It’s that time again… As the weather begins to change, sometimes our bodies have a difficult time adapting and we get sick. Read below for tips on how to stay healthy during the autumn and winter months according to some of the principles of Chinese medicine.
1) Get adequate rest.
Be sure to get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night and hit the pillow by 10 pm. Your body needs this time to rebuild, rejuvenate and replenish its energy. Inadequate sleep is one of the major causes of illness. When the body does not receive adequate rest, it then lacks the energy needed to fight off disease and keep the immune system strong.
2) Keep your neck, shoulders and back covered.
(No, this is not one of those old wives’ tales.) The neck and back are the most vulnerable areas of the body and are the most sensitive to wind and cold – two external factors that may cause common cold according to Chinese medicine. Wear a scarf or hood to shield these areas of the body especially when exposed to wind and/or cold weather, air conditioning, fans or drafts. Sleeping with a fan blowing on the neck, back or face can be a cause of sinus congestion and stiffness in the neck and shoulders upon waking.
3) Eat your vitamins!
In the fall and winter months we end up staying indoors more often and miss out on the benefits of vitamin D from the sun, leaving us deficient in this important immune-boosting and mood-elevating vitamin. Because we shower regularly, the oils on the skin needed to absorb vitamin D are washed off, hence we are all deficient in this important vitamin. Other vitamins important to the immune system vitamin C, zinc and B-vitamins. Be aware that not all vitamins are created equal. Getting your vitamins through a nutritious whole foods diet is best, but if you think you may need further supplementation, seek out a qualified healthcare practitioner that can recommend the best multi-vitamin for you in order to obtain maximum benefits and adequate absorption.
Foods high in vitamin D:
salmon, shiitake mushrooms, eggs, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines
Foods high in vitamin C:
broccoli, bell pepper, kale, cauliflower, strawberries, lemons, mustard, turnip greens, brussels sprouts, papaya, chard, cabbage, spinach, kiwi, snow peas, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, limes, tomatoes, zucchini, raspberries, asparagus, pineapples, fennel, parsley, winter squash, cranberries
Foods high in zinc:
oysters, dark chocolate, lamb, crab, pumpkin seeds
Foods high in B vitamins:
tuna, beef, turkey, liver, clams, mussels, oysters, crab, lobster, lamb, oats, potatoes, avocados, lentils, brazil nuts, kefir
4) Get acupuncture!
Acupuncture is very effective in boosting the immune system and is a great form of preventative medicine. Not only is acupuncture very effective in preventing common cold/flu, but it is works wonders at knocking out cold and flu symptoms very quickly. Don’t wait until you have a full blown cold to come in for treatment (although we can help you then too). Schedule your acupuncture session as soon as you start feeling run down or get the sniffles. Acupuncture can stop symptoms before they start and prevent the illness from progressing any further. Prevention is always best!
5) Strengthen your immune system.
In Chinese medicine this is called your “wei qi” or your body’s defensive energy. When the wei qi is weak, the body cannot defend itself against pathogens (i.e. bacteria, virus) which then enter the body and cause disease. To prevent this from happening, Chinese herbal formulas may be prescribed to keep the body’s defensive energy strong to prevent pathogens from entering the body. Specific herbs such as huang qi (astragalus) and ling zhi (ganoderma) are very powerful herbs that strengthen the body’s immune function and resistance to disease. The Chinese formula Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Windscreen Powder) consolidates the body’s energy to improve resistance to pathogens. It is important to note that Chinese herbal medicine is not “one-size-fits-all”, so be sure to talk to your acupuncturist/herbalist to find what formula is appropriate for you.
6) Eat according to the season.
During the colder fall and winter months, it is important to foods that are warm in nature. Avoid foods that are cold and raw, as it takes a lot of energy for the body to warm and digest these foods. Dairy foods lead to mucus and phlegm in the body which may contribute to sinus congestion and lethargy. Limit your consumption of dairy products during these months, especially when battling a cold or allergies.
garlic, parsnips, winter squash, black beans, fresh ginger, kale, onions, leeks, scallions, chives, sweet potatoes, butter, walnuts, chestnuts, oats, spelt, quinoa, lamb, beef, chicken, mussels, anchovies, trout
cinnamon, cloves, ginger, garlic, rosemary, black pepper, cayenne pepper
Instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet, reach for the kitchen cabinet! Here is a simple and effective natural herbal remedy for alleviating common cold symptoms using ingredients right out of your kitchen:
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1-2 slices of fresh ginger finely grated (or 1/4 tsp dried ginger)
1 tsp local raw organic honey
squeeze of fresh lemon
Add all ingredients to a mug filled with 6 to 8 oz. of boiling water and stir.
Treat your body right this season and see how your health improves!