How Ayurveda Can Make your Body Fungus-Resistant

Admittedly, 2019 has been a whopper for sensational news headlines. So when I saw multiple reports of a drug-resistant “Super-Fungus” last month, they barely registered; seems like we’re all going out one way or another. However, Ayurveda has some tips for saying “Not Today” to fungal infections.

As you’ve learned from any cursory exploration of the forest, fungus thrives in cold, moist places. This is also true in your body. When the body is not efficiently digesting, the subtle moisture content can increase, leading to a dampness that hinders wound healing and aids fungal growth. If you tend to get spring allergies, slow-healing cuts, nasal congestion, ear infections, candida, or if you are severely overweight or have Type 2 Diabetes, you may be more susceptible to fungal infections, according to Ayurveda.

Thankfully, free medicine is available. Both diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in establishing an equilibrium of health in your body and reducing that vulnerable dampness.

Bring On the Spice, Girls

Add or increase your usage of black pepper, turmeric, cardamon, fresh ginger, dried ginger, cumin, and all curry spices in general. These tiny but mighty digestive warriors have the power to begin shifting your internal environment to one inhospitable to fungus. You want to add heat and dryness, assisting your body in digesting the excess moisture.

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How Ayurveda Understands Autoimmune Disease

The prevalence and incidence of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes, is on the rise. While biomedicine continues to focus on the development of new pharmaceuticals, there is much already known within other holistic sciences about the body’s adaptive mechanisms. By focusing only on biochemical solutions and symptom management, it’s too easy to overlook the connections between digestion, metabolism, emotional resilience, societal habits, community resources, and the manifestation of disease.

In autoimmune conditions per Ayurveda, the body is responding to, and attempting to digest, an over-accumulated burden in the tissues. Ayurveda would term this cellular burden as ama, or microscopic undigested food particles that have not been broken down properly in the early stages of digestion and have begun expressing symptoms signaling their movement into one or more of the body’s deeper tissues. Add to this a disturbance in the levels of doshas, or bioenergetic forces and humours, circulating in the body and disease will manifest.

Digestion is More than Diet

While this pathology implies that the origin of autoimmune disease is gut-related, it does not mean the root cause of the problem is — and can be fixed by — diet alone. While food plays a prominent role, body full of accumulated toxins, or undigested material, can be proof of circulating thoughts, habits, emotions and beliefs that have hampered the body’s ability to digest whatever is put into it. We can throw pharmaceuticals at the problem to reduce symptoms, but to fully uproot autoimmune disease nothing short of a re-evaluation of one’s way of being in the world will suffice.

Lifestyle Disease is not a Stigma

The newly termed “lifestyle disease” runs parallel to the formerly socially stigmatic term “psychosomatic illness”. A combination of a solely mechanical view of the body and a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps attitude of fierce individualism lends itself to discounting the many factors that support or deteriorate health, including the internal and external habits and resources that make healthy living an uphill battle.

Immunity and Metabolism are Interconnected with Mental Health

The oversimplified definition of autoimmune disease is that the body is attacking itself. In fact, the body is fighting against its own relationship to the world and its inability to metabolize all that living as a human being in the world entails. This is hardly pseudoscience: our stress response, environment, and diet all play a role in our metabolism and immunity and therefore the overall functioning of the body. Autoimmune disease cannot be properly addressed without also evaluating the sensory, mental, emotional experience of being embodied and how perception affects function.

In order to balance the equation — to decrease the factors affecting digestion and increase the capacity of the body to break down and efficiently utilize food — the whole human experience must be taken into account. After all, the mind is the most rapidly activated agent affecting the digestive capacity of the body. Adding the surrounding culture and environment, the lifestyle and habits of our ancestors, and our perception and reaction to the world around us, offers a more complete picture of the essential components in creating and sustaining health.

Individual Health is Public Health

Our ability to address autoimmune disease on a larger scale is inextricably linked to our societal ability to address the insecurities and demands of modern life, for both the individual and the collective. Access to internal resources in the form of tools for managing stress, building relationships, and opportunities for connection need to be offered in tandem with food, income, and physical security on a universal scale.

