We’re in the midst of cold and flu season. There have been a couple of bugs going around, so I wanted to share some TCM inspired tips to help support your immune system.
Wear a scarf
Chinese Medicine considers a cold to be an external pathogenic invasion. Makes sense because a pathogen (virus) is invading your system. It enters your body through the wind-gate, which is the back of the neck and shoulders.
Have you ever noticed when you start getting a cold how your neck and upper back start to ache? That’s because your wei qi, aka your defensive qi or your immune system, is kicking up activity at your wind-gate to try and push the pathogen back out. Most colds start out as a runny nose with clear mucus. TCM calls this a wind-cold invasion, and that cold component also causes our muscles at the wind-gate to contract, contributing to the tight and achy muscles you feel.
Wearing a scarf to protect your neck and shoulders any time it is cold or windy out can help prevent you from getting sick. Likewise, wearing a scarf while you are sick will help to support your wei qi so pathogens don't move deeper into your body.
Eat warm cooked foods
Your gut health is the foundation of your immune system, and in TCM the spleen is responsible for the foundation of our gut health. The spleen loves to be warm, so eating warm cooked foods will help the spleen work more optimally, giving your immune system a healthy boost.
For an added immune boost, try focusing on foods that are high in vitamin C and zinc, such as red bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, cashews, beans, and spinach. The spleen also loves ginger, which has additional antibiotic properties. For a spleen nourishing congee recipe, check out this post here.
Drink tea and bone broth
Bouncing off the warm cooked foods, you should also avoid ice in your drinks. This cools down the spleen too much, making it work harder to warm up enough to break down your food and drinks. Over time this causes the spleen to get tired and weak, leading to poor digestion.
Teas such as green tea and chamomile have additional benefits for the immune system. Green tea is full of antioxidants and chamomile has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits.
Bone broth is also great for your gut health because it is full of collagen and gelatin to help build your gut microbiome. It also contains amino acids that help stimulate your immune system to produce white blood cells.
Acupressure and moxibustion
Try acupressure or moxibustion on the following points. You can gently massage them with small circles for 2-3 minutes. When doing moxibustion, follow the instructions provided by your acupuncture practitioner.
Location: On the back of the hand, in the space between the thumb and index finger. It’s approximately at the midpoint, close to the edge of the metacarpal of the index finger.
Location: On the radial aspect of the forearm, approximately 1.5 inches from the wrist crease at the thumb. You can find this point by placing two fingers on the side of your wrist or by sliding your finger up the forearm until it falls into a space behind the styloid process.
Location: Approximately 3 inches below the outer edge of the kneecap. You can easily find this point on the shin by placing your hand just underneath the kneecap and measuring down the width of your four fingers.
This point helps to regulate wei qi, clears wind from the wind-gate, and directs treatments to the face to help treat nasal congestion.
This point clears wind from the wind-gate, clears phlegm, stops cough, and also benefits the head and neck to treat nasal congestion and neck stiffness.
This point helps to balance digestion and tonify the spleen. It also helps to tonify qi and blood, which makes it a great point for supporting wei qi.
Let someone else take care of you! Research has shown that acupuncture helps the body fight off cold and flu symptoms and reduces recovery time by strengthening the immune system. It also helps reduce stress and improves sleep, which helps to reduce cortisol in the body. High levels of cortisol in your body can lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness.
Take time to rest
Of course, don’t forget to take time to slow down and rest. Resting allows our body time to rejuvenate so it can function more optimally. When we’re constantly going our body is consuming qi and blood in order to function. If we don’t allow the body to rejuvenate qi and blood through proper diet and rest then our wei qi defenses go down and we become more susceptible to wind invasion.
Wash your hands
Lastly, don’t forget the basics! Washing your hands on a regular basis is the number one way to help prevent the spread of germs!