It's that time of year again. Kids are heading back to school and the seasons are changing. Unfortunately, for many people this is also the time of year the common cold attacks. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to help boost your immunity.
Yes, as simple as this one sounds, getting a good night's sleep is one of the absolute BEST things you can do for your overall health and immunity. Surprisingly, this factor is commonly overlooked. Your body needs sleep in order for your immune system to function properly. Lack of sleep has been shown to lead to a decrease in T-cell (immune cell) counts and an increase in inflammation. Both of these things can make you more susceptible to getting sick.
What should your sleeping goals be? A full 7-9 hours would be ideal, but if that's not possible, I suggest that my patients strive to get at least 5 hours of UNINTERRUPTED hours of sleep each night to start out. The goal is to get 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep over time. Uninterrupted is definitely the key word here. This means you are not getting up to go to the bathroom, let the dog out, let the cat in, etc. Make sleep a top priority.
Try to be in bed by 11pm. In Traditional Oriental Medicine, the organs run on a clock, and each organ is assigned a 2 hour time frame in which it is the most active. The wood elements (Liver/Gallbladder) cycle between 11pm-3am. The 1am-3am portion is especially important because it's the time of the Liver, and it is the best time for the liver to repair and cleanse. You should strive to be deep asleep by the time 1am rolls around.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of getting a good night's sleep. Work schedules, kids, and travel can often disrupt your sleep cycle. If that is the case, it does become important to seek out an acupuncturist/herbalist to help support your body with acupuncture, herbs, and/or supplements until you can get to a place in your life where you can make sleep a priority.
I'm a huge proponent of Chinese herbs, and even nutritional supplements, to boost immune function. If you are a person who seems to constantly catch colds, or you simply just tire easily, there are DEFINITELY Chinese herbal formulas that can work for you. A licensed acupuncturist and herbalist may recommend formulas containing herbs such as Astragalus (Huang Qi), White Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) to boost your immunity. Things like olive leaf extract, garlic, or even oil of oregano can be very effective at fighting the common cold.
At-Home Herbal Remedy
Warming or cooling teas can help you feel better if you are fighting a common cold. In fact, in your kitchen you probably already have 2 herbs commonly used in Chinese Medicine: ginger and mint. If you have clear or white nasal discharge and feel cold overall, fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) tea may be a good choice. Ginger is a warming herb and can disperse the beginning stages of a cold. Plus, it can also help transform phlegm. If you're already noticing yellow mucus and feeling warmer overall, mint (Bo He) tea is a better option. Mint is cooling and helps to clear the eyes and head. It also helps to disperse heat from the upper body.
Chronic stress is known to lower immune function. If you are burning the candle at both ends, you are a ripe candidate for getting the common cold and/or flu. Finding a method for managing stress is extremely important to increase your overall immunity and health.
The most important thing in stress management is finding out what works for you. Not everyone enjoys sitting down and quietly meditating, and that's perfectly okay. Yoga, tai chi, or even walking can work wonders for your stress levels. Maybe it's reading a novel in the evenings or going for a hike. Many people choose weekly or monthly acupuncture sessions because acupuncture has actually been shown to lower stress hormones. Your acupuncturist can also prescribe herbs to better help you stay healthy while managing the demands of your day to day life.
Whatever it is that works for you, make it part of your daily or weekly routine. Your immunity will definitely thank you!
Our food choices play such an important role in our health. Eating organic, clean food is extremely important to boost immune function. There will be more detailed posts on food choices in the future, but for now here are some basic things to consider. Focus on organic fruits and vegetables. Your meat should come from organic, grass-fed animals or wild caught fish. Avoid meat that is fed corn and soy, or fish that is farm raised. Healthy fats (like avocados, coconuts, olive oil) are also key in a well rounded diet. Over consumption of sugar is linked to lowered immunity so be sure to limit your sugar intake--this includes limiting excess amounts of grains which can lead to blood sugar spikes. If you make healthy food choices you'll find that food can be one of your most powerful sources of medicine.
The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional. The information and opinions presented are intended for educational purposes only and they are not intended to be medical advice. It is advised you contact your healthcare provider prior to starting any type of program or protocol, starting or stopping supplements/herbs/medications, making any major dietary changes, or beginning any new form of physical activity. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care provider before using products or protocols based on this content.
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