Jennifer Laemmerhirt is no stranger to healthy nutrition and Ayurveda. As a holistic practitioner and former professional dancer, she has used Ayurvedic and other natural methods of healing for more than two decades. Yet when she contacted me after spending a week in the hospital with coronavirus in Frankfort, Germany, she was in the midst of a humbling education. For her COVID-19 recovery Ayurveda was part of the process.
Jennifer’s health care team in the hospital was surprised at how fast she moved through the pneumonia part of the virus. She attributes it to passing up the white bread and cheese that were on the hospital menu, and sticking to simple foods like fruit, almonds, and dates. She also took a good multi-vitamin, CBD oil, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
For her COVID-19 recovery Ayurveda included healthy nourishment. Jennifer’s first move in returning home was to ask her husband to make a favorite Ayurvedic dish, the Lung Kichadi #1 (from The Ayurvedic Cookbook. This is a gently spiced stew of split mung beans, rice, and veggies, easy to digest and comforting.) He must have done a great job, because she thoroughly enjoyed it. She reached out to let me know this, since the recipe was from a cookbook by Urmila Desai and me. Having first met Jennifer twenty years ago, I was very glad to hear she was safe and recovering.
When Jennifer filled me in by email again about her experience, she was on her next batch of kichadi. She observed, “At least in my case, (coronavirus) was all dry. Started with burning in my nose, throat, and lungs. No sense of smell or taste. My tongue was dry no matter how much water I drank. My skin was dry. I never had a cough. The pneumonia was dry. No coughing, just tightness and only able to breath superficially.”
Ayurveda uses opposites for healing. Jennifer’s intuition was right on in choosing Lung Kichadi #1 as a healing food. It’s moist yet decongestant, with onions, garlic, and ajwain. Sweet potato offers generous amounts of beta carotenes for healing tender tissue like the lungs. It’s tasty yet soothing. (Lung Kichadi #2 in the same cookbook is designed to dry out the lungs with garbanzos and sage, not what was needed at all in this condition, and she instinctively knew it.)
Jennifer’s choice of Omega 3 fatty acids was a wise one as well, both for moistening inner organs and calming the inflammation that is part of the coronavirus illness. In COVID-19 recovery Ayurveda uses moist Omega 3 fatty acids would counter the dryness and inflammation, as a lubricating anti-inflammatory substance. The Lung Kichadi #1 offers the option to boost one’s Omega 3s more, by adding Omega 3 – rich flax seeds into the stew in the last minutes of cooking.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS AND HEALING
It is possible that the Omega 3 fatty acids may have served a third function. In the latest studies around COVID-19, abnormal blood clotting was observed in relationship to the endothelium, the single layer of cells lining blood vessels, the heart, and lymphatic vessels. In preliminary research, the incidence of this unusual kind of blood clotting differs from one race to another. Asians were least susceptible and African-Americans were most impacted by it, with Caucasian rates in between. Omega 3 fatty acids normally counter blood clotting, or “thin” blood. Whether they could be a support for healing this abnormal condition is yet unknown. It is also not clear whether nutritional or lifestyle differences among those studied, or genetic ones, are factors in the unusual clotting.
Omega 3 rich foods include chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, cranberries, and cold water fishes. Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda offers simple ways to up your Omega 3 consumption, like Pomegranate Chia Smoothie or the Vata Classico Shake.
This abnormal clotting symptom was fortunately not part of Jennifer’s experience. She was lucky to be seen and diagnosed immediately in Germany. While she had oxygen therapy in the hospital, a ventilator was not used. Adequate oxygen without stress or pressure is important here.
COVID-19 RECOVERY AYURVEDA INCLUDED
While she was ill, Jennifer ached all over, especially in her upper back, neck, and the back of the head/the occipital area. In the limited experience of myself and colleagues, this area seems key to support. Healthy alignment in the upper neck may provide part of the strength to move back into balance. (Frankincense essential oil can be applied to the marma points Krikatika at the base of the occipital bone for strength and anti-inflammatory action.)
In the weeks since her discharge, Jennifer went back to work and then, took a pause. In her most recent email to me, she wrote, “On the positive side… I am really rethinking my work-life balance. Because there isn’t one. Being stuck at home, I rediscovered things I enjoy doing. I don’t want to work from 8 am till 8 pm anymore. I don’t want to use the weekend to recover from the week. I want energy and vitality back in my life. So some changes have to be made.” I think this statement could be true for a lot of us!
