With temperatures plummeting around the country, cold and flu season is upon us.
There was such an overwhelming response to my blog Viral Vigilance that I knew this was a topic that needed further expansion.
And, as one of my doctor readers pointed out, I neglected to mention one of the most foundational supplements for strong immunity—probiotics, the beneficial bacteria residing in your digestive tract.
How could I have forgotten that 60% of your immune system’s receptor cells are in the colon and another 15% are in the lower part of the small intestine?
That means 75% of your immune system resides in your gut, so this is your first line of defense and your greatest ally in the fight against both viral and bacterial infections.
Yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables are great dietary probiotic sources
Now, let’s go beyond probiotics…
The Best ‘East Meets West’ Tips for Immunity
A friend and famed acupuncturist, I always like to touch base with Margo when I need to blend the best medicinal advice from both a Western and Eastern perspective.
I caught up with her last week, and here’s what she had to say to add even more timely tips to make your body a healing fortress:
The aim of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to prevent disease rather than resort to treating symptoms after they occur. In ancient China, the doctors were paid in advance to keep the community well.
Fortunately, there are a number of things we can all do now based on this ancient wisdom to make sure that our natural immune defense systems are strong and ready to protect us in bitter cold weather.
Prevention of Cold and Flu
In Chinese Medicine, it is the protective energy (Wei Chi) in our Lung/Metal Element that is responsible for protecting us against colds and flu—and for maintaining our immunity.
In addition to respiration, the energy of the Lung/Metal Element relates to governing the functions of immunity, elimination and also the skin. The Metal Element is also associated with the emotions of grief and sadness. Autumn is the season related to the Metal Element and is the time when our lung energy (also known as “Lung Chi”) is the highest.
If our lung energy is strong, we will travel through this period with few respiratory, skin or elimination problems. If our lung energy is weakened, then we are at risk for contracting colds and flu—and any viral or bacterial infections we may become exposed to.
Our lung energy is strengthened by participating in aerobic exercise and by practicing abdominal breathing. Healing foods that strengthen the lung energy include white foods.
In Chinese Medicine, white is the color that strengthens the Lung/Metal Element. These foods include cauliflower, potato, and apple. Pears are particularly moisturizing for the lungs. Ginger, turmeric and garlic are important lung tonics. (See the Immune Boosting Tea Decoction recipe below). Also beneficial are mild curries and chili peppers.
For Tip Top Immune Health, Here’s the Scoop:
1) Keep your neck warm and protected from wind, cold and rain – Make sure that you protect the back of your neck after warming up from exercise and heading out into the cold weather. Chinese Medicine knows that this is where so-called “Evil Chi” enters the body.
2) Sleep with your windows closed – Again because of the wind or “Evil Chi” issue. It is important to protect your body from cold drafts during the night. Keep windows shut, turn off fans, and keep your chest and back covered with a t-shirt or pajama top.
At night, the defensive chi (Wei Chi) of the immune system flows much deeper within the body than during the day, leaving us more vulnerable to being invaded overnight.
3) Take a hot ginger bath – A warm ginger bath can stimulate your immune system and help stave off an impending cold or flu.
Roughly chop a 2-3 inch piece of ginger and boil in two cups of water. Add this tea to your bath water and soak for approximately 5-10 minutes with one to two cups Epsom salts and one cup baking soda until you have broken a mild sweat.
Don’t stay in the bath for too long as this is draining. Dry off thoroughly and get into bed. This is a relaxing way to boost your immunity for prevention or if you have been exposed to a potential virus.
4) Avoid alcohol, sugar and excessive grains – Alcohol impairs immune function and it is best to be avoided. Sugar and grains are pro-inflammatory and put more strain on immune function.
5) Try Acupuncture and Cupping treatments – These Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments are often used for overall health and are recommended for prevention of disease, as well as for treatment of all stages of cold and flu. Receiving regular treatments will boost immunity.
6) Fortify with herbal medicine – Astragalus Root is a very well-respected Chinese tonic herb/adaptogen that has been used for centuries to target immune support.
7) Drink this Immune Boosting Tea Decoction to help keep your immune system strong and to fight off any viral or bacterial intruders.
Immune Boosting Tea Decoction:
This savory tea will warm your body and soul—and it has immune protective benefits due to the inclusion of the garlic, ginger and turmeric.
1 head of sliced fresh garlic
2 cups sliced fresh ginger
1 cup sliced fresh turmeric
1 large organic lemon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Honey or stevia to taste (optional)
2 quarts filtered water
1) Add the garlic, ginger and turmeric to the pot of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for approximately an hour, until the tea has reduced by ½.
2) Slice the lemon thinly and add along with cayenne to the pot and boil for another 20 minutes.
4) Let the tea cool. Strain and pour a cup. Add honey or stevia to taste if desired.
The remaining amount can be stored up to 3 days in a glass container.
About Dr. Margo Jordan Parker, OMD:
Dr. Margo Jordan Parker, OMD, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac.(NCCAOM)(Doctorate in Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Diplomate of the National Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) has been licensed to practice Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine since 1985. She founded the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Program at Tucson’s Canyon Ranch Spa and Resort, and helped develop Dr. Andrew Weil’s Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine. She was also one of the first Acupuncturists in the US to be fully credentialed to work alongside MDs in a teaching hospital. She helped develop the Chinese Medicine curriculum for Dr. Andrew Weil and currently serves as the CEO of Herbal Fortress, which manufactures herbal and aromatherapy products. Visit her online at www.herbalfortress.com.