In creating an internal environment for optimal health, it is myopic to believe the external environment plays no role. To maintain an internal ecosystem capable of efficiently sustaining healthy humans requires an understanding and acceptance of the role of healthy digestion; to develop healthy digestion requires an evaluation of all factors affecting mental,physical, and emotional health. Ultimately, it requires us to reconsider how we live our individual lives as well as how we support each other.

Your Ayurvedic Post-Holiday Recovery Plan

(Spoiler Alert: January is a bad month to start dieting)

Did you slide down the slippery slope of “just one more cookie” last month? Never fear! This is fattening-up season, and not just because you made all those pies and somebody had to eat them…

Ayurveda explains that the time between November 14 and March 14 is when we nourish and strengthen our bodies for the rest of the year. That doesn’t mean that the world is our 24-hour buffet, but it does mean that gaining a couple pounds in December is a natural –and even healthy– occurrence. This is the season of forgiveness, after all, and thankfully that includes your stomach.

This is not a time for juice cleanses, or any heavy-duty weight-loss in general (March — May is far better for that). However, it can be helpful to make a few adjustments so you don’t find yourself in full weight-gain free fall. And if you over-nourish with sweet, cold, heavy foods during January and February, you’ll feel the effects in April taking the form of allergies and spring colds.

Here are a few 5000-year-old, time-tested strategies for bringing your body back to a balanced state and weight without compromising your health:

Ayurvedic Fasting

In Ayurveda, fasting doesn’t mean not eating. Eating nothing, or only drinking water, would not be recommended as a regular health practice. When fasting is mentioned in Ayurveda, it implies a type of langhan therapy, or lightening of the body with reduced food intake. The focus is on reducing digestive load, thereby increasing digestive capacity, thereby reducing quantity of bodily tissues.

A few options for Ayurvedic fasting:

  1. One day per week: eat only warm, non-cream-based soup or broth for each meal

  2. If your hunger is generally low, and you don’t wake up hungry, eat just two regular meals a day at approximately 11am-12pm and 5pm-6pm.

  3. Notice quantity as well as quality. Bring your two hands together, as though you’re drinking water from a faucet. Use this as a measurement for your portion-size. (And, by the way, measure by your hands, not your giant Uncle Marcus’ hands.)

Exercise: essential for winter digestion

Exercise supports digestive capacity as well as increasing both mental and physical strength. Having trouble focusing? Still eating a bit extra? Feeling physically sluggish? Exercise.

But if you hate going to the gym, don’t go to the gym: snowball fights, shoveling, dancing, gardening, helping your friend move their sofa down four flights of stairs, and sex (good sex, anyway) all count as exercise. In fact, ancient Ayurvedic texts specifically suggest digging wells and having sex (probably not at the same time) as excellent choices for reducing the size of the body.

While you’re at it: make sure you‘re exercising as appropriate for your body. If you’re a heavier person, you’ll need to get a bit of a sweat going for exercise to be most effective. Small, thin people: walking is perfect for you.

Focus on the Little Things

  1. Don’t snack if you’re not hungry. Habitual snacking is a root cause for many illnesses and a leading cause of weight gain and digestive overload. Your hunger is an essential sign that your body is ready to digest. If you’re constantly adding food to your stomach, there is no opportunity for your digestion to refresh and your body will not be able to properly break down the food, leading to a toxic buildup.

  2. Avoid cold drinks and cold/raw food. When you eat cold or raw food, you’re asking your stomach to do the work of cooking it. If your digestive capacity is already low, cold foods will diminish it further and make it more difficult for your body to adequately and efficiently break down nutrients, resulting in weight gain, digestive discomfort, and winter cold-type symptoms.

Last but not least, offer yourself some perspective: you haven’t fallen off the wagon. You ARE the wagon. Seasons have their ebbs and flows, as do our lives, minds, and habits. We are continually re-anchoring intentions, learning, integrating, re-learning, re-integrating. Keep going: you’re doing great.