How Summer Affects Our Immunity

Ayurveda, India’s ancient science of life suggests that eating in alignment with the seasons or observing ritucharya can help us to rejuvenate, detox our body, boost our overall immunity and strengthen our agni or digestive fire.
This ancient school of thought has celebrated the concept of food and its impact on our overall health. The yearly seasons we experience are characterized by the three bodily metabolic types or doshas known as vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth, water). In summer the “heat is on” and it is the season of the fiery pitta dosha. For all of us especially those of us whose metabolic type is primarily pitta, it is most important for us to keep our internal system cool and not to allow the dosha to exasperate. 

Summer: Pitta (Fire & Water) season prescriptions
Summer has a somewhat distinctive personality – long days filled with sunshine, sharp, dry intense heat that can make our digestive system weak. 

The perfect summer pitta prescription is aimed at promoting a diet and lifestyle that can help keep our digestive system strong and at the same time can help keep the pitta dosha balanced by staying cool and increasing relaxation. Summer also has some vata characteristics, so it is most important that we stay well hydrated and take time to rest.

During this hot pitta season, many of us will find that we crave light small meals that are easy to digest. A good way to move forward in summer and keep our immunity strong and in balance is to favor the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes, and enjoy cooling liquids and light food.

Favouring fresh in-season salads, fruits, light mung bean, rice kichadis along with cooling mint laced lemon and coconut water, light buttermilk, aloe vera juice, and herbal teas, such as peppermint, fennel or rose are all wonderful during this fiery pitta season. One word of caution – when enjoying cold beverages in summer, we tend to add ice and that is a complete ‘No’! The reason being that ice tends to upset the body’s natural digestive fire or agni which can create a buildup of toxins in our system. Other foods that can reduce the heat in the body are superfoods, such as sattu, roasted pulses, pomegranate, watermelon, fenugreek leaves, and amla.

Excess heat generating veggies and spices, such as carrots, beets, garlic, ginger, and mustard seeds are best avoided during the hotter months. It is best to avoid chilies and remember to always consume raw foods at lunchtime when our digestive fire is at its peak.

Some ideal summer foods that I like to favor

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Limes
  • Mangoes
  • Melons
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates

Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Collard Greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Green Beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Okra
  • Potatoes
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

Grains

  • Barley
  • Basmati rice
  • Wheat chapattis

Legumes

  • Kidney Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Mung Beans
  • Split Peas

Oils

  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Sunflower Oil

Spices, Flavours and Herbs

  • Basil
  • Cardamom
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Lime
  • Mint
  • Parsley

Sweeteners

  • Maple Syrup


Additional Summer Health Tips
Summer time is often celebrated as the season of vibrancy and energy. Most of us may find it naturally easier to rise early in the morning and embrace this fabulous rhythm of nature during this time of the year.

Rising early morning and taking a walk in nature with some form of soft detoxifying yoga is perfect for summers. A nourishing body massage (abhyangha), with a pitta cooling oil like khus or jasmine laced coconut before your bath, can be a magical way to cool the body and calm down the nervous system. Jasmine, khus and rose laced body mists are perfect spritzers to cool the body during the hotter months.

Staying out of direct sunlight during pitta time (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and practicing sheetali (cooling) pranayama will keep our mental and emotional energies in balance. Some form of meditation is always recommended no matter what time of the year it is.

Just because the weather is warmer does not mean those springtime colds, coughs, and allergies are over. A change in weather can in fact mean a weakened resistance to germs. There are still enough viruses lurking around in the summer that can make us sick. To keep the summer flu, headaches and allergies at bay, all of the above is strongly recommended. So are prebiotics and probiotics as they go hand in hand in maintaining our digestive health and boosting our immunity.

One practice that I swear by – Nasya is very helpful in keeping those germs away. In Ayurveda, the nose is considered the direct route to the brain and some practitioners also say it is the doorway to consciousness – the welcome in for prana, or life force energy which is carried into the whole body through our breath. Smooth healthy undisturbed and uncongested breathing is most vital to ensure the proper flow of prana throughout our body. This in turn has a vibrating effect on the health of our entire body-mind. Along with Nasya, it is strongly recommended that we continuously wash or sanitize our hands especially in these trying times. 

Summer drink for immunity
Cool Me Down Lime Mint Sikanjvi

Ingredients:

  • 1 large lime 
  • 2 glasses water 
  • 5 fresh mint leaves
  • ½ teaspoon roasted cumin powder or bhoona jeera powder
  • 2-3 pinches black salt or kala namak
  • Maple syrup to taste

Preparation:
Just blend up all the above ingredients, pour and enjoy.

Seema Puri Bhatia
Seema Puri Bhatia

Seema Bhatia is the founder of “Pranayum” holistic health and beauty. She is also a breath, water sound teacher with the Art of Living. Seema has created a set of easy and creative light meditations to help relax the mind.


Read more by Seema Puri Bhatia

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Picture Credit : Wesual Click on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “How Summer Affects Our Immunity”

  1. Will be trying out some of these suggestions! It never occurred to me to have a seasonal diet. Thank you.

  2. Loved reading the article. I truly believe in seasonal diet. Good to learn the reason behind it from Ayurveda perspective. Some of the things I had forgotten. It’s a good recall on some of those. Thanks

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