Tips for Cold and Flu Season from the Acupuncturist

Published November 16th, 2018 by Ana Lopez

In Chinese Medicine, we see the body in terms of circulating energy.  Energy runs from the organs to the exterior, meaning the skin and the immune system.  Energy that circulates along the exterior of the body is called Ying Qi and Wei Qi,  and we say it protects us from the exterior but you can think about that as your immune system.  This ying qi and wei qi is produced by the digestive system and disseminated around the body via the lungs.  When our external environment is too hostile (virulent agents are stronger than our qi), if our energy is scattered (we are super stressed, sad or angry) or if we don’t have enough energy, we are left open to getting sick.  The best thing to do in Cold/Flu season is to actively support your immune system before you are sick. But what do you do when you get sick?  There are lots of strategies an Acupuncturist and Herbalist will employ to make sure that the duration and severity of your illness is as short and mild as possible.  

4 Top Tricks for Not Getting Sick

Keep your ying qi and wei qi strong. By keeping your ying qi and wei qi defense system strong, you can overwhelm the pathogens lurking in the environment and not get sick in the first place.  I suggest:

  1. Support your digestive system by eating a balanced nutrient dense diet and avoiding processed foods high in sodium, bad fats, sugar and processed grains.  This gives your digestive system the right materials to create the best defense system. Eating pungent, aromatic and spicy food pushes the wei qi towards the exterior, so don’t be afraid to use your spice cabinet when cooking this Fall.

  2. Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  Sleep is the restorative time in which energy is replenished. You should wake up feeling energized and rested.  If you aren’t getting this much sleep and it’s not behavioural (ie: too much screen time), it can point to underlying issues in the body.  Acupuncture and herbs can work like a charm to help you get a great night of restful sleep.

  3. Manage stress, anger and frustration.  These emotions can scatter and deregulate qi, which leaves your defenses weak.  Try meditating for just a few minutes a day. Pranayama can help cope with unwanted emotions.  If those things fail it could point to a stagnation of energy and acupuncture can help bring you back to an emotionally and energetically balanced state.

  4. MOVE!  One of the best ways to keep your energy renewing and circulating is to do exercise.  Increasing your breathing and heart rate makes the ying and wei qi circulate faster, it keeps energy moving smoothly for good defense, and aids with the renewal process.  Depending on your overall energy level, Om’echaye has a good exercise class for you. Pay attention though… don’t do a Catastrophic class if you’re feeling low on energy or weak-- you’ll be depleting your energy rather than enhancing it.  Opt instead for a yoga or stretching class. Both are good for proper energy circulation.

First Signs of a Cold/Flu: The Battle for the Exterior

Maybe it starts with a drippy, runny nose?  An itch in the throat? A barking cough? It’s important to note your symptoms at the beginning of a cold/flu and to take action immediately.  This is the pathogen invading the exterior and fighting with the wei qi. The battle will be won or lost depending on the strength of our defense vs the pathogen and the strategy our body employs for fighting.  If our wei qi is strong enough, it will overpower the pathogenic qi.  Yet, what if they are evenly matched? What if the pathogenic qi is actually stronger than our defenses?  We need an educated strategy to aid our wei qi to keep us from succumbing to sickness.

First, we need to figure out how deep the pathogen has penetrated.  Is it right on the energetic surface? In that case we firm up the exterior with immune boosters like Huang Qi or Astragalus.  A formula like Yu Ping Feng San is great at this time.  However, it would be counterproductive to take it if the pathogen as gone deeper, as it can lead to stagnation of the wei qi and stop it from properly dealing with the invasion.  Other formulas, such as Ma Huang Tang, that aid the outward movement of the wei qi, can quickly expel the pathogen and would be correct at that point.  Sometimes the wei qi and ying qi are not balanced at the surface of the body… ie our defense troops are not in position and without their weapons.  A formula like Gui Zhi Tang would organize our troops at the front to fight a proper battle.

Next, we need to take into account the overall body constitution.  Is there a deficiency in qi in general which is allowing the pathogen to penetrate?  If this is the case, we need to work with the digestion, lungs and possibly other organs.  Adding herbs like Ren Shen or Ginseng could help the body to generate more wei qi to quickly recruit more troops to fight in the battle for wellness.

Are there other complicating factors?  If there are body aches, congestion, phlegm, fever, and or sweating, we need a full understanding of how they got there in the first place and how they are complicating the situation.  In many cases, it’s advantageous and imperative to treat these things at the same time.

I suggest you drink tons of water and take the vitamins you normally take at the first sign of a cold or flu.  At the same time, call for an appointment for acupuncture and herbal medicine. A trained acupuncturist can discern all these things and determine the best course of action for your body.  A 3 day supply of herbs that take into account your symptom profile, your constitution and an analysis of your tongue and pulse can mean the difference between the full blown cold/flu and a little sniffle.  

Cold/Flu Wins the Battle, But You Win the War

In some cases, your body’s wei qi will just not be strong enough, will lose the battle for the exterior and the pathogen will invade.  In the full blown cold/flu, the pathogen has invaded into the interior of the body and could be causing high fever, body wracking cough, tons of phlegm, chills, headaches, body aches etc.  The trick at this stage is support your body systems, use antibacterial/antiviral herbs and to make you more comfortable while the cold/flu runs it’s course. What systems are weakened, and how do we support them? Each person in each case is going to need a slightly different strategy so it’s important to have and acupuncturist/herbalist on your team.  It’s also important at this time to listen to your body’s needs. You may feel very tired because your body is incredibly physiologically active. Drink lots of water. Call off of work. Rest. If you do these things, you are not only helping to prevent spread of the illness to others, you are also allowing your body to do what it truly needs… to heal itself.  Pushing through your day is expecting your body to behave superhuman. Without giving yourself this time, the cold/flu could linger for weeks and symptoms, stemming from internal damage and deficiency, can stretch on for months. Acupuncture and herbs can help with cold/flu sequelae but the best practice is always to partner with your body to support its proper qi dynamic.  

Are you noticing all the people around you getting sick?  Are you feeling a little run down? Don’t waste time! Book with a treatment with our acupuncturist TODAY by calling Om’echaye Reception; 954-456-6945.  Stay Healthy, Friends!

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