You know the feeling: you wake up with your head pounding, nose stuffy and running, on fire one minute and shivering the next. Colds and flus are contagious infections caused by viruses that affect the respiratory tract.
In Chinese Medicine, we believe that if you take care of your body optimally, it should be strong enough to fight off these viruses when they attack. It is only when your immune system, or Wei (defensive) Qi is weak that we become sick.
Although Chinese Medicine (which is thousands of years old) did not have the technology or advancements available nowadays to identify and understand viruses better, they did understand that these sicknesses were caused by the invasion of foreign pathogens in to the body. Colds and flus are spread mainly by droplets made when people cough, sneeze and talk, which contain the virus.
Because the weather in autumn and winter is cooler and windier, a correlation must have been made between the weather and illness. In particular, these weather conditions, or ‘Wind-Cold’ (a disease name in TCM) were more prevalent in the colder months, and so were respiratory disorders such as colds and flus. Here ‘Wind’ not only relates to the physical, blowing force of the environment, but also to the pathogens found in the air at this time of year.
Wind-Cold is usually diagnosed where a disease that causes symptoms of chills and fever (yet more chills/shivering than fever), headaches at the base of the skull, stiffness of the neck, sneezing, clear mucus, a runny nose and body aches occur.
Wind-Heat is then related to conditions where there is more fever than chills, a sore throat, cough, stuffy/runny nose, yellowish green mucus, headaches at the forehead, red, sore eyes, sinusitis and earaches. Heat is generally considered more intense and aggressive of a sickness than cold-types. This kind of illness is particularly prevalent in Australia.
Here are some tips to keep infection away this flu season!
- Dress warmly: cover your skin with warm clothing. Scarves are great to protect the neck, which is considered vulnerable to Wind.
- Incorporate acrid foods such as onion, shallots, ginger, cinnamon and garlic in to your diet to nourish and support the Lungs.
- Drink teas! I love ginger, cinnamon, green tea and chai when I am sick. Check out my post about the benefits of different teas.
- Eat warm, cooked foods to support digestive system and keep your body at optimal function: think soups, stews, grains, and lots of veggies!
- Rest: allow yourself the time to get adequate amounts of rest throughout winter. This is the ‘Yin’ time of the year. Exercise to stay fit but don’t overdo it. Yin Yoga, mat Pilates, walking and meditation are great options.
- Get acupuncture! Build up your immune system and prevent infections throughout the cold seasons, or come in when you first get sick for some amazing herbal remedies and needling to support the body’s immune response and get you back on your feet!
And if you do feel a cold coming on, my number one advice is to sweat it out! We believe that the best way to eliminate the beginnings of a cold or flu is to release the pathogen and sickness through the exterior (the skin). I like to rug up, drink a cinnamon or ginger tea and go to sleep in lots of blankets, or dress warmly and go for a run.
Or need an extra boost this cold and flu season?