In this article, we hope to dispel the darkness of winter to help you shine from the inside out :)
The cold and damp of our winter can often tax our bodies and lower our resistance, which can leave us feeling sluggish and open to catching viruses and bugs. So especially at this time of year our immunity can often do with a little bit of extra support.
In winter kapha begins to dominate, and both mind and body have the tendency to take on the heaviness and sluggishness of the season. Vata is also heightened throughout the winter months and there is a tendency for the respiratory tract, digestion and the body’s largest organ for detoxification, the skin, to become dry. As winter progresses and kapha increases, the digestion can become bogged down and sluggish. The result can be heaviness and congestion in the body and mind as lowered digestive power allows partly digested food or ama to accumulate which is a feeding ground for pathogenic bacteria. Ayurveda considers digestive health to be the cornerstone of immunity – when agni or digestive power is strong then this supports healthy metabolism and immunity.
It is said that summer bodies are built in winter, and in early winter our agni or digestive fire is functioning at its best. We can enjoy heavier foods as we are better able to digest fats and protein. Broths and soups are great, providing the body with the essential building blocks to stay strong during the cold months ahead. Hearty grains and root vegetables are also beneficial to maintain a healthy ratio of vitamins and minerals and provide much needed soluble fibre.
But as we move into the new year then excess kapha can ‘bog’ down our digestion, which can make us feel sluggish and congested as we feel the effects of the heavier winter food. This is the time to start to lighten up the diet a little - adding plenty of winter greens to meals and incorporating an occasional half-day fast, ‘kitchari-day’ or green smoothies will ensure that things ‘keep moving’ as we transition into spring. In late winter the body produces more mucus so it is a good time to consider reducing dairy and refined wheat products which, by nature are mucus forming.
Spice things up a little
Now is also a good time to gently spice things up. Kapha reducing warming teas and the use of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel in your cooking will all help to keep the fire burning in your belly and the cold outside.
A little extra help
The transition between seasons is a form of stress to the body and if we can maintain strong digestion and immunity at this time then we are much less likely to succumb to colds and flus. Ayurveda classifies certain herbs as rasayana or rejuvenating because they promote vitality, increase immunity and resilience, improve complexion and help keep body and mind feeling young. Below are some our favourites for late winter …
Chywanprash is a tasty way to increase your antioxidant and vitamin C levels and support immunity whilst including a delicate hint of winter spice. Chywanprash is an immune boosting herbal paste that has been used for centuries to help families stay healthy year round.
Ashwagandha is one of our favourite immune boosting herbs. Excellent for reducing excess Vata and also Kapha it helps promote endurance, immunity and is good for helping maintaining a positive mood through nature's transitions.
Moringa Full of vitamins, minerals, micro-nutrients and anti-oxidants that are known to support the immune system Moringa is known for good reason as the “Tree of life” and contains more nutrients than any other plant.
Hints and tips at home
Abyhanga –self–massage can reduce kapha by increasing lymphatic flow and helps to calm Vata. This allows the skin to remain pliable aiding lymphatic drainage. A good choice are warming oils such as Mahanarayan oil and Vata oil and Kapha oil
Warm drink 30 mins before food– this can help lubricate the villi of the small intestine and aid absorption and assimilation.
Reduce dairy and refined wheat products -to avoid increasing mucus to the respiratory tract and stomach lining.
Eat warm food prepared with love -help the digestive fire to do its work by eating warm heart food with a hint of warming spice.
Embrace the qualities of winter - by drawing in and creating a mind-set of hibernation and preparation for the summer months to come.
Herbal support –add Ayurvedic ‘ rasayanas’ to help support your immune system throughout winter.
By embracing winter and adapting dietary, herbal and lifestyle choices, to meet the harshness of the damp and cold, you will better maintain balance. This is the season where we prepare for the warmer seasons just around the corner.