In Jennifer’s case, her lungs and brain are now the areas that call out for longer-term nurturance and support. She has been using Western herbs, yet is also considering some Ayurvedic herbs to support the brain and nervous system now as well. I thank her for her generosity in sharing her experience here. Jennifer, may you be well and find the deeper balance you envision.
GETTING SAVVY ABOUT IMMUNE SUPPORT
While the virus has the potential to strongly impact the lungs and immunity, other physiological systems can also be affected. From the perspective of COVID-19 recovery Ayurveda, one needs to support not only the respiratory system, yet also the digestive system, nerves, and the heart and circulation (Rasa and Rakta dhatus in Ayurvedic terms).
SUPPORT IMMUNE HEALTH: MINIMIZE WHITE SUGAR
White sugar inhibits healthy white blood cell responses to germs. Get creative about how to meet a sweet tooth naturally with fruits and veggies that also support the immune system. It could be as simple as a fresh mango, a glass of OJ, a cherry agua fresca, or a fresh glass of carrot juice. There’s inspiration in Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda with lots of delicious recipes. There are two inexpensive Ebook versions of the book, one for spring in the Northern latitudes and another for winter (in the Southern hemisphere) that can be downloaded almost anywhere.
SUPPORT IMMUNITY: MINIMIZE ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD IMMERSION
EMF exposure has been implicated in insomnia and diabetes, two conditions that put one more at risk for tougher response to the coronavirus. To optimize healthy organ responses, unplug periodically from the Internet, both with your smart phone and also computer. You’ve heard this before, yet now could be a particularly great time to come back into Ayurveda healing balance. Unplug overnight or try a weekly “fast” of a day without internet to reduce exposure. If unplugging out right feels too scary, experiment with an hour off, say when you’re in nature. Fresh air is win-win. Steadily give yourself longer periods with more fresh air and less radiation. (I’m deeply appreciative that not everyone has equal opportunities for fresh air, nature and less EMF. What we can do, may we.)
COUNTER TISSUE INFLAMMATION & MINIMIZE OXYGEN DEPLETION
A crucial difference in whether a disorder manifests in a mild to moderate fashion or goes on to a severe state has to do with duration of time and tissue inflammation. In coronavirus, deadly cytokine storms have been observed in the tissue inflammation stage.
To support mild manifestations of COVID-19 recovery Ayurveda would of necessity counter tissue inflammation. There are a variety of ways to do this, including Omega 3s and anti-oxidant nutrients. Another excellent natural response is the Ayurvedic herb boswellia, also known as frankincense. It effectively counters a variety of types of tissue inflammation. It can be used topically, a few drops of its essential oil form combined with a carrier oil to aching or stressed parts of the body. Frankincense works best in acute or chronic conditions of disease, rather than as a preventive.
NAC, N-acetyl cysteine, is another helpful supplemental support to counter incipient cough, congestion, and lung inflammation. A typical dose would be 600 mg with a generous amount of water once or twice per day. If you are taking Western prescription medications, before you take NAC, please check to be sure that it is not contraindicated for use.
Hydration is crucial. Here are two options out of many possible ones. Watch how to make Ayurvedic Essential Rasa Tea to restore stressed plasma and lymph here. Learn a new anti-viral variation on the original by scrolling down to the end of my April 8th blog here, Essential Rasa Tea for These Times.
GENTLE PRANAYAMA FOR WHOLE BODY SUPPORT
Oxygen nourishes every cell. In COVID-19 recovery Ayurveda works with the breath. Gentle pranayama is essential here, nothing harsh or fast. While Kapalabhati, Breath of Fire, is excellent if you’re well and want to increase digestive fire and efficiency, it is not recommended during acute coronavirus infection. It can feel too dry in this situation. Instead, gentle alternate nostril breath can be tried, inhaling as deeply and slowly as is comfortable for the affected person.
May 15 update: When Jennifer read this section, she wrote, “I totally agree. I did alternate breathing in the hospital. I wasn’t able to hold my breath on the inhale so I paused after the exhale. It just felt better. Gentler. Isn’t it incredible how, if we listen to our bodies and our souls, we just know what is right?”
With respect for everyone who has experienced this illness or who has been impacted by it.
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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. She is a health care educator in Ayurveda and Polarity Therapy, not a physician. Currently Amadea works at a distance from Santa Fe, NM; sessions include Western nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and herbalism, Marma therapy, and nature-based approaches. CE courses are available with Amadea thru her institute, the Ayurveda Polarity Therapy & Yoga Institute.