We are in the midst of flu season, and reports on the news are frightening. There have been deaths, and hundreds of hospitalizations. Usually these stories lead to a plea for you to get the flu shot. Now there are reports of flu vaccine shortages. Feeling panicked? Take a deep breath and read on.
Focus on Prevention First
Throughout the long tradition of Chinese Medicine, we have seen that if the body’s immunity is strong, the pathogen (virus or bacteria) cannot enter the body, or it can be expelled quickly. The stronger the pathogen is, the stronger you need to be to fight it. Consider yourself if training for this fight all season long. What does training involve?
Sleep. We are biologically wired to sleep more in the winter. Don’t fight it. Go to bed earlier and tack on a couple extra hours of sleep for yourself a night. Also, there is no harm in napping on the weekends! Go ahead and indulge.
Relaxation. We need R & R time, preferably daily, to allow the body to catch up. Imagine your immune system is working a desk job. The longer you stay stressed, worried, scared, angry, etc., the more papers are stacking up on the desk. We’ve all been there, so have some empathy for yourself and give your system a chance to catch up. Your body will do the hard work, all you need to do is relax. Watch the falling snow or a fire in the fire place. Or, just close your eyes and imagine a setting that makes you feel warm and cozy. Light a candle, make some herbal tea, and read a book. Take a nap. Meditate. If you’ve forgotten what it feels like to relax, schedule an acupuncture session and I’ll help you remember.
Fuel up with nutrient rich foods. Eat 5-7 servings of vegetables and fruit a day (no more than 2 of fruit in the winter). Vitamin C is actually found in vegetables, not just fruit. Red bell peppers and broccoli are particularly high in vitamin C.
Don’t cut yourself short. Say no to immune weakening foods like sugar (that’s a big one!), refined grains (like white bread and crackers) and preservative rich packaged foods. Think of these as negative nutrient foods. Subtract one vegetable serving every time you have one of these.
Put up barriers. Wear a scarf and hat to protect vulnerable areas of your neck.
Bolster your immune system with herbs. Make super charged ginger tea. Peel and slice an inch of fresh ginger root for every cup of water you are using. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. To super charge it, add astragalus, or Huang Qi. You can find this in a tea bag in stores with large tea sections. You can also buy a tincture, just look for a glycerin based tincture for the best extract. This is also alcohol free and safe for kids. Astragalus actually increases white blood cell counts to strengthen your immune system. Ginger has antiviral properties. It also benefits your digestive system, why is the root of your immune system. If you need some sweetener in your tea, use a raw, local honey.
Get regular acupuncture treatments. Your acupuncturist will be able to target weaknesses and fortify your defenses. An herbal formula may be recommended to reinforce the treatment, as well.
Treatment of Colds and Flus
Feeling a tight neck, sore throat, headache, stuffy, or just know that you are coming down with something? It’s time for direct battle. If you catch it early enough (the first or second day that you notice symptoms), you can usually give it the boot before it sinks further. We have many weapons in our arsenal.
Along with acupuncture, gua sha is excellent at this stage of the fight. We consider the pathogen to be at a superficial level at this stage. Gua sha releases the pathogen out of the body. You will probably have painless, red or bruised colored marks on your neck and shoulders for a few days. Definitely wear a scarf to protect this vulnerable area after treatment.
In addition to acupuncture and gua sha, we have other herbal formulas to use at this superficial stage of a cold or flu. These can vary by symptoms and the patient’s constitution, so your acupuncturist will have to find you the right one.
If you have time before your treatment, use sweating to expel the pathogen. Take a hot bath or shower, then wrap up in blankets. Drink some hot ginger tea. You only need to break a small sweat. Too much will weaken you. Eat some warm, nourishing soup or oatmeal afterwards to keep your body strong.
The flu vaccine is not 100% effective. Everyone needs to take care of themselves for strong immunity. If you would like to add acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to your own arsenal and you live in Denver, schedule an appointment to get started.
To read more about the flu, check out this article: “The No-Nonsense, Non-Alarmist, Essential Guide to the Flu” by Jennifer Cain.
To learn more about the efficacy of Chinese Herbs against the flu, read this: “Research Confirms Herbal Medicines Inhibit Influenza”
Questions? Send me an email and I’ll be happy to answer them.