Even though it’s still hot as Hades outside, we are fast approaching the change of the seasons – summer into fall – one of most susceptible times of the year for catching colds and flu. The weather should be cooling soon (fingers crossed!), school has started, and activities pick up so most likely there’s more stress. And since it’s still so hot, you may be tempted to continue to dress lightly and eat cooling foods. Kids are bringing colds or flu home from school so it spreads through the family and co-workers sharing it at the office. It’s no wonder many of us are sick during this time of year.
Autumn is the season associated with the Lung and its partner, the Large Intestine. If you tend to catch colds or have allergies in the Fall, it’s important to take care of these organs! Together the lung and large intestines are related to immunity through the strength of the protective external layer of our skin. Generally, outside pathogens most easily enter through the respiratory and digestive systems, and the lung and colon are responsible for maintaining the function of these systems so that they are not penetrated by outside pathogens. According to Chinese medicine, the body’s defensive energy is directly dependent on the strength of the lung and colon.
So how do you stay well through this vulnerable time? How do you prevent catching a cold or flu and keep your family will, too? The good news – there are many alternatives to support health through this change of seasons. But you need to get on it! NOW is the time to prepare.
Change your Diet
First of all, change your diet no to reflect the season to come. Cooler weather means ingesting warmer food and drinks. Here’s what to eat:
- Switch from salads to soups.
- Eat cooked rather than raw fruit – consider crisps, cobblers or pies.
- Use lots of spices such as ginger, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, and fennel.
- Ingest root veggies and winter squash.
- Increase protein intake.
Here’s what to avoid:
- Cold, refrigerated or iced drinks
- Raw foods
- Cold juices
- Ice cream and other iced/cold foods
It’s important to reduce stress and plan for the cooler season to come. Even though it may still be warm during the day, the evenings are a bit cooler, reflecting the weather to come. Thus, this is the time to dress warmer. Here are several ways to change lifestyle to support your immune system.
- Carry a jacket or sweater as needed.
- Wear a scarf or high collar to protect the back of your neck and protect immunity.
- Go to bed earlier and get more sleep.
- Eat regular meals, especially breakfast, even if it’s late morning (skipping meals lowers immunity).
- Take rest breaks during the day.
- Include daily meditation or contemplation time to manage stress.
- Strengthen the Lungs by exercising, stretching, and moving your body.
Things to do at the FIRST signs of illness
What if you do begin to feel sick? Can you prevent it from taking hold? Yes – it is possible to prevent a pending cold or flu if at the first signs of it you do one or all of the following:
- This is the best time to see your acupuncturist if you are beginning to feel sick. We can help at the beginning or end of a cold or flu, but not so much when you are in the midst of the worst of it. Not only will acupuncture help boost your immune system, we can also give you herbs to quickly kick out that cold or flu.
- Protect your gut: Consider increasing your probiotic (or add one). You can easily double the recommended dose unless this causes you stomach upset.
- Take elderberry syrup: This antiviral herb also treats coughs. It prevents, treats, and shortens the duration of colds, flu, fever, and cough. Since it tastes good as well, most children will readily take it.
- Boost Your Immunity: Echinacea is not an immune tonic but an immune stimulant. It specifically affects the immune system by stimulating macrophages, phagocytosis, T-cell formation, and by inhibiting the hyaluronidase enzyme, which doesn’t allow pathogens to break down cell walls and pass into sensitive tissues. It is both anti-bacterial and anti-viral.
- Drink/eat fresh ginger: For those who feel chilled or cold, fresh ginger is warming and stimulating. Make fresh ginger tea by grating an inch of the root and steeping it in a cup of just-boiled water, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain and drink 2 cups/day.
- Drink chamomile and mint tea: For those who feel hot and sweaty, drinking a tea of these herbs cools the body, thus alleviating susceptibility to colds and flu.
Uh, got it bad? Feel better soon…
With the following plan, you should get better quickly without the weeks of lingering effects most folks experience.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Eat very simply (such as just chicken soup or bone broth).
- Eliminate activities and stress.
- Drink plenty of warm fluids like ginger tea.
Once you are over the worst of it, come in to see me to help you get back to your normal self.