Winter seems to have arrived early this year and bought its regular health problems - runny nose, sore throat, cough, migraine, sinus congestion & feelings of lethargy. The season is particularly dreaded by parents with young children as they seem to spend the whole time with continually running noses, coughs & asthma that require heavy doses of antibiotics.
It is reasonable to ask, why? How can we welcome winter in a more cheerful way and see it as a period to replenish our bodies and boost our immune system so that we have the energy to enjoy the coming warmth of Spring & Summer
According to Ayurveda, the ancient health science of India, it is important to live our lives in harmony with the season by making changes to our diet and lifestyle to keep the body in balance. Ayurveda believes that it is this balance that is the key to health and happiness.
Ayurveda recognises that each season has unique characteristics and qualities. In winter, the environment is dominated by the qualities of coldness, dampness, heaviness, dullness, slowness and sluggishness. Because we are exposed to these qualities every day, it is natural that they will have an impact so our bodies start feeling cold, damp, sluggish, dull and heavy.
All Ayurvedic treatments are based on the simple principle of introducing lifestyle and diet changes with opposing qualities to bring the body back into balance while avoiding things that can cause further aggravation. Therefore in winter, Ayurveda recommends avoiding the following foods:
· Any kind of breads – White, brown, organic or non-organic. Breads are sticky, heavy, damp, moist and cold. When we eat bread in a sandwich or just a piece with a bit of cheese, it will increase the above qualities and cause problems.
· Cheese, butter, white sugar, bananas, cold meat, cold drinks & cold foods all have heavy, cold, damp and sticky qualities
· Tinned/frozen foods – these are very cold and lack prana (life force). This causes more darkness & heaviness to spread in our nervous system that makes us more gloomy, sad and lacking in motivation.
· Deep fried, oily foods like fish & chips & carbonated drinks – These are heavy and when we drink cold carbonated drinks on top of them it makes the oil sticky, causing it to adhere to mucous linings in the throat & lungs, causing sore throat, bronchitis, sinus & hay fever.
We might feel panicked by reading this and think there is nothing left to eat. This is not true! We just need to come out of our comfort zone and see that, with a little effort, we can find many things to nourish us during Winter:
· One should simply try to eat warm cooked foods.
· Breakfast – porridge & pancakes are options. We should add cinnamon & cardamom as these spices are known for their warming & flushing actions. They are very good for the lungs and lymphatic system, the main areas affected in Winter.
· If eating fruit, make sure it is cooked and not eaten raw. If you must eat raw fruit, make sure it is eaten mid-morning on a warm & sunny day to minimise its adverse impact.
· Lunch & dinner should be simply warm & delicious!
· Snack on nuts & raisins. Roasted peanuts are very good in winter.
· Also roasted almonds, cashews, walnuts & pine nuts coated with jaggery are delicious.
Ayurveda also recommends a number of routines that we should incorporate into our lives during winter to keep the body in balance:
· Brush your teeth & scrape your tongue every morning (This removes waste products that accumulate on the tongue overnight and prevent them from being re-absorbed).
· Every morning drink a glass of warm water with ½ tsp of fresh ginger, ½ tsp of fenugreek powder, ½ tbs of honey & ½ tbs of lemon juice. (This is very effective to counter sluggishness in lymphatic system).
· Apply warm medicated sesame oil drops to the nose each morning. (Will prevent sinus congestion, heavy fever, runny nose and migraine)
· A regular self massage with warm Sesame Oil or Kapha oil (available at Planet Ayurveda) helps remove lymphatic stagnation and makes you feel more energetic, light & vibrant at all levels: physical, mental & emotional.
· Deep breathing at least 3-4 times a day will help break up lung congestion.
Ayurveda teaches that by incorporating these changes in to our lives we can keep these winter illnesses from occurring. The profound promise of Ayurveda is that through changes to diet & lifestyle, not only can we prevent disease but live a long, healthy life in balance and harmony. In my 35 years of clinical practice, both here and in India, I have seen the profound benefits of this health science help thousands of people achieve balance in their lives.