Use Traditional Chinese Medicine to Strengthen Your Immune System
A few weeks ago I realized that wintertime has arrived. It was neither the fresh coat of powdery snow on top of Longs Peak nor the turning of the leaves. It was a woman at Walgreen’s pharmacy, who asked me: “Would you like a flu shot?” I started to pay more attention and noticed flu vaccine advertisements everywhere. Knowing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I felt it was a good time to write this article.
So, what makes our bodies susceptible to infections?
There is an abundance of evidence that stress, overwork and lack of rest deplete the body and henceforth reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. We cannot eliminate stress from our lives, but we can find ways to manage it. One of the best (and cheapest) methods to reduce stress is physical activity. Find something you enjoy: walking, running, swimming, cycling or whatever else turns you on and do it regularly. The key word here is: fun!
Make sure you get enough good, quality sleep. Our bodies regenerate during sleep and our immune system strengthens. Constant sleep deficit will reduce your ability to effectively fight infections.
An Unhealthy Diet:
A healthy diet is essential in keeping our immune system strong. There is no way we can build up our resistance to those little buggers (bacteria/virus) if we eat unhealthy. There are many books and continued discussions about what a healthy diet contains. The general rule is; the fresher the food the better your diet. Frozen and canned food usually contains a lot of salt and has been processed, which makes it less nutritious. If you have to eat frozen food for lunch, make sure you have some fresh veggies in the evening and fruit in the morning. Avoid or at least reduce the intake of refined sugar.
Dehydration can dry out your nose and throat which is your first line of defense. It is important to keep those mucus membranes moist, so hydrate yourself sufficiently. In the Front Range we live at a higher altitude AND in a dry climate, we have to drink water. If you exercise, drink alcohol and/or coffee your body needs extra H2O (remember how thirsty you felt after that Halloween party?). Also, heated air can be very dry. A humidifier in your bedroom at nighttime can do wonders to keep that dry cough at bay. Add some plants to your home, they will moisten the air all day long.
What is sufficient hydration? Take your body weight in pounds and divide it by 2. This is the amount of ounces of water you need per day. Remember your food contains water as well!
Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs:
Vitamins C, D and Zinc have a direct impact on the immune system. If you have thought of taking supplements please contact your health care provider. You want to make sure you take the right amount and a good brand so you get the full nutrient benefit of the supplement, not to mention your moneys worth.
Take a good probiotic. Recent studies show that bacteria in the digestive tract (your gut) play a big role not only in keeping your digestion healthy, but also in fighting respiratory tract infection.
Echinacea, Garlic and Andrographis are just a few examples of herbs that will help to build the immune system and are effective remedies for colds.
As a Practitioner of Chinese Medicine (AKA Acupuncturist) I have to mention Chinese herbal Medicine. There are many Chinese herbs that strengthen the immune system very effectively. The most known here in the West are Ginseng and Astralgus Root. Do you remember the SARS outbreak in China a few years ago? Herbal formulas played a significant role in fighting this epidemic. Please talk to an acupuncturist or herbalist if you are interested in taking Chinese herbs. Those herbs are medicine and quite potent, so it is important to treat them with respect and please don’t self subscribe.
What to do if you already have a cold?
Get good rest. Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids; I recommend ginger tea. Ginger is very warming and will make you sweat and the sweating will help your body break the fever. And for food: my favorite – chicken soup. It has never failed me J. Make sure there are plenty of ginger, parsley and root vegetables in your medicinal soup.
If your sinuses will not clear or you have a cough that just keeps lingering consider coming to our office. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs are extremely effective in getting rid of those pesky symptoms and will strengthen your body so you can skip the next round of sniffles in your office.
Hopefully these tips will keep you healthy throughout this wonderful season! Please note: this article does not replace a medical consultation with your doctor.