The common questions we encounter in our daily practice are about infections and how to increase immunity. In this blog, we have tried to answer all your queries regarding immunity and infections and how Ayurveda can help in building immunity.
What is immunity?
The immune system is the body’s defense against infections. The immune system protects body from outside invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins.
So now, the question is that what is the role of immunity in fighting against diseases? For this we need to know what our immune system is and how it works?
There are two main parts of the immune system:
- The innate immune system (the one we are born with).
- The adaptive immune system (the one we develop when body is exposed to organisms).
These two immune systems work together.
Immune system plays a vital role in protecting against infectious agents. For all infectious diseases, the number of individuals exposed to infection is much higher than those actually presenting with a disease.
This means most persons are able to destroy the pathogens and thus prevent the progression of an infection.
The innate immune system is a rapid response system. It is inherited and is active from the moment one is born.
When an organism causes local infection or gains entry into the bloodstream, leucocytes or granulocytes (types of white blood cells normally produced in the bone marrow and circulate in the blood) move to the site of the infection.
Some of these cells reach the site by chance and many other are attracted and directed to the sites of infection.
When a granulocyte reaches the invading organism, it attempts to ingest the invader(pathogen). Ingestion of bacteria is done with the help of other components of the blood.
After ingestion, biochemical events occur resulting in the death of a bacterium.
But its products pass into the bloodstream, where they come in contact with other circulating lymphocytes (white blood cells). Two general types of lymphocytes—
T cells and B cells—are of great importance in protecting the human host.
When a T cell encounters bacterial products, either directly or via presentation by a special antigen-presenting cell (an antigen is a foreign material that triggers a response from T and B cells),
it is sensitized to recognize the material as foreign, and once sensitized, it possesses an immunologic memory.
After a T cell has encountered and responded to a foreign bacterium, it interacts with B cells( responsible for producing circulating proteins called immunoglobulins or antibodies).
It can take several days for antibodies to develop. If the same microorganism invades the host again, the B cell immediately responds with a dramatic production of IgG specific for that organism, rapidly killing it and preventing disease.
Experience makes immune system stronger.
What are Infectious diseases?
Many organisms live in and on our bodies. They’re normally harmless or even helpful. But under certain conditions, some organisms may cause disease.
Microorganisms that cause disease are collectively called pathogens. Infectious diseases are disorders caused by pathogens — like bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites.
Disease can occur when immunity is low or impaired, simply saying that when the ability of the pathogen to damage host cells is high, and when the number of pathogens in the body is more.
Why we are too much concerned about infectious diseases? Because these have a very horrible characteristic. The infectious diseases can spread from one person to another through
- direct contact with bodily fluids like saliva, blood, sweat, urine or faeces
- aerosols(fine solid particles or liquid droplets in air like fog, mist, dust, smoke)
- coughing and sneezing
- indirectly via a vector like a mosquito.
Infectious diseases can cause many different symptoms. Some are so mild that you may not even notice any symptoms, while others can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of Infections (general)
- fever or chills
Fever is the main symptom and is present in almost all infections. In Ayurveda, fever has been described as the cardinal sign of infectious diseases. Its different presentations and Ayurveda treatment has been discussed separately.
- body pains
- feeling tired
- coughing or sneezing
- nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- difficulty in breathing
- severe headache
Now, we have understood the concept of immunity and also how an infection takes place. We have also read that immune system play a key role in fighting against diseases.
But the big question is that Can we increase immunity and if yes, then how to increase immunity?
Yes, definitely we can boost up our body immune system to be able to give a big fight to infections.
How to increase immunity with the help of Ayurveda?
#Ayurveda has an abundant treasure of immunity power boosting medicines called Rasayana.
Rasayana are the rejuvenating classical Ayurveda preparations which improves the overall functioning of a body and also delays aging.
Sounds interesting! Isn’t it?
Some of the Rasayanas for building immunity are– Brahm Rasayan, Amlak Rasayan, Amlakavleh, Chyavanaprasha, Haritaki Rasayana, Pippali Rasayana, Vidanga Rasayana, Shilajitu Rasayana.
Rasayanas is really a big science and can’t be explained here fully. To know more about Rasayana therapy, click here.
Now, Rasayana being a special therapy, is not suitable for all in modern style of living. We have less time and usually, we are not able to abide by the rules Rasayana therapist expects from us. But don’t turn hopeless. Ayurveda treasure is abundant.
We have Gold Preparations also. Most of these are used to combat severe illnesses but they also increase immunity and aids in healthy living. These medicines are easily available and easy to use also.
Some of these are-
Makardhwaj gutika, Swarn bhasm, Basant kusumakar ras, Madhumalini basant ras, Jaimangal ras, Swarn Malini basant ras, Maha laxmivilas ras, Swarn Bhupati ras, Swarn Smeerpannag ras.
