Simple Dietary Recommendations for Supporting Good Digestion & Immunity, Reducing Dampness, and Preventing and Transforming Phlegm
My dear friends, we find ourselves in Strange Times! But we also find ourselves in a very familiar time: Spring, which seems to be doing her thing, despite all the disruption we are feeling in our Human lives.
Below I have listed some simple common sense and Kitchen Medicine ideas for keeping healthy during not just this Spring, but any Spring. The suggestions below are based on my training in both Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine. I hope you find something useful here. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns or need clarification. And please contact your healthcare provider if you need more in-depth support.
Good Immunity starts with Good Health
- Reduce stress. Stress impairs the immune system.
- Stay positive, Remain Calm, Don’t Panic!
- Get plenty of sleep/rest
- Get regular movement and exercise, but don’t overexert/over exercise
- Keep lymph moving (movement, hot/cold showers, dry brushing, self massage w/sesame oil)
- Drink plenty of warmish fluids (start your day with a large glass of warm water)
- Support good lung (and overall) health by having daily bowel movements. In Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, the Lung (which is responsible for immune function in Chinese Medicine) and the Large Intestine are paired organs. It is important to keep both healthy and moving.
Good Digestion Supports Strong Immunity
- Avoid heavy/sticky foods: Especially avoid all dairy (ghee ok) and reduce/avoid processed wheat foods
- Avoid cold and cold natured foods (cold foods, raw foods)
- Avoid sugar (but raw honey -especially “old” granulated raw honey- is actually good, esp with warming spices like ginger and turmeric)
- Use warming, drying spices to support good digestion (ginger, black pepper, cardamom, turmeric, ajwain, mustard, oregano, thyme…)
- Follow the Ayurvedic diet for Spring/Kapha, links provided below to various practitioner’s particular lists. A Spring/Kapha balancing diet is warming, drying and lightening and promotes good digestion and reduces dampness and phlegm production in the Lungs.
Banyan Botanicals Kapha/Spring Diet:
Joyful Belly Kapha/Spring Diet:
Dr. Vasant Lad & The Ayurvedic Institute Kapha/Spring Diet:
https://www.ayurveda.com/pdf/food-guidelines.pdf follow the Kapha diet recommendations
“Phlegm is Produced in the Stomach & Stored in the Lungs” -Ayurvedic saying
- Avoid Dampness and Phlegm-generating foods (esp dairy, sugar,alcohol, and excess greasy foods, but especially low quality fats)
- Eat foods that reduce Dampness (see the Spring/Kapha diet recommendations above)
- Eat warming and warm foods (see the foods listed below and the congee recipe ideas)
Include foods that “transform” Phlegm and/or reduce dampness and support digestion
(this list is definitely NOT exhaustive and only includes some foods that are esp indicated for the Lungs, Large Intestine, and Digestive systems and are strong enough to classify more as medicinal foods)
- Almonds (esp raw European almonds) Ayurveda says soak and peel the skins off
- Green & black teas
- Cocoa & coffee (Without animal dairy)
- Seaweeds like Dulse flakes and Hijiki (these are both moistening and reduce phlegm)
- Mung & aduki beans, lentils (drain dampness and contain protein but aren’t “sticky”)
- Pumpkin/squash seeds (very high in zinc)
- Onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, chives
- Apples & Pears (baked/stewed with spices, skins contain quercetin -is anti inflammatory)
- Dandelion greens (and other bitter spring greens, esp spicy ones like arugula)
- All leafy greens (contain a pre-biotic, and are anti inflammatory)
- Mustard seed (warms the lungs and dispels phlegm). I like mine popped in ghee before sauteing veggies
- Citrus (small amount if high in Pitta) is a natural source of vitamin C
- Citrus peel, dried (includes orange and grapefruit peels used in tea or jams)
- Fennel seeds & fennel root (cooling in Ayurveda, warming in Chinese medicine)
- Bamboo shoots
- Chili pepper (use in moderation, as in excess it can be drying and cooling)
- Mushrooms (more “medicinal” varieties like shitake are best, support good gut bacteria)
- Fermented foods (small amount if high in Pitta) supports healthy microbiome
- Raw Apple cider vinegar (very small amount if high in Pitta) supports digestion and metabolism, 1 tsp in large amount of warm water, or put on foods (ex: as salad dressing).
Consider favoring simple foods such as congee based soups, as they are easy to digest. Congee is basically just rice cooked in a lot of extra water to form a soupy porridge. It is super easy to make in a crock pot or Instant Pot (or stove top) and can serve as a fabulous “vehicle” for many of the spices and foods listed above, especially the immune-supporting spices. You can make a congee more like a savory soup with spices, veggies and seaweed and then add in pumpkin seeds and miso to flavor or as a sweeter porridge with cooked apples and warming spices, then add almond milk and raw honey.
Common Herbs/Spices/Substances that support immunity and lung health:
- Raw honey
- Chyavanprash (Ayurvedic Herbal “jam”) Builds Ojas/Immunity, 1-2 teaspoons per day
- Tulsi leaf tea (or powder, mixed into warm water with honey and warming spices)
- Mint family herbs (like peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, basil, tulsi, rosemary…)
- Loquat (it will be fruiting in the next several months, esp in Texas, make freezer jam/syrup without sugar)
- Ginger (fresh or dried)
- Turmeric (in meals/cooking, in warm water with honey, make a honey paste and eat)
- Black & Long pepper (or Ayurvedic “Trikatu” spice mix). Put in food, or take as a tea w/ honey
- Ajwain (as a spice in food or as a tea)
Supplements that may support the immune system
- Vitamin C (with caution, plant based sources best): The Ayurvedic formula Triphala contains Amla which is renowned as a plant-based source of vitamin C. It is also an Ayurvedic digestive tonifier and helps keep the bowels moving. Citrus and citrus peel is also a great way to get plant-based vitamin C.
- Vitamin D or common sense Sun Exposure (with caution, do not take excessive doses, consult your practitioner)
- Zinc (with caution, do not take excessive doses, consult your practitioner)
This list is not exhaustive and is provided for inspiration and to promote your own process of discovery.
This discussion is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.
Please contact your practitioner for a consultation, especially if you are experiencing health concerns.