As winter sets in, be aware of some bodily changes in yourself. While winter is called cold season or the flu season and the season when the contagious diseases are around, it is also the best time to increase one’s immunity. The coldness and dryness also invite more hunger pangs. Our Ayurvedic texts bring a very important term called ‘Bala’ which means strength. However, the Vedic term goes much beyond the western philosophical understand which is physical immunity. It has a more holistic meaning to it which includes both psychological and spirituality immunity as well. Bala provides endurance to any disturbance to these areas.
In Ayurveda, we say immunity is connected with digestion. A healthy digestion and a good appetite is a sign of strengthened immunity.
There are three Levels of Immunity
- Hereditary (Sahaj) — the innate level of immunity, which you are born with.
- Seasonal (Kalaj) — fluctuating levels of immunity due to the change of seasons, different stages of life, and planetary cycles.
- Established (Yuktikrit) — a balanced, permanent level of immunity that can be realized by following an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle.
One reason that winter is a better season for building immunity is that the digestion is stronger in cold weather. Just as your home’s heating system works harder in cold weather, so your inner digestive fire stokes up when the air turns cold outside. Nature is ready to nurture us during winters. Due to the soaring digestive levels, people feel more hungry, and can actually digest food better in winter, thereby nourishing their bodies.People just think this season is bad for immunity because an increase in appetite, causes people to eat more junk food and heavy, hard-to-digest foods, that has a negative impact on their immunity.
But it’s important to understand that we are creating the bad immunity; nature is not the culprit. For this reason, it’s more important that people eat immunity-boosting foods in winter, and that they follow the Ayurvedic daily routine. The routine food may include using more oil, ghee, nuts, sweetmeats etc.
People on a diet trip in order to lose weight should be more cautious during winters. Other seasons are better for purifying, but winter is the time to build up and nourish anything — the hair, the nails, and the skin. It’s also the best season for taking Rasayanas (herbal elixirs) and herbal products because the high level of digestion helps people to assimilate them better. It’s best to eat less of the astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes in winter, although all six tastes should be included in your diet. Warm, home-cooked, unctuous foods are ideal, as long as they are not deep-fried and are cooked with easy-to-digest oils such as ghee or olive oil. Avoid cold or ice-cold foods, as cold foods and drinks douse the digestive fire.
As our strength becomes better in this climate one can do better exercise. So let’s welcome this healthy winter and earn the immunity and strength to live a healthy life in the coming year.