Interview with Dr. Marda Ghanashyam

Corona-Virus Covid 19 in China and Pandemic

Immunity Boost in China

Yoga Journal China interviews Dr. Marda Ghanashyam, Doctor of Ayurveda Medicine and Science from Pune, India

The interview was taken end of February 2020 and published March 2020

  1. What does low immunity do to us besides reducing our ability to resist disease?

Immunity is a body defense mechanism system it just not a disease resisting mechanism. It does some other function than just creating ability to resist or reducing ability to resist disease, if it is low.  Immunity is a state of having sufficient biological defenses to avoid infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion.

It involves specific and non-specific components. Non-specific components act as barriers/eliminators of a wide range of pathogens of any antigenic specificity.
Other components of the immune system adapt them to each new disease encountered and are able to generate pathogen-specific immunity.

In fact, in Ayurveda, the science I belong to, immunity is described as mechanism to prevent origin/production of disease, capability to handle/tolerate the disease in different steps and not just capability to resist the disease but to overcome disease. It is also considered a force against the strength of disease
When we say prevention or origin or production of disease ultimately it refers to maintenance of health or order in body so disorder should not happen. There is regimen of day and seasonal regimen with body self-care and hygiene therapies described in Ayurveda to maintain order of the body

  1. Does eating vitamin C health care products can really improve our immunity?

Well again, do not bind immunity to one particular vitamin or one particular element. Yes vitamin C  is claimed to be immunity boosting but so as B6 or E etc. There are 8 or more vitamins claimed to be boosting immunity, but they are considered as exaggeration of facts by some researchers. Although Vitamin C is claimed to be one of the best.

However, most vitamin health care products may act as support what really helps more are things like personal hygiene, good night sleep, positive attitude and good food.
What really is important instead of running after products and supplements, is to activate or enhance our body capacity through good sleep, balanced diet, better behavior, hygiene and regular lifestyle.

 

  1. People say a balanced diet can keep the immune system in a good state. But we don’t actually know what a balanced diet is? Can you talk about it?

It is really a big concept, can vary as per the individual, seasons, age, state of life and so on in healthy persons.  But generally speaking a balanced diet is not just about calories or protein etc., intake but it is about knowing the human constitution and capacity of digestive system and accordingly designing the food plate. Because many times what you eat is less important than what your body gets out of it after digestion.

Freshly cooked food for every meal or cooked in the morning for the day, having all the taste ( in Ayurveda there are six tastes described) in proportionate to individual, all the potencies (for example hot in nature and cold in nature food) all the forms of food for example masticable, leakable, chewable and drinkable in the same plate, multiple beneficial qualities food and with support to digestive system by using spices like turmeric, long pepper, ginger garlic, cumin, basil etc. and oil/ghee to smoothen the digestive process is a balanced diet.
It looks complicated but in fact it is not, for example if you take any food item let us say rice. It already complies with hot touch, cold nature, sweet taste, soft/unctuous/humid qualities and masticable form so just normal healthy/beneficial food with regards to your constitution is a balanced diet.

Normally following three meals a day with two substantial meals (breakfast and lunch preferably) and one light meal (dinner preferably) in winter or cold season where as liquid/semisolid breakfast, substantial good lunch and light dinner with adequate liquid intake is necessary in summer or hot weather.

Use of basil, turmeric, cinnamon, mint, long pepper, ginger, pepper etc., spices are useful in immune response especially to respiratory system

  1. Many people say that modern lifestyles have made us less healthy than we used to be. What do you think are some of the factors in modern life that can break down our immune barriers?

Everything has its pros and cons (benefits and harms) it is true that modern lifestyle has adversely affected our health but we shouldn’t blame lifestyle but rather blame us as we chose to behave in wrong ways.
For example: Sleeping good in the night, early bed and early wake up let us say 10 pm to 5 am is promoting or refilling our five systems including immune system (anabolic metabolism) but as we are working in day we choose to stay awake late at night, mostly connected to industrial lights like mobile (for social media like we chat Facebook, Whats App etc.) television or laptop in the night. All the industrial lights have adverse effect on our sleep, brain sensory organs etc. in dark light. Moreover, we sleep late as we think it is our time. This worsens the situation. It affects refilling of all the five systems adversely.

