Have you ever wondered why the change of seasons can seem to wreak so much havoc with our bodies? There are in fact a variety of reasons around it. The specific change in seasons can bring on more mold and mildew, increased animal dander and an increase in bacteria and viruses. The immune system normally protects the body against harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses. It also reacts to foreign substances called allergens, which are generally harmless but can cause problems that increase more allergies, and thus, increased symptoms: runny nose and eyes, sore throats, coughs and fatigue. Read more about Acupuncture in Portland and the Change of Seasons.
The other change that occurs is the shortening of days. Before the invention of electricity and the light bulb, shorter days meant people got more sleep. In our environment, that’s not the case. We increase our art classes, our projects, fall leagues start in most clubs, all kinds of things start to gear up as summer is over. In addition, kids are back in school, which in and of itself means, sickness opportunities will abound if you are a family with children.
So why do we get sick?
From an acupuncture perspective, your body is made up of multiple kinds of Qi, or natural energy. These different types of Qi have specific physiological functions in the body. One essential type of Qi is the Wei Qi. Roughly translated as “immunity”, the Wei Qi is your body’s natural strength and ability to fight off pathogens like viruses and bacteria. The Wei Qi is the first line of defense against sickness (after your skin.) It also controls the opening and closing of the pores, so spontaneous sweating or a lack of sweating can be a sign of a weakness in your protective Qi. When the Wei Qi is not strong enough, we are not able to fight off outside pathogens, and we get sick. The result is that the lungs are then affected.
How to you make sure your Wei Qi is healthy and strong?
If you are not eating properly, your digestive energy won’t be able to pull the necessary components out of your food to make efficient and strong Wei Qi. This means:
- limit processed foods and sugars
- eat warm and hearty meals
- eat at regular times
- get enough protein
- drink plenty of water
- eat a balanced diet
- select the right food (sweet, sour and salty tastes) such as pear, apple, banana, sweet tasting vegetables, like squash, carrots and sweet potatoes, good grains like quinoa and millet, porridge, and warm soups, and especially meat and bone soup (unless you are vegetarian)
The food mentioned above cools down the internal heat but without increasing the phlegm. This is my little funny that I usually include. I found this tidbit of advice on a Tibetan medicine site. If one does not eat enough of this kind of food, it is said that one should make mustard oil massages to compensate the consumption of the body constituents caused by the long nights. I am pretty sure most of my patients aren’t up for the mustard massages. Some of you may remember the mustard plaster treatments for colds and coughs. If you were a person that thought if the 12 minute rule of keeping the plaster on was good, then an hour would be even better, you ended up with some skin burns.
The Wei Qi is actually controlled by the Lungs. Try to spend at least 10 minutes of every day outside, regardless of the weather. This could mean taking a quick walk or simply standing outside and breathing. Be sure to dress appropriately.
Get enough sleep
When you sleep, your body replenishes deeper levels of energy. If you are not getting enough sleep and some of the more internal energies of your body are weak, the Wei Qi has to work overtime to keep you healthy. It can’t do that for extended periods of time.
There are specific points on the body that nourish the Wei Qi to help boost the energy which in turn prevents sickness. This is also the time of year that we increase our use of moxa , with its warming qualities that help strengthen the Wei Qi. Acupuncture can also strengthen your digestive energy if it is not supporting the Wei Qi sufficiently.
We have seen a bunch of colds, coughs and flues already. Now is the time to start preventative acupuncture treatments and boost your immune system – as the days start to get shorter and the weather gets cooler. Don’t wait until everyone you know is sick – come in sooner rather than later!
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