Winterize Your Immune System with Acupuncture
by Heather Conway, M.S. TCM, L.Ac
Are you susceptible to always catching ‘what’s going around’? Want to avoid getting sick this year? Acupuncture can help to boost your immune system and strengthen your natural defenses to whatever you may be exposed to this winter season.
Bacteria and viruses are everywhere – from the food we eat to the air we breathe. Each year over 100,000 people are hospitalized due to complications of the flu virus and many more suffer from colds.
Even with hand washing and taking precautions, we cannot prevent all contact with germs. But according to Chinese medicine theory, germs aren’t the root cause of illness. It is when our natural defenses are weakened and specific organ systems are out of balance that illness will occur.
Two main organ systems which affect the integrity of our immune system are the Lung and Spleen Qi (pronounced “chee”). The Lung Qi controls breathing and is also responsible for directing energy to the protective barrier of the immune system called Wei Qi, or Defensive Qi. Wei Qi relates to the production of white blood cells that scavenge for any pathogens that enter the body through the bloodstream. The second, Spleen Qi, supports our digestion. Without proper nourishment to the body, Wei Qi wouldn’t have the fuel to produce white blood cells and other natural defense components of the immune response.
Acupuncture promotes a healthy flow of Qi, the vital energy which nourishes and supports every cell, tissue, organ and gland in the body. When the body’s organ systems receive the proper amount of energy, our immune system is supported. This makes acupuncture a great preventative medicine, as well as a powerful medicine for resolving the onset of symptoms of illness. In fact, clinical studies have shown that using acupuncture can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory infections and shorten the length of a cold or flu attack.
Some other pointers for the winter season:
Skin is an organ system closely related to our respiratory system. Exposing it to wind and cold air is not only uncomfortable, but also puts unnecessary stress on your respiratory system. So dig out that extra scarf and take extra care to shield your skin from the cold.
Get some Zzz’s:
Chinese medicine points to lack of sleep as one of the primary internal stressors that cause imbalance in the body. Now that it gets dark earlier, you should be getting yourself to bed earlier!
Another major internal stressor is improper diet. The basic theory of Chinese medicine, the Five Elements, shows digestive system directly nourishes the respiratory system.
Some of us, when advised to eat healthier, think about salad. But in the case of Chinese medicine, raw food is very “cold” and should be avoided in the winter months. Instead, we should be thinking warm soups and stews with root vegetables, like carrots, ginger, turnips, and garlic. Whole grains, beans, and nuts are also a great idea. These are energetically “warm” foods and will help you stay healthy this winter.