Cold Pathogens, Warm Pathogens: How Chinese Medicine Can Boost Your Immunity

By Marcie Bower, Lic.Ac, MAOM, Dipl. OM /

Cold Pathogens, Warm Pathogens: How Chinese Medicine Can Boost Your Immunity

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how to boost immunity and stay healthy. Here are some tips from Chinese Medicine about how to keep yourself healthy throughout the year, and how to give your body the most resources possible to fight off diseases or illness.

  • Get enough sleep. Seriously. It is absolutely amazing how often quality sleep is overlooked. It is estimated that healthy adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep per night to function at optimal health. Clinical studies have shown that lack of sleep makes you more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, increases the likelihood of the sickness lasting for a longer period of time, and also changes your body’s immune response on a cellular and chemical level.  If you're having a hard time getting quality sleep, acupuncture and herbs can help.
  • Get enough fluids. Water, water, and more water. Drinking enough water during the day (64 fluid oz for adults) helps your body flush out toxins, allows your tissues to be adequately hydrated, and helps to loosen any congestion before it is a problem. Sometimes when sicknesses affect our digestive tract (like a “stomach bug”), it can be hard to get enough fluids. It is vitally important that you do! Try drinking ginger or mint tea (both of which calm the stomach), to get your fluids and deal with the symptoms at hand.
  • Eat well. Your immune system is the part of your body that fights off intruders who are likely to make you sick. Think of it as prepping it for a big race or athletic event. You wouldn’t eat poorly the night before your big game, right? Then don’t eat poorly heading in to a season where your immune system needs to be in top gear. Eat unprocessed foods whenever possible. Eat a “Spleen-friendly diet.” The “Spleen” energy is the digestive energy, and the spleen is the system in charge of making sure your energy gets to all the places it needs to go – including your immune system.

  • Incorporate herbs with known immune-boosting properties into your cooking, including ginger, turmeric, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, licorice and astraglus. DAO Labs Immunity Support is based on the powerful ancient Yu Ping Feng San, or Jade Windscreen.  Incorporating three immune boosting herbs (including Astragalus!) and pairing with complementary immune boosting flavors ginger and pear, this herbal formula will keep you healthy all season long.
  • Cover your neck. In acupuncture theory, there are two predominant kinds of “evil qi,” or pathogens, that enter our system: warm pathogens and cold pathogens. Something like the common cold may be caused by either a warm pathogen or a cold pathogen – an acupuncturist would diagnose that based on your symptoms. Cold pathogens enter the body through the nape of the neck. Therefore, it is particularly important that you keep your neck covered when outside in cold, damp, or windy weather, or if you sit in a drafty area at work or home. Scarves are awesome.
  • Wash your hands. Thoroughly. With soap. Warm pathogens, as described above, in acupuncture theory, enter the body through the mouth and nose. These are things like bacteria and many viruses; epidemic diseases tend to be warm pathogens. One of the best way to prevent warm pathogens from entering your body is by making sure they don’t come into contact with your nose or mouth. In addition to being sure you don’t share drinking glasses with people, wash your hands as much as possible. One study in Washington DC found that the average person touches his or her face 3.6 times per hour without even realizing it (Although a general google search for this will tell you the average is much higher).

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can help to boost immunity and keep you healthy. Ask your acupuncturist when you are next in for treatment how Chinese Medicine can keep you healthy and safe this season!

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Marcie Bower received her Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture, and is a winner of the Tsay Fellowship Award for Excellence in the Art and Science of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Marcie has a passion for and extensive experience in alternative medicine research. Her ultimate goal is to better integrate Chinese Medicine into the dominant medical system, thereby making it more available to more patients who will benefit from its use. Outside of the office, Marcie enjoys spending time with her husband Karl and their two young children, as well as running, doing yoga, reading, and networking with other entrepreneurs. You can learn more about Marcie at steppingstoneacu.com.

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