Ba na ba na ba na ba na ba nananana…I ain’t afraid of no flu.
Well, actually most people are a bit afraid of the flu! Here we are in cold/flu/sniffle/bronchial gunk/sinus infection season. Everyone’s favorite! There are advertisements for flu shots everywhere, reminders for hand-washing and plenty of masks for all at your favorite ER or drop-in clinic.
For some people this is a terrifying time of year; the fear of getting sick in general or while traveling and then having to figure out how to have time to be sick, reschedule everything and then prepare to feel like absolute shiiiite until it passes is just freaky for some people.
Fear not friends! There are some things you can do now and year round to help stave off the bugs or to fight the big fights better so you can win against those little army’s of viral and bacterial yuck.
Here we go:
We are more susceptible to becoming ill when our internal resources are busy taking care of other things and cannot be available to support our defensive mechanisms. In Chinese medicine this “defensive mechanism” is called “wei qi” or “defensive chi.” When we are awake it circulates around the outside of our body, over our skin ready for whatever comes at us. Then at night it homes in and circulates around the inside, helping clean-up any inside messes and then even resting so it – like us – has enough rest to be full of strength and readiness the next day.
In order for our wei qi to be optimum we have to have enough rest and great nutrition; this is how we help create defensive chi for daily wellbeing:
Rest: For realz peeps! The summer is over. Sad face. “The sun has gone to bed and so must I,” performed by Gretel, Sound of Music. Get an additional hour (or more!) of shut-eye whether that means heading to bed earlier or staying in bed longer. If you are prone to the 2/3 p.m. foggy-face-sleepy-head sensation then a nap will go a long way. If you are not in a sitch where naps are available you have 2 options: 1) take a 10-minute breathing break for some on-purpose and restful deep breathing or 2) go to bed earlier. Your immunity will thank you.
Nutrition: I’m gonna keep it to food this time. While nourishment comes in many forms, food is a good place to start. This one is pretty simple in theory and for some of us not as easy in practice. Here’s the deal: It really makes a difference to eat a diverse intake of flavors (salty, sweet, bitter, spicy/acrid, bland and sour) and a diverse intake of types of foods (grains, leafy veggies, other veggies, fruits, meats, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds), cooked in many different ways (roasted, sautéed, steamed, grilled, baked, raw, in soups, etc.), daily. This gives your body the broad spectrum of nutritional inputs, plain and simple.
That’s the easier part…now for the harder part: Anything that looks like snot or acts like snot can create snot. Yep. Sigh. So…if you are prone to digestive upsets OR you are the first one to get whatever is going around watch out for your intake of snotty foods like wheat, sugar, greasy-fried stuff, and dairy – these main culprits turn into glue in some people’s systems and if your system is glued down, then the little bugs trying to take over your throne will ease into the slimy comforts of home inside of your nasal passages and intestines – good times for all, right?
If you feel the beginnings of a-something comin’ on then get to bed and at least cut the sugar; it will help you fight the good fight and get better much faster.
While we are on things you put in your mouth, here’s a shout out to water and liquid intake! Keep hydrated with liquids to both keep things flushed and to keep things supple and responsive; if you are having trouble drinking enough water add fruits, veggies and/or herbs like mint or rosemary (whatever you like really) to help remind your body that water is also food. Over hydration is not necessary and can be damaging. Don’t know how much you need to stay hydrated? Try approximately ½ your body weight in liquid for a start, then see if you need more or less than that. And just to clarify “liquid” generally refers to water, teas, some juices, soups and broths or liquid you get from eating fruits and veggies…
For your overall wellbeing and strength boosting here are some more tidbits:
Having fun! And relationships. It really matters. If your spirit is thriving it helps your defenses perk-up when needed.
Don’t hold onto garbage. Like I said above, if your internal resources are busy taking care of other things that “seem” more important to the health of your vital organs those resources will be less available to keep you healthy when the fortress is under attack by some unwelcome outside pathogen. If you are holding grudges, holding onto insecurities or anything else that doesn’t serve you then you are also making your qi less available to protect you from the really nasty stuff going around in the air, boogers and doorknobs around you. Now is a good time to figure out how to let it go, or to ask for some help in letting it go.
Dry loofa lightly. Every day, or every few days over your full body to stimulate the the wei qi. Remember, our skin is “the third lung” – it’s the greatest defense we have to external pathogenic factors like cold/flu viruses. Do this with intention – “I am boosting my defensive chi!
Use a nasal wash like this one or neti pot like this. Keep the junk moving along. Our nose, second to our skin, is one of the first places of defense, part of the front lines if you will. Help it out by ushering out unwelcome traffic.
Keep warm. Scarves and collars are great for keeping the delicate and suseptible part of your neck protected. Also, no more flip-flops…it’s socks and shoes time folks. Don’t leave the house with wet hair. And finally, tucking your shirt in helps – I swear! Ha, I remember being a kid and thinking it was so nerdy that my mom and dad had on these layers of camisoles/undershirts and were tucking them in. Well who has the last laugh now? I’ve been adding one thin layer under my regular shirts and tucking them in. When the wind blows or the temp. drops it really helps keep my torso normalized, and to be frank that is literally where some really important vital organs are located, don’t let them catch a draft!
Move around. If you aren’t moving around, how will your qi move around to keep you from getting sick? It doesn’t take much if you are not a fitness buff: take the stairs, park further away on purpose, take a short walk daily, set an alarm every 45 minutes to get up from your computer and stretch, or be daring and do something fitness-y that you will actually enjoy. Whatever it is, make sure to keep your muscles moving moving moving.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are fantastic for helping restore your body to optimum defensive chi functioning, and supreme when you are already sick. Do not hesitate to see your practitioner or start-up your Chinese medicine journey before, during or after you get a cold or flu.
For questions about supplements, detoxes, etc. you can find a local naturopathic physician, herbalist, or visit a local apothecary for basic questions and to find high quality products.