Not having proper lunch while working due to lack of time is also a part of modern lifestyle. In fact, when we are on the move and working we need more energy. So we need to produce more. So we need to have a good substantial lunch and not just grabbing something around.
Workouts/excess gym without considering the real capacity of body or musculature is helpful temporarily but reduces the strength ultimately.
So we need to choose proper lifestyle and beneficial parts of modern  life style.

  1. In our busy modern life, it is difficult to eat fresh food at every meal. How can we make our diet as healthy as possible?

As mentioned before, freshly cooked food means either freshly cooked for each meal or cooked once in the morning for all the meals of the day can go well. Because the idea of food is processed with different processing methods like cooking, steaming, mortaring etc. all these process transforms certain qualities or produce new qualities so to avail benefit of that, it must be eaten on the same day overnight the qualities changes.

At least food which is prepared by hot processing like cooking, steaming or the process which generate heat or energy like juicing or mortaring must be taken that day.
However cold food or fresh salad etc. can be kept overnight and taken day after.
Food recipes with blend of spices/condiments (cooked or processed or associated with spices/condiments) are always beneficial.

Now one needs to find time for this as food/eating is the only real thing we are doing for body. If we have time to spend on the look of the body/cosmetology in modern lifestyle, then why cannot we spend time on food?

  1. Ayurveda often uses herbs, massage, and touch therapy to promote health. Are there any ways of those for people to do themselves in daily life?

Actually few of these processes are part of daily regimen one should follow for prevention and maintenance of health and not to be sick
For example massage in the form of auto massage or different touch therapies are part of daily care of a human being.

This oil application may have an extra layering to body part, skin, inner mucosa of nose etc. besides nourishing. It can then protect inner mucosa from touch related reaction of body like allergies it can further protect respiratory system
Spices are part of cooking of each meal or daily life eating; they also have great impact on body for example basil is immunity enhancer especially respiratory system

Turmeric is world known useful spice and it can be part of daily cooking or different drinks/teas
Spices like garlic, mint, and cinnamon are necessary for enhancing immune response especially of upper respiratory system.
So all these therapies and spices can be used in daily life by the person himself for prevention.

 

7.Does different Dosha types have different ways to boost immunity?

Yes, certain types of Dosha constitution of human being are themselves helping immune response. Well, again. it can be very specific but I will give some general ideas through examples
For example, Kapha/Pitta type of Dosha constitution we suppose to be the healthiest constitution. Whereas Vata dominance Dosha type may be more fragile. So they do have different ways of boosting immunity. For example – Kapha Dosha type naturally tends to get Kapha accumulation. It provides wet mucosal medium for organisms to infect and Kapha disorders like respiration system problem (also assisted by Vata), tendency to gain weights etc. may occur easily.

So Kapha type of person should always use hot, dry, bitter qualities and more spices than others. It helps to boost defense mechanism.
Vata person is more fragile so he needs to use hot unctuous/oily qualities and sour and salt more.

  1. We know that doing exercises can improve immunity effectively, but the ways to do exercise are so many, how can we choose that what suits oneself?

First of all we need to understand what exercise means? Exercise is a (kind of comfortable) body movement which will not exhaust you and you can tolerate. So it is really depend upon individual’s capacity. One should not do exercise more than half of capacity he/she has, the Ayurveda says. Also it varies as season changes.

So workouts and exhaustion will not bring you health though they make you happy and look good for that time being. If it is the case then all the sports people should be healthiest one but they are not. According to individual capacity one should do exercise. In summer gentle exercise like swimming, yoga where as in winter you can do strong exercise in Gym or strong yogasana.

Breathing exercises/pranayama of different types and abdominal exercises/metabolic exercises has to be done regularly.

