Coming into the colder winter months there always seems to be the ever-looming threat of a cold. This may be a persistant sore throat in the mornings, or being surrounded by friends/family/colleagues who are sick and not wanting to interact for fear of catching their dreaded lurgy.
There are a few simple things that you are able to do which will not only help keep the colds at bay, but will also help you feel healthier and have more energy.
In Chinese Medicine (CM) when you get a cold it is called having a wind/cold invasion, the wind/cold has entered your body and is causing havoc with your system. Cold is to be avoided in CM as it prevents your body from being able to carry out simple physiological processes such as digestion, circulation, and immune function. Cold is able to enter our body in many ways that are easily avoided.
So, how do you avoid it you ask?
The first thing you can do is rug up! Sounds so simple, and that is because it is. The three main areas that it is important to keep warm (any time) is the nape of your neck, the soles of your feet and your lower back (over your kidneys). By keeping these areas warm you will help your body by keeping the areas vulnerable to cold covered and thus preventing the cold from getting in to start with.
Don’t eat cold food. A direct route into our body is in via our mouths, if we are eating or drinking cold items it places extra stress on the digestive system (which requires warmth to function at its optimum), which in time will lead to a reduced immune function. So if you are wanting to eat something from the fridge, take it out and put it on the bench for 10 minutes first. Avoid cold drinks- go for room temperature or above, and definitely avoid the ice in your drinks. This is especially true for children whose digestive systems have less resilience. If your little one constantly catches colds or has a runny nose, try to avoid giving them any food/drink colder than room temperature and you should be pleasantly surprised that they will clear up and stay away in most cases.
Wear socks/slippers when you are inside and not on carpet. There is a point located on the sole of your foot which is susceptible to taking on cold, so help your body out by keeping a barrier between your foot and anything cold underfoot (lino, floorboards, especially tiles).
Avoid putting ice on your body. Everyone knows that when you hurt yourself you use R.I.C.E right? In CM it is seen as crazy to use cold on an injury as cold causes the energy to slow down and stop which in turn causes pain (think about a stream in winter freezing over). By placing cold on an injury you are stopping the body from helping itself to heal by sending all of the helper cells to the injury site. Yes it will stop the swelling, but the body uses swelling as a protective mechanism- it helps limit movement if it is a joint, and it increases the circulation to the area to allow the body to heal.
Do some breathing exercises. In CM the lungs are in charge of immunity, so by strengthening the lung energy you in turn strengthen your general immunity. A really simple breathing exercise you can use every day is- breathe in for the count of 5, hold for the count of 5, then exhale for the count of five, try to do it 5 times a day. It may take a while for you to build up to 5, maybe start with 3, so in for 3, hold for 3, out for 3, 3 times a day. This is beneficial for anyone who has a tendency for lung weakness such as asthma, shortness of breath, or bronchitis.
Supplement when you are feeling “at risk”. For everyone this is different, many people have different supplements that they like to take as they find that works for them. The timing may be a small dose every day through winter, or it may be on an “as needed” basis when you come into contact with someone who is sick, or feel the beginning of a cold coming on. Some of the supplements that can help you boost your immune system are Vitamin C (preferably sugar free), zinc, and olive leaf extract.
Have regular health maintenance treatments. Acupuncture was originally designed in China as a health maintenance treatment, you saw your acupuncturist regularly and if you got sick you didn’t pay them as they weren’t doing their job! As such it is a wonderful tool to use to keep you in the best health you can be. The best times to have your health maintenance treatments are when there is a sudden change in weather (generally the change in season). However keep in mind that if there are other things going on for you healthwise then they may not be as effective – it is best to receive regular acupuncture treatment to gain balance then maintenance after. If you do come down with a cold then receiving acupuncture will help to reduce the length and severity by helping your body regain balance more quickly.
Grab some AV/AT (Chinese herbal formula), AV/AT was developed during the Bird Flu outbreak, it is a wonderful go to product that will help combat any cold or flu. You are able to take it as soon as you feel a hint of a cold, or you can take it if you already have a cold and it will reduce the severity and length significantly.
All in all, there are many things you are able to do to help yourself stay healthy and warm this winter. We hope this helps you avoid the dreaded winter lurgy!!