Eileen T. Dube, MAc, MS-PREP, LAc, DiplAc (NCCAOM)
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Is Your Immune System Ready?

Ah those cool, crisp days of our New England autumns!  It is the time of year when we harvest the delicious fruits and vegetables that we planted in the early days of spring and cared for over the hot (and often very humid) summer.

Autumn is also the time that the weather can be unpredictable.  Cool nights and warm, dry days usually alternate with cold, damp and rainy weather.  The kids are back to school, vacations are a pleasant memory, and we tend to stay indoors more and more as it gets colder.  This sets the stage for being more likely to get a cold or the flu.

So how does one protect oneself?  One key is to build good strong defense system… let me introduce you to your wei qi.

We know scientifically that various types of viruses cause the cold and flu.  But traditional Chinese medicine (or ‘TCM’) was developed thousands of years before we knew about viruses and bacteria.  So they were described as simply invasions by external pathogenic factors.

Let’s step back for a moment.  There are 12 energetic organs in TCM.  They often have some of the same functions as the physical organs, but they have other roles too.  There are seasons that are associated with the organs as well. Autumn is associated with the lungs.  These ‘energetic’ lungs are responsible for protecting us from infection by circulating a particular type of qi called ‘wei qi’ beneath the skin.  ‘Wei’ means to protect or defend.

TCM theory tells us that wei qi is derived in part from eating healthy food and breathing clean air.  Wei qi circulates on the outer layer of your body thanks to the function of your energetic lungs.  And there it acts as your defense system, protecting you from invading pathogenic factors. When the temperature fluctuates, our wei qi rises or goes deeper in an effort to find the right depth to protect you.

Wind can ‘invade’ the body, often at the back of the neck.   The best example I think of is when you get a chill down your spine that then turned into something worse.  Many of the points located at the back of the neck have ‘wind’ in their name.  So it is wise to protect your neck with a scarf, especially in cold or windy weather.

Acupuncture has been shown to increase immune system function, including patients recovering from chemotherapy. Recently, a patient who had just started coming to see me came down with a cold.  The cold passed very quickly however, and they were amazed that they didn’t get the sinus infection that had always followed their colds before.  It is quite likely that the patient’s immune function had started to improve even with only a few acupuncture treatments!

So get your wei qi ready!  I recommend minimally monthly treatments to maintain your health; more often if you are under unusual stress. If you do happen to get sick, it is likely it won’t last as long… acupuncture can be wonderful for treating colds and sinus infections too.

Tips to warding off colds & flu:

  • Restore balance and build your immune system with acupuncture… haven’t been in for a while? Now is a good time for a tune up so you can fight off those nasty bugs!
  • Nourish your body with healthy foods and drinks
  • Breathe deeply clean air
  • Exercise sensibly
  • Protect your neck with a scarf or high collar in cool or windy weather
  • Reduce your stress with a mindfulness activity that suits you best
  • Wash your hands with soap and water