There are two things that we can do to manage the impact of these pollutants—one is to improve immunity in children and second is improving the quality of air at home.
By Ruchira Roy
The image of a mother and child sporting a face mask, while lighting a sparkler went viral last week, a true representation of the scale of pollution crisis in the country. As it takes time for the air quality to improve by any meaningful measure, can we combat the effects of this omniscient problem on the health of our children that seems unrelenting? Let us look at a few ways we can use Ayurveda to fight back the onslaught of polluted air.
Children, more than adults, tend to have a sensitive respiratory system and exhibit symptoms like coughing, sneezing, wheezing, itches, rashes and shortness of breath, almost immediately when exposed to hazardous levels of pollutants in the air. There are two things that we can do to manage the impact of these pollutants—one is to improve immunity in children and second is improving the quality of air at home.
How to improve immunity
To strengthen their immunity, children need to be given a diet rich with anti-oxidants to protect the body from the effects of the pollutants. The right food is an important input to adequately handle the impact of pollution on their health, since there is little that can be done to reverse the problem externally.
Fruits and vegetables containing vitamin C are the single most potent source of antioxidants for children. According to a research carried out by Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand, “Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress,” and it also “contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.”
You can give your kids gooseberries, guava, lemon, berries, tomato, carrots and apples.
Vitamin E is another lipid soluble source of antioxidant that must be provided in kids’ diet. Vitamin E rich foods are the first line of defence against injuries to body tissues. You could give them almonds, basil or cloves to meet Vitamin E requirements.
This carotenoid rich in antioxidants gets converted into Vitamin A when ingested. Beta carotene is needed to control inflammation that is caused due to the presence of free radicals and pollutants in the environment. Some sources of beta carotene are coriander, fenugreek, lettuce and spinach.
Omega 3 fatty acids help boost the immune system by supporting the functions of immune cells. Omega 3 protects the body against infections. They can be found in walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and clarified butter or ghee.
The eternal goodness of turmeric and honey
Take ¼ tsp of turmeric and mix it with ½ a tsp of honey. Children can have this before going to sleep. This combination is a time tested solution for building strength and immunity.
Ginger, basil and honey
A ½ tsp of juice extracts of basil leaves mixed with honey and 5 drops of ginger juice can be given to children on an empty stomach in the morning.
Jaggery has anti-inflammatory properties and it can be included in their diet.
Neem, with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, builds immunity while cooling down the body. It detoxifies and removes the impurities from the blood. Children can be given two neem leaves to chew thrice a week.
Two types of decoctions:
- Milk decoction
Children are often given milk before going to sleep. Since milk causes aggravation of Kapha (earth element) in the body, it may cause phlegm and cough. So they can be given milk boiled with some herbs like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and pipal leaves. Turmeric can also be added in it.
- Herbs in boiled water
You can make a decoction by adding turmeric, basil, bilva leaves, jaggery, bay leaves, ginger and pepper, to a glass of water. Boil it until it is condensed to half.
Ghee or clarified butter
More and more health experts are talking about the benefits of ghee as a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Ghee is considered to be a healthy fat, which is needed in our diet in regulated amounts every day. It is good for digestion and has detoxifying properties. Presence of omega 3 fatty acids in ghee supports our immune system. It is also anti-inflammatory and a rich source of antioxidant which makes it a must have. It promotes an alkaline environment in the body, when our diet, especially in India happens to be more acidic overall. Alkaline environment makes it difficult for diseases and illnesses to manifest in the body.
Children can consume peppermint too, which is a good antihistamine and clears up the lymphatic system.
Herbal mixes like Haridrakhanda and Chyawanprash are some of the most popular Ayurvedic immunity boosting medicines that children can have with milk. Children tend to enjoy these formulations for their sweet taste.
Steam with eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus oil can be inhaled with warm water to keep the nasal passage free. This steam can be inhaled twice a week for 3 minutes.
Alternate nostril breathing
Children can be taught light respiratory cleansing techniques like the alternate nostril breathing to expand their lung capacity.
Jalneti or nasal cleansing
This technique cleanses the nasal path right from nostrils to the throat, clearing the respiratory tract, removing the bacteria and dust that settles along with the mucus in the nostrils. Jalneti should be administered under the supervision of an expert.
To purify the air
- House plants
Research shows that some house plants can take in toxins from the air and purify the air for us. These plants include bamboo, Erica palm, peace lily and money plants.
- Beewax candles
You can keep beewax candles that ionise the air and neutralise the toxic compounds in the house.
- Salt lamps and camphor lamps
Salt crystals help reduce air-borne irritants.
- Essential oils
You can keep essential oils like rosemary, thyme, oregano, tea tree, lemongrass and cinnamon at home to keep the environment free from bacteria.
(With inputs from Art of Living’s Ayurveda Expert and Head Doctor at Sri Sri Tattva Panchakarma, Dr. Mitali Madhusmita)