  1. Ayurveda values the harmonious balance between man and nature. In your opinion, is the outbreak of infectious diseases a manifestation of imbalance?

Ayurveda is great promoter of harmonious balance between human/animal and nature universe. As we are intelligent and part of this nature it is our great responsibility to maintain balance and harmony. But our craving for civilization, progress and development ended up reducing the balance. It adversely affects the nature producing many issues like global warming, excess co2 emission, and changed seasons and so on.

Ayurveda spent one whole chapter in Charaka Samhita, one of the classic treaties of Ayurveda, mentioning about epidemic outbreaks. Four important reasons besides lifestyle are described there. They are: contaminated/polluted/spoiled AIR, WATER, EARTH/PLACES and TIME/SEASONS due to this imbalance. They can massively affect the population and produce epidemics.
Changed seasons for example strong cold in summer or heavy rains in summer or hot winter, or dry, or no rain etc. can definitely affect  the population around and can produce epidemic outbreaks. It also reduces strength to fight back with epidemics. So yes, the imbalance we produce between nature and human and that can be one of the reasons for epidemic outbreaks.
Industrial depositions in water, air, earth can also affect not just human but animal and plant kingdom. Most of them are part of our food. So as we eat affected food ingredients, it ultimately affects us and we are prone to epidemic outbreaks.

So clean unpolluted air, water, earth is necessary. Well, you can turn the wheel back, you can produce more green zones, you can use filtered water or boiled water etc. at least.

  1. In emergency situations, such as an outbreak of an infectious disease, are there any special ways to boost our immunity to defense the strong disease?

In the outbreak of an infectious disease normally you need handle in three major ways

  1. A)  Supporting the body by reducing severity of disease or symptoms
  2. B)  Supporting body defense mechanism and boosting immune system so it can handle the disease or                                                    sustain until the emergency care/medications take over
  3. C)  Using different ways as a prevention methods for unaffected population around

In all three conditions we can contribute in some way or another.
For example the recent outbreaks are of SARS – severely affected respiratory system. In such situation we for the prevention of population unaffected, advise certain more cares like they are already wearing masks when they go out but we advise to avoid contact/touch. We advise them to gargling by turmeric boiled water and salt or oil pulling, application of oil/fat to inner mucosa of nostrils and then wear mask. This may provide extra protection. Secondly we advise also to have body auto massage by oils or fats. Thirdly we highly recommend people to sleep early and wake up early. We recommend to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours in the night say from 21/22 pm to 5/6 am. Further we advise to use the immunity boosting spices in food some of which I mentioned above.
For supporting the body defense mechanism, we advise them to move to liquid diet (especially when there is fever and congestion in respiratory system) like different soups with spices. Lentils/vegetable/cereal soups with garlic, ginger, pepper, turmeric etc. this helps to reduce mucus and fever and boost digestion and appetite. Digestive system is very much important is boosting immunity. We also advise syrups/juices of basil, mint to drink frequently. Those who eat meat we advise them to switch to meat soups. Avoid meat especially heavy red meats. Certain bird’s meat like partridge, pigeon is supposed to be good for respiratory system besides immune system. Secondly we advise external applications if possible like oil and salt application and massage to chest and parts of respiratory system (if no fever). Inhaling smell of camphor or mint etc. is also advisable. Those who can drink milk, goat or cow milk boiled with 10 fruits of long pepper twice a day also advisable
Last such outbreak was of H1N1 which was major in my city. We came across to few people with that outbreak. We advised above. Also we advised them a decoction (strong tea) of cinnamon, coriander, dry ginger, cardamom and khus/vetiver zinzinoids and sandalwood whatever possible 4 times a day.
We also use some special spice preparations like mix of long pepper, dry ginger and black pepper. Special extract of herb like Guduchi – tinospora cordifolia which is a kind of immunity enhancer or Vasa (Justicia adhatoda/ Adhadota vasica) a better support for chest.
In acute state we have some mineral and metallic preparations which we advise, as it is available and can be used in India. In such a way we can support body to handle the disease well and respond to medicine.