The Key to Immunity Is In Your Gut
As we continue to face a global pandemic, immunity is on all of our minds. The most effective ways to increase the immune system may be deeper than you think.
According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, strong immunity is synonymous with strong digestion. In fact, the factors that determine a person’s bala, or immunity, are directly related to digestion.
Let’s break down the digestion-immunity connection in three stages:
Stage One: Is your digestion strong enough to digest your food properly?
Digestion is defined as a person’s capacity to break down food into substances that can be used by the body—and it’s the word “capacity” that contains the whole story.
If your capacity to break down food is impaired, undigested food or ama is created. Ama is the Ayurvedic term for the sticky, gooey mess that is left behind when digestion isn’t going right (you may know that feeling—heartburn, bloating, or your stomach in knots). Another sign of ama is a coated tongue.
When ama, the waste product of incomplete digestion, accumulates in the digestive tract, it overwhelms the digestive fire (called agni in Ayurveda), making your digestion even weaker. Eventually, if your digestion stays weak and continues to generate ama, it can travel to other parts of the body where it can accumulate and cause stiff joints, clogged arteries, brain fog, and a host of other imbalances.
You may have heard health practitioners describe “leaky gut syndrome,” an unhealthy inflammatory response caused when particles of undigested food, bacteria, or toxins cross the intestinal wall, enter the bloodstream, and spread to other parts of the body. This is another way of saying that when food is not digested properly, it can eventually cause imbalance and health problems throughout the body.
Stage Two: Is your gut environment so healthy that imbalances can’t take root?
When digestion is healthy, it not only burns away or digests ama, but also digests and eliminates toxins from the gut—including invasive microorganisms. A balanced metabolism creates an ama-free gut environment that is not welcoming to invaders.
In modern terminology, a balanced microbiome is an environment in which the good bacteria thrive and the bad bacteria recede. In Ayurveda, it’s said that imbalance can only grow in conditions where ama and imbalance already exist.
Stage Three: Is your digestion performing at its peak, supporting radiant skin, shining eyes, exuberant energy, and robust immunity?
This is the goal of Ayurveda—to create such healthy digestion that your skin is glowing, your eyes are bright, and you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically balanced. It’s a definition of health that goes way beyond not being sick—it’s a state of happiness and self-realization.
So how do we get there? That’s a big question, and actually the entire field of Ayurveda is aimed at improving digestion in order to create this balanced state of health and immunity.
Here’s an easy guide for getting started.
Ayurvedic Ways to Boost Your Gut Health (and your immunity)
- Eat fresh, organic food according to your body type.
- Sit down when you eat, and choose a settled atmosphere—including congenial conversation with friends or family—to support digestion.
- Plan your main meal at noon, when digestive strength is strongest. Eat lighter at breakfast and dinner. Allow three hours to digest your evening meal before going to bed.
- Eat your meals at the same time every day. Avoid snacking between meals unless you’re hungry, as this disrupts digestion and can cause gas and bloating.
- Include plenty of roughage in your diet, including freshly cooked veggies, and whole grains.
- Use spices and herbs to stimulate digestion such as cumin, coriander, fennel, oregano, basil, and rosemary, according to your body type.
- Drink plenty of pure water throughout the day. Your digestive system needs water to work properly—dehydration is not only the main cause of sluggish bowel movements, but also contributes to low energy and mental fatigue. Sipping hot water throughout the day is a good way to dissolve ama. Ice-cold water and drinks, on the other hand, disrupt digestion and create ama.
- Exercise daily according to your body type, as movement boosts agni and helps burn away ama.
- Use herbal supplements for digestion management.
Be proactive this season!
Purify your system of toxins that can hamper immunity, and strengthen your digestion and assimilation—your body’s best defense.
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