Of colds and the immune system

The winter months are commonly plagued with colds, flus, bronchitis or simply feeling fatigued and run down. Our immune systems are challenged and impaired by the colder weather, lack of natural vitamin D, stress, and poor diet. Clinical studies have shown that acupuncture, when used as a preventative approach to colds, reduces the spread of infection in the body and shortens the duration of the illness.

According to Chinese medicine, illness occurs when organ systems are weak and out of balance which creates an environment for germs, bacteria and viruses to thrive and lead to a cold. It is important than to support and strengthen our immune systems.

The equivalent of our immune systems in Chinese Medicine is called Wei Qi or Defensive Qi. It runs between the skin and muscle; is made from food and water; and is the first line of defense to protect the body from external pathogens. A strong wei qi acts as a barrier that protects and defends the body against any foreign substance which lead to illness and diseases. However, when weak it decreases the body's ability to protect from external pathogens and one's health is compromised. Regular acupuncture treatments strength en, support and rebalance the immune system providing the body with proper tools to fend off any colds or flus. As well, acupuncture stimulates wei qi, so when you feel a cold coming on, acupuncture can shorten the length of the cold or prevent it completely from taking you out for the count.

In addition to acupuncture, food and lifestyle can affect the functions of the immune system. To stay healthy throughout the winter, get enough sleep, plan time to relax and unwind from daily stressors, and exercise regularly. Vitamin C and zinc are two important elements to support the immune system. Make sure to incorporate these foods: red peppers, red cabbage, strawberries, tangerines, oranges and kiwi for Vitamin C; and for zinc include chicken, barley, lamb, turkey and beef. As well, add garlic to meals for its antibacterial and antiviral abilities. Make sure to limit sugar because it suppresses the immune system cells responsible for fighting of pathogens. If you do feel the beginnings of a cold coming on have miso soup or broth with green onion and fresh ginger. This combination helps the body's pores to open and sweat out the cold.

After eating the soup, get under the covers and get to bed early.

The key is to boost and support your immune system to preventgetting sick.

Ana del Rosal, MSAc, LAc is a licensed Acupuncturist with the Stram Center for Integrative Medicine in Bennington and may be reached at 802-445-3152.


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