Immune Boosting in Chinese Medicine: YOU Are the House
Imagine a snug little house in a sheltered valley. The walls are solid, the windows are secure, the roof is tight. Inside, there’s a warm fire in the hearth and a hearty pot of stew on the stove. Everything is in good order. No matter the weather outside – cold, damp or wind – nothing unwanted gets in. The little house provides both a comfortable home and a secure defense that is difficult to breach. Any damage caused by adverse weather can quickly be repaired.
In Chinese medicine, YOU are the house. The wind, damp and cold are pathogenic factors that bring in disease from outside. The roof, windows and walls contain the wei chi , an envelope of protective energy that is your first line of defense. It keeps the pathogens out. Western biomedicine calls this the innate immune system. It confers a general ability to respond to pathogens and protect the host.
Truly, every part of the body/mind/spirit is involved in host defense against outside pathogens, including those that cause head colds, flu and other respiratory ailments. The hearty pot of stew on the stove represents the digestive system, and the balance of metabolites and nutrients we must acquire to be able to keep the house in good repair. The fire in the hearth is like the heart and circulatory system that distributes warmth throughout the body/mind/spirit. But most of all, the house of our body/mind/spirit must be a harmonious and comfortable place where we feel at ease and let go of stress.
Wellness Tips for Preventing Colds and Flu
As the seasons change and the weather turns cold and damp, we become more vulnerable to illness. The arrival of Autumn is a good time to think about immune boosting. Autumn (the Metal Element) is associated with Lung energy, and we are especially vulnerable to respiratory ailments in this season. Here are a few tips to avoid illness:
- Get extra rest as the days grow shorter and the nights longer.
- Listen to your body/mind/spirit. If you feel fatigued, don’t overdo it.
- Continue to exercise outdoors, properly dressed.
- Protect the upper back and neck from cold and wind. (The ancient Chinese believed that “wind enters through the back” where the lungs are close to the surface of the body.)
- Take care to wash hands and keep surfaces clean, especially if you work in a school, hospital or other environment where you are frequently exposed to viral illnesses.
- Avoid sugary foods, refined carbohydrates and excessive dairy. These foods tend to be mucus-forming and create a condition the Chinese call “dampness” in the body.
- Use a neti pot or other form of nasal wash to remove dead tissue, pathogens and mucus from the nose and sinus passages.
- If you are prone to frequent illness, or are frequently exposed, consider using Chinese herbs, nutritional therapy and acupuncture to give you an extra boost. (See Immune Boosting in Chinese Medicine, Part II: Therapeutic Strategies)