Excellent nutrition is a big step toward having excellent immunity. In COVID-19 Ayurveda nutrition works to prevent, minimize, and heal infection. Over 80% of us on the planet who have developed an infection to the virus so far are experiencing mild symptoms. This could be cause for encouragement.
In Ayurveda, healthy nourishing foods and fluids are key to building ojas, our vital protective immunity. Ojas includes both physical immunity yet also mental and emotional resilience. When our ojas is strong, we are better able to maintain courage and calm in the face of difficult conditions. At this point, just about everyone on the planet is facing difficult conditions, though to radically varying degrees. It’s important we work together as much as possible.
COVID-19 AYURVEDA NUTRITION
COVID-19 Ayurveda nutrition includes all the foods we would usually associate with an Ayurvedic diet: freshly cooked healthy vegetables, grains, fruits, dairy, nuts, seeds, and legumes that are easily digestible. This means, say a dish causes you gas. Then this is not a food for you to use regularly in this moment, even if its virtues are strongly promoted. Be practical, notice your responses. In ancient times, there was nothing that was not included in an Ayurvedic diet, according to one famous teaching story in the Charaka Samhita. Every plant and being has value. Eating food that has been prepared with love is considered important in Ayurveda.
THE NEED FOR BOTH FOOD AND SPACE
Yet how each of us is eating right now is tremendously impacted by supply, demand, emotion, and practical realities. I think of the 1.3 billion people in lockdown in India, birthplace of Ayurveda. As Shehnaz Khatun, a mother of three living in New Delhi said March 24 on hearing the lockdown decree, “If coronavirus does not kill us, hunger will.” This is a desperate truth. Already on this planet, 15,000 children under the age of 5 die each day of malnutrition. The current economic and social conditions only exacerbate the risk of losing more lives to starvation. One homeless man in Delhi said, “I would rather die from disease than hunger.”
Many recognize the need to slow the spread of the virus with social distancing. Yet good nutrition as well as self-isolation are key to weathering COVID-19 well. Many of the planet’s citizens live in conditions where both food and space are in short supply. If you would like to support food assistance in India click here. Another crucial area for support is at our border. Join Oxfam’s relief efforts at the US-Mexico border.
COVID-19 AYURVEDA NUTRITION CRUCIALLY IMPACTS HEALTHY IMMUNE STATUS
The currently chaotic conditions in the United States are not as extreme as India, yet we run a real risk of losing more lives to malnutrition or to serious disease due to preventable malnourishment. Dr. Iva Lloyd has emphasized that correcting and preventing nutritional deficiencies is essential to improve our overall immune status and protect ourselves well. There are also many of us in this country with deep ties to those at risk here and in other countries. Emotional and mental support are part of nourishment.
HELPING OURSELVES & HELPING OTHERS
As we lock ourselves down, how will we eat over the long run? How will our neighbors eat? Direct access to grocery stores is impossible for those in strict self-isolation, like the elderly or those with a family member testing positive for COVID-19. In many areas, delivery options are minimal or non-existent. People who were already socially isolated, such as some individuals with mental illness, can find themselves almost impossibly isolated, as former helpers have to abandon them to cover the unmet needs of their own family members, including childcare now that schools are no longer in session.
Many people live in small places with limited storage and with limited incomes. Food prices have gone up on key commodities. Cognizant of this, young actor Millie Bobby Brown of “Stranger Things” fame just donated 20,000 meals to our local food bank, the Food Depot. She said, “While we stay at home and do our part to flatten the curve, we must not forget those in need.” What a woman!
Another heartening development in our community and others over the last few days and weeks is the gathering together of Mutual Aid networks. If you are an isolated individual needing help, or someone wanting to volunteer to help at this time, it is worth googling “Mutual Aid” for your area. There are some great new groups forming.
As spring comes to North America, gardening becomes an obvious option for some of us. You may also want to share seeds with people who can no longer locate seeds. Appreciating the edible weeds in our own areas becomes a less than esoteric activity for others of us. These activities enhance our nourishment while giving us a chance to connect directly with respect with the Earth.
SIX TIPS FOR COVID-19 AYURVEDA NUTRITION SUPPORT FOR IMMUNE STRENGTH
1 .Eat a golden fruit or vegetable and a dark leafy green food every day.
These are rich in beta-carotenes, plant form vitamin A, that support healthy mucous membranes every where in the body, the immune system, and liver. Consider a carrot, yam, winter squash, apricots, mango, papaya on the goldens. Romaine lettuce, green onion, spinach, kale, arugula for the dark leafies, you get the picture. Let it become a habit. Soon if you’re interested, gardening may be a creative way to partially meet this need.
2. Reflect on the best places for you to shop now, and how you’re going to cover the bill. Pre-COVID-19 Ayurveda nutrition shopping may have had moments of creativity or relaxation. Now it may be hard to even want to go to a market. Think about what locales feel easiest, safest, and most affordable for you now.
3. Calculate the calories you taking in from white sugar and alcohol.You may be surprised. These are the classic “empty” calories that do nothing for your immune system (in fact, white sugar slows healthy white blood sugar responses). They fill you up without offering nourishment. Consider some dried figs or fresh fruit or an Easy Healing Drink instead.
4. Take a walk. In Ayurveda, a walk before a meal strengthen agni, your digestive fire. A leisurely walk after a meal doesn’t enhance digestion and absorption as much, yet can be a relaxing and enjoyable activity. Both help sleep and support circulation and immunity.
5. Hydrate. One of my favorite Ayurvedic beverages for supporting plasma and lymph is the Essential Rasa Tea from Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, Morningstar and Lynn. Learn how to make it here. LINK
6. Slow down and give yourself enough time to have regular meals. Conditions have changed radically. Some of us in the near past enjoyed “social nourishment” every morning at our local chai or coffee shop. Others of us have never made a meal in our lives. Our favorite eating spots may have closed, without even a take-out option still existing. This really impacts nutrition. You might want to brainstorm “Six ways I can eat three meals a day”. As one NY Times cartoonist lamented recently, Maybe even Idris Alba is eating mediocre yogurt now?
Some of us are actually enjoying time at home and cracking open the cookbooks. Others of us are truckers, first responders, or other essential workers who are struggling with the opposite conditions – how to get a good healthy meal. As the conditions keep changing, invite your thinking to gradually shift as well. In COVID-19 Ayurveda nutrition may mean something different for you than it has before. How can nourishment be a support for healing both for yourself and others?
SOME AYURVEDA RECIPES PEOPLE ARE ENJOYING NOW
From The Ayurvedic Cookbook, Morningstar with Desai: Lung Kichadi #1, digestive Kichadi, Sweet Steamed Beets, Sun Balls
From Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners, Morningstar: Ama-Reducing Dal, Ivy’s Soup Orientale, Punjabi Greens, Fruit Tapioca
From Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, Morningstar & Lynn: Essential Rasa Tea, The Vata Classico Shake, Internet Recovery Tea, Apple Spice Smoothie
Amadea welcomes comments and questions here.
Kichadi! Image thanks to Deva Khalsa
Amadea Morningstar, MA, RPE, RYT studied human biology and nutrition at Stanford and UC Berkeley; she taught pathology and physiology at the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts. Her expertise is in Ayurveda and Polarity Therapy health care. Currently Amadea works at a distance from Santa Fe, NM. She is available with respect, bringing over 40 professional years of experience, academic training and hands-on knowledge to her sessions, teaching, and books. Currently sessions with Amadea include Western nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and herbalism, Marma therapy, and nature-based approaches.
Amadea has a new Ayurveda book out with photographer Renee Lynn , Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, in print and e-book form. To learn more, click here.