Sunday, November 13, 2011

Building Your Immune System Using Chinese Medicine

Autumn! With cooler weather comes the start of school, enjoying the outdoors, letting the wind blow on your face. . .and getting a cold.  All those children together sharing viruses, along with your body adapting to cooler conditions mean you are faced with meaner bugs and less ability to fight against them.  I used to get several colds each season, and could count on spending at least a third of the year either having a cold or recovering from one.  Now I usually get one cold a year, at the end of winter when I let down on my herbal regimen, get tired, and don't rest enough.  Here's what I do to keep my immune system strong:

  1. Wash my hands, and wash them again.  Since I'm in healthcare, I wash my hands a lot, anyway, but I try to wash them not only between patients, but any time I touch anything that might have germs. . .phones, computers, pens, or pencils.  I'm not obsessive about it, but germs are mostly shared from people getting gunk on their hands. When they then then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth, they lift the little bugs right into their body.  Regular handwashing minimizes germ transport into the body.
  2. Rinse. I use either salt water or hydrogen peroxide, and rub each nostril with the water, and run a wet q-tip of salt water along the outside of my ear, or drop a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear.  Keeping these portals clean keeps viruses from gaining entrance into your body.
  3. Warm, natural non-genetically modified food. This principle is basic to Chinese medicine.  Warm food is easier to digest, and that frees up energy your body can use to fight germs instead of breaking down food. Food that is natural, and high in vegetables, gives you body the tools it needs to function properly while not giving it strange ingredients to process. Genetically modified food (GM for short) has been linked to immune system damage in animals , so buy organic as often as you possibly can.
  4. Get plenty of rest. Sleep has been linked to immune system function.  Burning the candle at both ends is a good way to get a cold.  Most information available recommends 8-10 hours of sleep per night. When you are sick, rest.  Don't push through--your body needs all its energy for immune system function.
  5. Drink hot tea--A study suggest regularly drinking green tea can diminish the risks of catching influenza. (this article has lots of other good info on immunity, too)
  6. Herbs--there are formulas to build immunity, others to help you system fight when you first get a cold, still others specifically for phlegm, or aches, or chills, or fever.  These are best to get from an experienced herbalist.  But when you start to feel the first bits of a bug coming on, try ginger if you feel more chilled, mint if you feel more hot, and if you can't decide whether you're cold or hot, mix ginger and mint together. To make the teas, take a 1-in piece of ginger, chop if finely, and simmer in hot water for 10 minutes.  Strain the water, add honey if you like, and drink.  For mint, take 1 teaspoon of dried mint and follow the same instructions. If you have fresh mint, just put a tablespoon of chopped leaves in a cup and pour boiling water over it. Steep 5 minutes and drink.  This simple formula will often help your system fight a cold in the early stages.
These six tips are simple to do. They have made the difference in my life between being sick, almost sick, or just over being sick for most of the year, and being healthy most of the time.  Putting these basic steps in practice can help you win the war on the common cold. . .and the uncommon cold, too!

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