High peak cold, cough and flu season is upon us and here to stay until late Spring. The best way to prevent sickness from taking over and lingering way beyond it’s welcome, is to have a strong bullet-proof immune system. Though colds may still happen, the stronger your immune system, the quicker a sickness can resolve. In Chinese medicine we are all about taking preventative measures. Below are some easy ways to go about building the immune system and what to do when when you are feeling a little under the weather.
Sleep Well and Early
Sleep health is key to keeping your immune system healthy. This has been a very researched subject. Bad sleep has not only been connected to a lower immune system but to issues such as obesity, higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and cardiovascular disease. A good 7-8 hrs of sleep is a game changer and can actually lower inflammation. Lower inflammation = a stronger immune system.
In a recent study, “people who averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night were about three times more likely to develop cold symptoms than study volunteers who got eight or more hours of sleep when exposed to the cold-causing rhinovirus. In addition, those individuals who got better quality sleep were the least likely to come down with a cold”. (HealthySleep., Harvard 2008)
Put away your devices, close the screens and try to go to bed earlier. It seems that simple but little life hacks can create good sleep habits. If insomnia is an issue, go see your local Chinese medicine Dr., we treat this issue easily.
Calm the Stress
Stress is a direct link to a lower immune system. When we are under a lot of stress or react easily to situations and stress seems out of control, it can immediately cause a negative immune reaction in our body. It ignites our body to be in a heightened state of hyper awareness and increases inflammation, raises blood pressure and our heart rate. Since the body is in a fight or flight state, the immune system cannot respond normally and is instead inflamed. This makes it much easier for viruses, colds and flus to be able to enter into the system and wreck havoc.
Creating a regular meditation practice, getting acupuncture, going to yoga or maintaining a good exercise practice are all ways to reduce stress. Find something you enjoy and stick to it. Stress management and incorporating ways to relax within a world that might not be so relaxing, is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Increase Your Gut Health
Gut health has been all the craze this past year and for good reason. There has been an amazing amount of research and observational study done on the link between gut health and inflammation, immune function and emotional wellness. This idea has actually been part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years ( we love it when Western medicine finally catches on -yay! ).
When the digestive system is healthy and the Spleen/ Stomach relationship in Chinese medicine is healthy, the rest of the body is in harmony. It has been stated that the gut actually houses 70% of the cells that make up the immune system. When it is out of balance, we see everything from low immune function to autoimmune disease, anxiety, depression and even high rates of cancer. The idea behind that, is when the cells that help build the immune system are weak or damaged, they cannot fight against inflammation that may be attacking the body.
How does our gut get damaged ?
Stress : Chronic Stress can actually lead to a constant state of heightened inflammation in the system.
Too many medications / Antibiotics
GMO + Pesticide latent food
Eating too many inflammatory foods ( i.e processed wheat, dairy and sugar)
Infections and Overgrowth like SIBO
How can we heal our gut?
Super High Quality Probiotics and Pre-biotcs
Incorporate more Fermented Foods into your diet
Eat more Whole + Organic Food / Less Processed pesticide laden food
Eat less Inflammatory foods ( i.e., White flour, Dairy, Sugar)
If you have food sensitivities or food allergies, try and eliminate. Doing an elimination diet like Whole 30 is highly advised when trying to heal the gut.
Drink Bone Broth - the stuff really is medicine!
Lay off the Dairy, Sweets and too much Cold Raw Food
In Chinese Medicine, dairy is phlegm producing and even in moderate quantities can damage the spleen. This idea also crosses over into Western medicine. Since phlegm ( in Chinese medicine) causes phlegm and can build up in the lungs, it is better to eliminate what might be causing it. Raw foods on the other hand are mostly seen in Chinese medicine as another “spleen damager”. The the spleen in cold and wet in nature and can cause “dampness” in the body, so it is best to keep our food warm and cooked. Too much dampness can lead to a "damaged spleen " which contributes to an increase in phlegm in the lungs and issues with the digestive system. Over time this can even be contributed to various issues from gynecological to endocrine imbalances and even emotional wellness ( remember the gut /brain connection..).
If you look into Asian traditional diet, you see the pattern of warm foods as part of all meals and rarely is a yogurt, salad or cold-pressed juiced consumed as part of the daily regime. This is because Chinese medicine has been incorporated into the diet for millennia. Quick, fast food doesn't make for a happy spleen. Instead, steam or slightly cook your leafy greens for a couple of minutes, drink soup, eat stews and warmer beverages, especially in the colder months.
Use Chinese Medicine as a Preventative + Treatment
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine ( Herbal formulas, cupping, moxibustion, dietary therapy + gua sha) work wonders for the immune system. We have a medical herbal tradition that is over 3000 years old, that understands how no two pathogens are alike. We understand the nature of viruses and group what we call “evil wind” (a.k.a common cold or flu) into various categories depending on its nature, it’s temperature and how far it may be lodged into the different layers of the body. The best is of course to nip a sickness in the bud, the moment it begins.
Chinese medicine shines in preventative medicine because of it's ability to cure things before they manifest. We take early signs and symptoms and “attack” them, getting out the sickness before it turns into a flu or chronic bronchitis. What it’s preventative abilities do even better than it’s stellar performance in curing illness, is boosting the immune system!
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work so well for increasing the immune system, that it has been researched and shown to increase powerful T-Cells, red and white blood cells and enhancing humoral and cellular immunity that fight against disease and including strengthening the cells which fight cancer. Just one treatment to the acupuncturist can boost your immune system and greatly decrease inflammation in the body.
How does it work?
Acupuncture treats the root underlying cause, reducing symptoms and increasing the speed of healing that the body is trying to do on it’s own by balancing the body’s immune response and then regulating the body's immune function in return. We choose specific points that help stimulate the autonomic nervous system, which creates this incredible immune response. Interferon levels rise during an acupuncture treatment, which is one of the immune system’s messenger hormones. Higher levels of interferon, helps strengthen the immune system and reduce overall inflammation. Regular acupuncture treatments have been shown to boost the immune system so well, that it can actually prevent seasonal sickness and allergies. This is also why it treats asthma, allergies, autoimmune disease and cold and flus and has been around since 3000 BC.
Stay Healthy + Boost Your Immune System Naturally!