This time of year, we are all looking for ways to strengthen our immune system. On top of everything else going on, it is flu season after all!
According to traditional East Asian medicine, the surface of the body is an important part of your immune system. Your skin helps protect you from environmental invasions such as wind, cold, damp, and harmful viruses, and bacteria. For example, on a winter day if you do not wear a coat, there is an increased chance of catching a cold. When the immune system is not strong and appropriate clothing is not worn, then wind and cold may enter your body, via the skin.
When this occurs the first symptom is often feeling chilled. Chills can alternate with a fever as it progresses. As the wind and cold move into the lungs, symptoms may evolve into a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and phlegm. This time of year, keeping your skin and lungs protected from the cold aids your body’s natural defense system. Cover your neck by wearing a scarf or hood and be sure to wear adequate clothing while outside.
In addition to keeping warm, there are many other things you can do at home to support both your lungs and your immune system.
One enjoyable immune booster is taking a bath. Aside from decreasing stress and muscle tension, taking a bath opens your pores to release toxins through the skin. You can add a high-quality essential oil to the water to increase support for the lungs- eucalyptus is great option open the nasal passages.
Another way to strengthen your lungs is through breathing exercises. This will increase your bodies efficiency in perfusing oxygen into your blood stream. Breathing exercises offer several other benefits such as decreased stress, improved sleep, and better energy.
While there are several techniques available, this is my favorite: Breath in naturally, then exhale until you feel you have reached the bottom of your breath – focus your attention on the exhalation rather than the inhalation. Allow your lungs to refill without force. Repeat this a few times throughout the day.
As your technique improves, you will notice that when you inhale, the breath can be felt reaching all the way into your abdomen, instead of staying high in your chest, which is common in everyday shallow breathing.
Dietary therapy is often your best line of defense. According to East Asian Medicine, foods which support the lungs include pears, radishes, turnips, garlic, and aromatic spices. Try fresh ginger and scallions added to a warm broth when you are feeling worn down. It is a delicious and nourishing way to strengthen your immune system. Do your best to stay away from foods which create phlegm in your respiratory system such as refined sugars, dairy products, and fried foods.
Listen to your body. If you feel like you are running on low, slow down and take some time to recuperate.
Your immune system depends on having enough energy to be able to protect you when necessary. This is the time of year to stay cozy and warm, read a good book, incorporate regular restorative exercises, and nourish your body.
NOTE: Christina Crawford is board certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and licensed by the state of New York. Crawford Acupuncture is located at 111 E. Chestnut St. Suite 203 in Rome, NY. She may be reached via call or text at (315) 225-1222 or online at CrawfordAcupuncture.com. Many insurance plans cover acupuncture.