself protected this winter:
Eat well, Poop well
The foundation of a healthy body in Ayurveda is digestion, but there is also emerging scientific research that supports this notion. It is fairly well-known now that our immunity is closely linked to the health of our gut microbiome. To keep our digestion strong this winter, opt for warm, freshly cooked meals. During the winter months, the atmosphere tends to dry us out, so soupy foods and stews with lots of veggies are best. Of course, our microbiome is not limited to our upper GI, but also in the colon as well. Having a regular bowel movement each day is a sign of good health. If that's not happening, you may need to re-evaluate your diet.
Sip on Warm Water
It's always important to stay hydrated. Rather than reaching for cold water, which dampens the digestive fire or agni, keep a thermos of warm water close by to sip on throughout the day. It's important that the mucus membranes in our respiratory tract stay moist to help fight off the germs.
Avoid the cold
From an Ayurvedic perspective, it is important to avoid the harsher, colder elements at this time of year. It is vata season, so the weather outside is going to be cold, dry, windy, and rough overall. Those qualities are depleting to the body, lowering our defenses to make us more susceptible to pathogens. When going out, make sure to bundle up, and keep your head warm with a hat!
Sleep is one of the three pillars of health in Ayurveda. During the winter months, the days are shorter and the nights are longer. It is natural and necessary to get a little more sleep during this time of year when resources are naturally more scarce and the environment is also harsher on the system. It's a good excuse to cuddle up by the fireplace and take it easy.
Give yourself some Love (aka Oil)
In Ayurveda, one of the essential self-care practices is abhyanga, self-oil massage. This is especially important in the winter when the weather is cold and dry. Warming up some herbal oils such as ashwagandha bala oil or ksheerabala oil is best as they contain nourishing herbs that strengthen the body, but some plain warmed sesame or almond oil works well too. Make this a part of your routine and your skin will love you for it, and you'll be stronger too.
In addition, doing daily nasya is advisable to keep the mucosal lining in the nasal passages moist. Nasya is the practice of applying medicated oil drops into the nasal passages. It is always best to consult a practitioner if you're not sure how to do this.
Daily activity keeps the body healthy, and there are so many ways to do it! Whether you're going out for a walk in nature, practicing yoga, or taking dance classes, it's always good to aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Herbs can be taken every day to help the body build its innate immunity. Ayurvedic herbs such as amalaki and guduchi are wonderful rasayanas, a category of herb that helps build immunity in the body and rejuvenates the tissues. Herbal jams such as chavanprash can also be taken daily to maintain the body's resilience. If you have any questions about herbs, get in touch!
I hope that you all stay safe and healthy this holiday season. Implementing even a couple of these practices on a daily basis will help you stay strong all winter long. Happy Holidays!