Protect your immune system and keep the threat of colds & flus at bay with these 5 simple pointers from an integrative eastern medicine view!
1. Keep warm. In Chinese medicine this is one of the most simple and important principles of protecting the body from illness. Don’t underestimate the power of a scarf, as our neck is the most susceptible area for pathogenic invasion of wind and cold, which quickly leads to “catching” a cold. Always make sure your lower back, belly, and feet are well covered and warm (especially for fertility reasons).
2. Reduce Dairy. There is a build up of phlegm in the body that results from indulgence in milk, cheese, and yogurt, which can exacerbate sinus conditions and congest the lungs. Keep your intake low and if you start to feel congested or a tickle in your throat, it is best to cut out dairy entirely till you feel better.
3. Get enough sleep. Winter is a time of naturally slowing down, going inward and making more space for rest, because energetically our bodies are working hard to sustain us through the cold season. The average New Yorker gets 5-7 hours of sleep and that may be fine for some, and perhaps sustainable in the summer time, but in the winter months we need more rest to recover from stress and to support our immune system. Not enough sleep can lead to poor concentration, lowered metabolism, mood imbalance, and just low energy, so aim for 8 hours a night at least.
4. Eat seasonal nourishing foods. Winter is the season of the Kidneys in Chinese medicine and foods that nourish Kidney energy are important for supporting overall energy and vitality. Make sure to incorporate some of the flowing into your daily routine: bone broth, black beans, mushrooms, lamb, chicken, beef, salmon, anchovy, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds, dark leafy greens, leeks, seaweeds, radish, dates, rosemary, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Your meals should be mostly all warm and well cooked, as with stews and soups.
5. Make sure to get enough Vitamin D however you can. We often get stuck inside working during the very few hours of daylight there is even available during these winter months. That is why it is so important to use what opportunities we can to try and get out a little and get our faces into some sunlight, like taking a quick walk to grab lunch instead of ordering, or getting some fresh air just because, on those works days. Use days off to go outside more where you can (within reason given weather extremes) because there is very little vitamin D in foods and we need some exposure to UV light for our skin to convert it to vitamin D. Deficiency is very common and may present as lowered immunity, depression, fatigue, and low bone density. I highly recommend taking a good Vitamin D3 supplement during these dark winter months to make up for lack of sun and bolster our immunity, energy, and mood. If you’re looking for a recommendation, I carry an excellent Vitamin D3 5,000 IU in my office. Email me for info.