These medicines are to be taken under the guidance of Ayurveda expert after examining dosh-dushya.
How to increase immunity?
Immunity can be increased naturally. Now, Ayurveda treatment is different from nature care. Rather natural cure is just a small part of Ayurveda. As you have read in previous section Ayurveda Rasayana therapy is par excellence in boosting immunity.
But it is a bit costly though cost-effective also. Gold preparations are also costly. So, it is always advisable to rely on natural ways before taking any medicine to improve health.
It is also possible to increase immunity to an extent using natural ways.
Our immune system, functions better when protected from environmental hazards and boosted by healthy-living strategies.
- Firstly, we must change our daily care routine. A daily care regimen according to Ayurveda is very useful in improving immunity.
- Then comes healthy diet. For this, eat lots of fruits (grapefruit, oranges, lemons, kiwis, strawberries, papayas, limes, watermelon and many more) and vegetables(red and green peppers, carrot, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach).
- Fruits must be thoroughly washed. Vegetables thoroughly washed and properly cooked. Easily digestible pulses, grains must be included in the diet. Drink water regularly to avoid dehydration(raised temperature may cause it).
- You may or may not(these are not essential) add dairy products(milk) or nuts(almonds) in your diet.
- You must avoid alcohol and do not smoke. Cut down your consumption of sugar and oil.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise regularly. Walking, jogging or yoga are really helpful. Yogasana play a vital role in boosting immunity power. Any yogasna is useful .
There is no one specific asana for immunity. Surya namaskar, Sarvang asana, bhujang asana, gomukh asana, pawanmukta asana are some of the daily asanas. To know more about yogasanas, their procedure and benefits, Click here.
- Adequate sleep is very much required by a body fighting with infections. A daily sleep of 7-8 hours is sufficient.
A cool dark room, light music or a book before bed aids in a sound sleep.
- Do not take stress of your illness. Stress may lower your body ability to fight off infections(Immunity).
Practice meditation or deep breathing exercises to check out stress.
- Give yourself some time to relax and enjoy also. But do not stay idle for long time. It can have depressing effect also.
- Step out in sunlight. Sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D(it helps in producing antibodies).
- And above all Be optimist. Always say to yourself that I will be fine soon and I am in a difficult situation but not an unmanageable one.
How to prevent infections?
Now, you know how to increase immunity. But do you know you can prevent infections. Yes, indeed! With some care and of course with your immunity you can prevent yourself from getting trapped in infections net. Here are some important steps to follow–
- Wash your hands often
This is the most important way to protect from infectious diseases. Use soap and clean, running water. Rub for at least 20 seconds. If at any time you don’t have soap and water, you can use a hand sanitizer.
- Stay at home if you are having any sign of infection.
This is again important to protect yourself and in preventing the spread of infection. But if in case of urgency, you have to step out of home, then keep at least one meter distance from other persons and also wear face cover (just like a mask).
Don’t forget that during a pandemic, the norm is #stayhome #staysafe #stayhealthy.
- Avoid contact with wild animals
- Don’t share personal use items such as tooth brushes, combs, towels, soap etc.
- Disinfect your home often.
- Get vaccinated
- Pay attention to food safety. Thorough washing and proper cooking.
- Practice safe sex
How to treat infections in Ayurveda?
In Ayurveda, the treatment depends on the causes and symptoms, their severity and dosh-dushya interpretations.
There are many treatment approaches. Some Ayurveda experts use herbs only approach, some rely on yogasanas and many combine it with tablets.
Some of the Ayurveda experts use Ras medicines and kwaths for quick relief. Few of these popular medicines are as below—
Agasti, Amalki, Ashawgandha, Aaragwadha, Shunthi, Katuka, Kasni, Triphla, Kasmarda, Guduchi, Tulsi, Neem, Mulethi, Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander, ginger, garlic, pippali, vasa, clove
Maha Mrigank ras, Hemgarbh Potli ras, Sarwang sundar ras, Swarn smeer panag ras, Sanshamni vati, Mahalaxmi vilas ras,
Giloghan vati, Sanjivani vati, Mrityunjay ras, Laxmivilas ras, Chanderprabha vati, Ramban ras, Jaimangal ras,
Trilokichintamani ras, Mahasudarshan vati, Anandbhairav ras, Tribhuvan kirti ras, Hinguleshwar ras
Amrita arishta, dashmoola arishta, lohasva, Kumariasava, Panchatikta kwatha, Shadanga kwatha
Abhrak bhasm, Shring bhasm, Swarnmakshik bhasm, Praval bhasm, Muktashukti bhasm, Ras sindhoor, Mal sindhoor