by Georjana Shames, LAc
During the long, dark winter months one's immune system is constantly bombarded by pathogenic factors, but you CAN stay healthy this time around.
There is an ancient Acupuncture proverb that states: It is not the seed that matters, it is the soil.
This indicates that whether you stay healthy absolutely depends more on the strength of your immune system than the germs to which you are exposed. But carrying hand sanitizer is still a great idea!
Follow these tips to enjoy a healthy winter season this year.
- To avoid catching colds in chilly weather, wear a scarf to protect the occiput (referred to as "The Wind Gate" in Chinese Medicine).
- Boost your internal immunity by eating hearty soups and stews (such as yam, garlic, beets, parsnip, chicken, lamb, onions) and drinking herbal teas (cinnamon, mint, or ginger).
- Sleep increases immune function. For a great night's slumber, two hours before bed dim all the lights in your house and turn off phones and computers. Enjoy a hot bath, read, and relax. Remember that compared to the long arc of human history, it has only been in the past twelve decades that electricity has become widely available. For millions of years prior to that, we were generally going to sleep soon after sunset because there was little else to keep us awake and distracted.
- Quit smoking! It's the best way to assist your lungs in defending against bronchitis and the flu. To quit and stay off cigarettes forever, make sure you cultivate good habits to replace the smoking habit (try Acupuncture for addiction, and/or meditation, hypnotherapy, writing, or sketching).
- Get some sun. In beautiful Northern California, even cloudy days often offer a tiny bit of sunbathing time. Fifteen minutes of sunshine per day raises your vitamin D levels, boosting your mood and immune function.
- Take a day of rest per week--even if you have to force yourself to do it! Rejuvenation for the body and mind is worth its weight in gold. You will be more productive the rest of the time if you get enough rest.
- Don't forget to exercise. Regular exercise keeps the lymphatic system pumping properly and detoxifies your organs and glands. Do something fun for your exercise, whether that is dancing, biking, yoga, hiking, or running down the street after your untrained dog who keeps pulling the leash!
- Press here for energy: if you feel a little depleted this winter, massage the area on your inner ankle midway between that bone that protrudes (called the medial malleolus) and your Achilles tendon. This is an Acupuncture source point for stamina that Chinese Medicine calls Taixi, or K3.
- Reduce your dairy intake. Remember that excess phlegm is a breeding ground for germs. In Chinese Medicine eating dairy creates "dampness" which is another way of describing phlegm. (I sometimes ask my patients: When was the last time you went to a Chinese restaurant and saw cheese or butter or cream on the menu?) However, goat milk creates less dampness than cow milk. So if you are prone to catching colds or developing sinus infections, this winter enjoy goat cheese grated over your pasta, almond or rice milk in your tea, and for dessert opt for coconut yogurt or fruit sorbet instead of ice cream.
- Drink healing tea. If you develop tinnitus (ear ringing) in cold, windy weather, drink tea made from chrysanthemum flowers.
- If you develop headaches in cold, windy weather, press the point we call Hegu or LI 4 on the back of your hand, located in the fleshy depression between thumb and forefinger.
- For mild cough or for allergies, twice daily take a small spoonful of local honey and place at the back of the throat to dissolve. Local honeybees ingest and process the pollens that surround your county, and if you consume the resulting honey it can help eliminate allergies. Also, honey coats the throat to reduce friction and irritation.
- For more serious congestion such as bronchitis, steam several cored Asian pears for 30 minutes and eat the whole fruit with a spoonful of local honey drizzled over it.
- Get stress relief. Living under constant stress is not at all healthy. But let's face it: right now many of us are under unremitting stress, and we are starting to notice the toll this takes. Human beings were designed to handle short periods of intensely high stress such as being chased by an animal predator, but after surviving such a threat we were meant to enjoy long periods of peaceful relaxation. We were not designed to live with a low level of constant stress the way continuous pressures of our fast-paced modern society keep us afraid, overwhelmed, and running on empty. Check your adrenals and cortisol levels. If you feel like you have been under too many pressures for too long, stress reduction.
Acupuncture can help you rebound and enjoy a more peaceful life.
Acupuncturist Georjana Shames LAc, Dipl. OM, has offices in San Rafael & Cotati. She uses gentle, effective techniques to balance hormones, decrease stress, and regulate immunity. Please visit www.ShamesHealth.com to view her 2-minute video.