We are now into the heart of autumn, and that means that cold and flu season is just around the corner. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine practitioners have always placed a huge premium on preventing disease whenever possible, and as there are several simple things that can make a huge difference in whether people do get sick, we thought that now would be a great time to share them with you. But before we do, we want to quickly touch on how Chinese medical theory thinks about colds and flus.
As Chinese medicine was first developing 3000 years ago, there was no understanding of germs or viruses. What we refer to as the common cold, was referred to by the ancient Chinese as an “invasion”- a foreign invader attacking the body’s defensive system. Interestingly, this is pretty much what is happening from a physiological perspective.
In Chinese Medical theory, “wind” is thought to be the primary carrier of illness. “Wind” is said to be “the gateway of 1000 diseases”, because it moves around, frequently changes course and carries pathogens (what we call germs) with it. Similar to how germs enter our body now, “wind” most easily penetrates the nose and mouth. There is also an area of the upper back and neck called the “wind door” which easily allows penetration of “wind” into the body. If you ever remember your mom telling you not to go out of the house with wet hair in the winter, this is why. Having wet hair on this area makes you more prone to illness. And you thought it was just an old wive’s tale.
Interestingly, the herbs that the ancient Chinese thought were good for ridding the body of the pathogenic “wind”, have been shown in modern scientific pharmacological studies to have potent antiviral and antibacterial properties making them ideal for the treatment of colds and flus.
The key to whether or not you get sick is the state of your immune system. If you’re immune system is strong, it can repel the invaders; if it is weak, you will get sick. Here are our top 10 ways to help you boost your immune system so you can remain healthy this winter:
1- Eat Well. Did you know that 80% of our immune system is in our digestive tract? In Chinese medicine, the “Wei Qi” (immune system) is thought to be derived from the state of your digestive health–once again proving that the ancient Chinese physicians were way ahead of their time. So how do we boost our immune function through our digestive tract? By eating plenty of vegetables and fruits. They contain key phytochemicals that protect our health. It’s best to choose from a wide variety of colors- especially include green leafy vegetables. Studies have also shown that eating processed sugars and carbohydrates fuels the growth of harmful gut flora which can impede the many immune cells in our guts whose responsibility it is to keep us healthy.
2- Wash your hands–this is the #1 way to prevent the spread of germs.
3- Clean your desk/office space- especially if you share space with a co-worker.
4- Sleep! Get your rest—nothing slows down your immune response like a lack of sleep.
5- Keep your hair dry when going outside. Wear a hat if it’s cold out.
6- Drink plenty of liquids. Water helps flush germs and toxins from the system.
7- Take a Sauna. Studies have shown that regular sauna users cut their incidence of colds and flus in half.
8- Exercise- not while you are sick, but as a preventative measure- exercise helps increase the virus killing cells in your body.
9- De Stress- Stress can weaken an immune system because it puts your body into the ‘fight or flight’ mode and stresses your adrenal glands. Find a way to moderate your stress- yoga, meditation, exercise, and acupuncture are all good options.
10- Keep getting your acupuncture- Acupuncture has been proven to boost the immune system. Patients who get regular acupuncture get sick less often and if they do get sick, they are not sick for as long a period of time.
If you feel like you are getting sick or are already sick, call us immediately and we will get you in for an appointment. We have herbs specifically made to fight the common cold and flu. Clinically, we find that properly applied treatment can eliminate approximately 70% of colds and flus before they really develop, and can dramatically shorten the length of time that our patients are sick if they do fall ill.