The traditional medical view is that kids get sick with colds, flu and other common illnesses because their immune system is untested and they have not previously been exposed to viruses. When they do come in contact with viruses and upper respiratory infections, they easily succumb. Later in life, having developed a resistance to these diseases, they do not get sick as often.
Ayurveda has a different view: Children tend to stay healthy and maintain their health if they eat the right foods, get proper rest and have a good routine. This helps the child maintain his or her own resistance and immunity. Teachers have long observed that some children who exposed to viruses and colds never get sick, while other children seem to always pick up the latest bug. While to some extent this is due to the child’s “prakritia” (body type) and inherent resistance, proper rest, diet and routine can help maximize the possibility for children to avoid colds and flues.
In Ayurveda, each of the three doshas—vata, pitta and kapha—are responsible for the expression of various aspects of nature in the body. Kapha is more structural and is responsible for heaviness and solidity. And kapha is responsible for maintaining the structural aspects of the body—muscles, joints, tissues, etc, as well as lubrication.
During our early, growing years, as the physical structure of the body is forming, kapha dosha is more predominant than the other doshas. Kapha is slow, heavy, sticky, firm and strong. And its proper functioning is essential for the ever-strengthening physiology to grow. If kapha becomes imbalances, however, because of its heavy and sticky qualities, it can slow digestion and produce excess mucus in the body. This can lead to colds, ear infections, etc.
In determining the proper diet for children, Ayurveda takes into consideration the domination of kapha at this time. Excess sweets and cold drinks and food are difficult for the slow digestion of early childhood to handle. Unfortunately these are the very foods that children often ask for: candies, chocolates, pastries, ice cream, cold drinks, cheese and heavily processed foods. They are also the kinds of foods that are easily accessible for busy parents. It is no coincidence that holiday times, beginning with Halloween, Thanksgiving and following through Christmas and Hanukkah, are times when parents often see an increase in colds and sickness in children.
A vegetarian diet is ideal for a young child. It should include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and can provide plenty of protein through a combination of grains, legumes, dairy and nuts.
Mild is healthy for most children, but Ayurveda cautions against serving milk cold. Boiling milk makes it easier to digest (for all ages).
Ideally the main meal should be at lunch, when digestion is stronger. Dinner should not include heavy foods such as cheese, yogurt or meat.
According to Ayurveda, the more rested the physiology, the stronger the immune system will be. This is true for adults as well as kids. When children are tired from staying up late, they become more susceptible to colds and other respiratory illnesses. For greater strength and balanced physiological functioning, children under five should go to bed between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. Children between the ages of five and eight should go to bed by 8:00 p.m. And children between the ages of eight and ten should be in bed by 8:30. This is far earlier than is generally practiced.
Adopting an ideal Ayurvedic routine for your kids means getting up early in the morning, performing Ayurvedic oil massage before bathing, getting plenty of exercise and learning the Transcendental Meditation technique or the Transcendental Meditation Word of Wisdom for children under the age of ten. These techniques help promote well-being and happiness for a growing child.
Back in 1992 a study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that levels of stress—rather than exposure to a virus—determines which people catch colds. Providing children with a tool to relieve stress at an early age is a gift that will keep them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
Of course creating an ideal routine for children means parents creating and participating in that routine themselves. Children are very sensitive and impressionable. They absorb the influences around them. The close relationship between parents and children is reflected in the health of the entire family. Parents must take care of themselves in order to provide maximum care and guidance for their children.
A family consultation with an Ayurveda expert can help parents develop an ideal diet, routines and guidelines their children — and for the entire family. For more information on scheduling a consultation, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:
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