It is very common during the winter and monsoon seasons for us to be more susceptible to various infections. According to Ayurveda, a year is divided into 2 kaalas i.e., Uttaryana and Dakshinayana. Each kaala consists of 3 seasons, and so 6 seasons per year with each season persisting for about 2 months.
- Uttaryana Kaala (14 January to 14 July)
- Shishir Ritu (Winter) Mid- January to Mid- March
- Vasant Ritu (Spring) Mid- March to Mid-May
- Grishma Ritu (Summer) Mid- May to Mid- July
- Dakshinayana Kaala (14 July to 14 January)
- Varsha Ritu (Monsoon) Mid- July to Mid- September
- Sharad Ritu (Autumn/ Fall) Mid- September to Mid- November
- Hemant Ritu (Late Autumn/Pre-Winter) Mid- November to Mid- January
Out of these 6 seasons, Shishir Ritu (winter) extending from Mid-January to Mid-March is a period that remains cold and windy.
Ritusandhi: 'Ritu' means season and 'Sandhi' means junction. It Is a junctional period consisting of the last 7 days of the previous season and the first 7 days of the next season. During this period, our body is prone to infections.
The common ailments which occur during the winter season are:
- Common Cold: A common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection caused mainly by viruses. It mainly affects children, old aged people and other immune-compromised individuals. The symptoms include throat irritation, cough with or without phlegm, running nose, sneezing, watery eyes, headache and a low-grade fever.
- Stomach Flu: Stomach flu can spread rapidly during the winter season and is caused by the Norovirus. In this condition, there is an ongoing inflammation of the mucosal lining of the stomach. It can be easily transmitted through food and drinks and through feco-oral contamination. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhoea and stomach cramps. The person may also feel chills, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches.
- Extreme Dry Skin: Dry skin also known as winter skin, is usually worsened during the winter season when the environmental humidity is very low. This is because of the cold and dry air which evaporates the water content of the skin very quickly, making it dry and tight. Skin can be prone to inflammations during this period.
- Asthma: Asthma is a condition in which the airway becomes narrow and inflamed, leading to difficulty in breathing, cough and wheezing. For some Individuals, these symptoms may flare up during the winter season. The cold dry air can irritate the airways, producing more mucus and increasing the symptoms. Also, the cold environment can worsen airway constriction.
- Flu: Flu is commonly mistaken for a common cold but both are different. It is a common viral infection that can be even life-threatening in highly vulnerable groups. It affects the lungs, throat and nose. Flu commonly affects younger and older populations and also people who have reduced immunity or other underlying chronic conditions. Symptoms include high fever, chills, sore throat, nausea, swollen lymph nodes and headache.
Wellness Tips for Winter Ailments
- Practice Good Personal Hygiene: Practising good personal hygiene is one of the most important ways to protect yourself from getting infectious diseases such as stomach flu, common cold and flu. It also helps to prevent the spread of infection from yourself to the next person.
- Yogic Kriyas: Practising yogic kriyas such as Jala neti will help to remove the excess mucous from the upper respiratory tract and help in the proper airflow without any obstruction. Thus it also helps in asthmatic conditions and alleviates congestion, allergies and cold. It should be practised under the guidance of a proper Yoga trainer. Care should be taken to blow the nostril properly after the practice to avoid headaches.
- Basil: Basil has good antiseptic and antiviral properties and is recommended for viral infections like the common cold and flu. It also helps to liquefy the phlegm and is effective for cough and Asthma. It can be added as a topping to soups and sauces
- Turmeric: Turmeric has a great antiviral property and acts effectively against the influenza virus. It is also rich in antioxidants and has an anti-inflammatory property.
- Vitamin C Rich Foods: Taking Vitamin C rich food is essential for the repair of the tissues. It helps to improve the production of white blood cells and fights against infection. Vitamin C rich foods include Amla, strawberries, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, pepper, citrus fruits like lemon, orange.
- Probiotics: Probiotics reduces the possibility of getting upper respiratory tract infections. They help to keep the immune system healthy. It includes buttermilk, fermented rice water, pickled vegetables, kefir etc.
- Stay Hydrated: Having a sufficient amount of warm water will help to maintain the moisture content of the skin.
- Hot Soups: Soups are a great diet to be added to our winter menu. This can be further enhanced by using various herbs and spices which are good for winters such as rosemary, oregano, ginger, garlic, pepper, cumin etc.
- Exercise: Moderate exercise is extremely important to keep our metabolism high. We can get into cardio or yoga practices that help to elevate the body heat and to improve heart functions so that the circulation can be improved to different parts of the body. (Dr Manoj Kutteri, Wellness Director, Atmantan Wellness Centre)