Cold and Flu from a Chinese Medical Perspective
From a Chinese medical perspective, a cold or flu generally begins as an External Wind Invasion, entering the external channels of the body. These Wind Invasions primarily enter through the back of the head, neck and shoulder regions of the body; this is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to keep your neck and head protected with a warm scarf and hat during cool or windy weather.
After the External Wind penetrates the channels, the body’s Wei Qi (or Defensive Energy), which is our first line of defense against invading pathogens, works hard to fight off the Wind Invasion. It is this fight that we experience as a cold or flu, as we sneeze, cough or burn with fever, in our body’s effort to rid itself of the pathogenic invaders.
There are different types of Wind Invasions, Wind-Heat; Wind-Cold; Wind-Damp and Wind-Dryness. All of these have different symptoms and can affect different people in different ways. The type of Wind Invasion, as well as your constitutional strengths and weaknesses, determines whether you are more inclined to one or more of the following: sneezing, coughing, fever, chills, headache, nausea or any other symptoms. Fortunately, Chinese Medicine has something to treat all of these symptoms and more, as well as to boost your immune system so you will be less likely to get sick. In the meantime, there are preventative measures you can take to increase your resistance to illness. Many of them are common sense.
Cold and Flu Prevention
Regular exercise; a balanced, healthy diet; rest and relaxation and good hygiene all can go a long way toward preventing illness. Walking briskly for 30 minutes per day is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only will it benefit your immune system, it will increase your stamina, energy level and help to decrease stress. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
Eat a balanced, healthy diet that includes a good variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. These contain anti-oxidants and beta-carotene, which are believed to help boost your immune system - beta-carotene, in particular, benefits respiratory health. Raw garlic is also an excellent immune booster. Allicin, the chemical that gives garlic its strong odor, is the primary inhibitor of invasive cold and flu germs. Reduce your refined carbohydrate and sugar intake, especially when you are sick. Simple carbs, especially sugar, greatly reduce the strength of your immune system. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and your system flushed.
Get plenty of rest, especially during times of stress, as stress and fatigue together bring your immune function down. Eight hours of sleep per night is optimal, get more if you need it at least two to three times per week. Also, building in a relaxation practice of meditation, yoga, tai chi or qi gong is important, even if only for 10 minutes a day. Take that time for yourself.
Wash your hands frequently and try to keep your hands away from your face. One of the most common ways germs find their way into our bodies is via our mucus membranes. When you shake hands with someone, touch a doorknob, a handrail, or any other germy surface, wash your hands before you touch your face.
When You Get Sick
If you do find yourself getting sick, it is best to treat the cold or flu right when you feel it coming on, rather than waiting until it becomes full-blown. Get plenty of rest and fluids, avoid sugars and listen to your body's needs.
Consider getting some acupuncture. I’ve seen acupuncture and Chinese herbs nip a very early-stage cold or flu in the bud many times. However, even if it does become full-blown, Chinese herbs and acupuncture can still help move the illness through your system more quickly and help you feel more comfortable during that process.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know how acupuncture and Chinese medicine might be helpful for you.