Change of Seasons: a Chinese Medicine Perspective
As the weather becomes colder, and cold & flu viruses start incubating, our respiratory system becomes more susceptible to infections. In traditional chinese medicine theory (TCM), catching a cold is known as a "Wind Cold Invasion". This term is very fitting to describe the feeling of coming down with a cold.
The change of temperatures from warm to cold, brings on the organ systems of the Spleen & Stomach (Earth) in TCM. The spleen and stomach are both responsible for processing substances (both food/nutrition-wise as well as mental processing). This is a great time to reflect upon the past year in the form of yoga, journalling or chatting with a friend over tea or coffee. It's also helpful to eat warming foods like cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, garlic & onions to prepare the body for colder temperatures. Eating cooked foods such as soups and stews helps support this as well.
Once cooler temperatures become steady it is no longer the "change" of temperatures and is the system of the Lung and Large Intestine (Metal). The lung in TCM represents the respiratory system, with the "Wei Qi" being the immune system, skin and pores (the body's outer defence against invaders!). To protect the lung and support the Wei Qi, keep yourself warm with a scarf, hat and mitts and do not let yourself get chilled. You can also consume immune-supportive foods and herbs such as garlic/onions, squashes, leafy greens, bell peppers and berries (preferably warmed or with some cinnamon). Avoid phlegm-producing and cold foods like raw fruits/vegetables, and dairy as this can weaken the lungs defenses and promotes sinus congestion.
1) TCM Approach
Certain acupuncture points along the Lung and other meridians are activated through needle stimulation. This allows the body to strengthen the "Wei Qi" or the body's immune system so that the body can fight off the cold or flu. Research has shown that specific acupuncture points have been shown to even increase white blood cell count (ex. a point called ST 36)! This can also be helpful in conditions like cancer or auto-immune diseases where the immune system is suppressed. Other points, such as LI4 are known as the "Command Point of the Face", being helpful for any issues going on such as rhinitis (runny nose), as well as the "Back Shu" and "Front Mu" points of the lung meridian (helpful for issues such as cough, asthma and bronchitis).
2) Western Approach
Acupuncture stimulates blood flow to the area of focus, helping the body use its natural healing mechanisms. For example, acupuncture points located over top of the sinuses will help bring more circulation to that area, so if you have a runny nose or sinusitis, it will help to clear congestion. Additionally, acupuncture points around the location of the lungs will do the same thing, and potentially help the body fight off bronchitis or pneumonia. (Note: points are carefully inserted to certain depths in areas of an organ or other major body systems ex. the lung, artery, vein). Having increased circulation to an area of the body will also help bring immune cells to fight off the infection.
1. Eat warming and cooked foods like cinnamon, ginger, soups and steamed veggies. Avoid excessive raw foods.
2. Incorporate immune-boosting foods such as garlic and onions, along with squashes and other orange/yellow foods, and dark greens.
3. Acupuncture can increase circulation and immunity to reduce symptoms along with preventing chronic colds & flus.
If you want to learn more about how you can boost your immune system this fall using acupuncture and other naturopathic methods, click here.
In Best Health,