The beauty of an Ayurveda way of life is that with better digestion and rhythms that are more aligned with nature, we have better health and adequate rest, which means we have stronger immune systems and get sick less.
However there are times when we do get sick. Sometimes it's from a weakened digestive system from eating too much heavy foods over a period of time, forgetting to chew our food well enough, starting to mindlessly snack throughout the day or getting too excited about the tasty food available and overeating one too many times!
Or it can be from stress, strong emotions like anger, grief and fear, or being exposed to a regularly sick child that brings home bugs from school.
Or, it can be from not sleeping deeply enough to allow our body’s defense mechanism to operate at its optimum.
When we do fall sick, it’s good to take a moment to pause and check in - why is my immune system compromised? What have I been doing (or not doing!) that would help my immune system to kick in a little sooner and potentially ward off a future cold or flu? How can I listen to the signals of my body and tweak how or what I’m eating, or some of my behavioral or scheduling patterns, to support better balance?
And then settle into the basics of illness recovery of Ayurveda with consistency and persistence to allow the body space to reset and restore.
Basics of Illness Recovery
Ayurveda is an ancient science and art that is equally as current as it is ancient. The principles are alive and well because they are shaswat - unchanging. That is one of the aspects of Ayurveda that I love most - this unchanging nature creates a feeling of reliability that I can sink into and know that with consistency and persistence, I will experience positive effects. It has been proven through time immemorial.
Here are the basics of illness recovery that you can start as soon as you start to feel sick, and continue all the way through your recovery.
Sip hot water
Heat increases circulation, movement and flow. Avoid anything cold (food, drinks) and sip hot water throughout the day to support your digestive system, immune system, and elimination of toxins and bugs.
Sip ginger tea
Ginger helps wake up the agni, or digestive fire, burn up ama (toxins) and improve circulation. Add a little bit of honey for the warming, scraping, and antibacterial qualities.
If you have a sore throat, gargle several times a day with warm water, salt and turmeric. If the throat starts to feel dry, leave out the turmeric. As the throat soreness goes away but there’s still symptoms like swollen glands or dryness, continue gargling but shift to plain water.
For any kind of congestion or headache, steam will help open the channels in the head and move out excess mucus. If the congestion is stuck and dry, steam with plain water or water with a couple drops of tea tree and eucalyptus oil. If the congestion is mucousy and wet, steam with a tsp of dry ginger powder and a little turmeric to help dry it out. If it’s a viral issue, add some thyme as an antiviral influence. Steam several times a day until you're better.
Neti and nasya
Neti is the practice of running warm saline water through the nasal passages using a neti pot (ideally non-plastic). You can do this a couple times a day when sick. If you have herbal nasya (nasal) oil to insert afterward, the herbs will help balance that mucous membranes, but if not a little bit of ghee or coconut oil in the nostrils can help soothe the membranes and bring balance after the neti.
Skip a few meals - especially if you’re not hungry - to allow the digestive system to re-calibrate and start to work in your favor. When you do eat, eat simply and lightly. Brothy veggie soups are helpful and easy to digest, moving to soupy white rice with ginger, turmeric and mineral salt when you feel your digestive system is ready for it. And then gradually increasing the thickness and variety of food from there. Don’t be in a hurry with it! This is one of the key factors in swifter recovery.
Get the sleep you need, take time off of exercise, and avoid as much talking and thinking as you can.
Sometimes these are enough to make the shift. Sometimes working with an Ayurveda counsellor or practitioner will help to focus and refine the approach for you. Sometimes you might need herbs or other kitchen remedies like ginger, black pepper, and honey to dry out wetness and stickiness in the lungs, or integrate other healing modalities or Western medicine. Regardless of how your healing journey unfolds, stick with these basics and they will make everything else you do more efficient and effective.