Every year at this time I see a patients who are fighting off colds. Recently, I even had a patient who was diagnosed in the E.R. as having mononucleosis! Many of my clients have very demanding careers and getting sick is not an option for them. The first thing my patients want to know is how to boost their immunity so they can prevent future illness.
Instead of asking my clients to give up their high-pace jobs or avoid responsibilities, I try to educate them about how to work with their body, and not against their body.
Some patients may be afraid that I will instruct them to remove all forms of stress from their life, eat only vegetables, and start listening to Enya whenever they feel tense. Yet, they are surprised to find that I believe that demanding activity is an important part of living a healthy life.
The TCM View of the Immune System
Generally, every system in your body, at every level, engages in self-defense against pathogens. At the most external level, your skin protects against microbial invaders. Even adopted behaviors, such as wearing protective clothing, become a part of your immune system’s activities. Inside of the body, organ systems work together to move fluids, expel pathogens, raise and lower body temperature, and ensure that hormones, vitamins, and minerals nurture your system.
Within Traditional Chinese Medicine there are two elements that largely factor in a person’s immune health: wei qi and lung health.
Herbal Formulations to Strengthen Defensive Qi
Wei qi means “defensive force”. When a person’s wei qi is weak, she will be prone to many types of illness.
There are many formulas available that help strengthen a person’s wei qi. One of the most common formulas is called Jade Screen. The Jade Screen formula dates back more than 800 years and combines astragalus with other key herbs to create a formula that protects the body against colds and flues. For help selecting the formula that is best for your constitution (most effective, with minimal side effects), consult an O.M.D.
Another way to boost your wei qi is through your lungs. In Chinese medicine, the lungs are a vital part of your body’s transport system. The lungs control the opening and closing of the pores, they regulate the transportation of fluids from the upper part of the body to the lower part of the body, and bring oxygen into the blood. When the lungs are not functioning strongly then the skin may be prone to wind or cold invasion, the passages may become clogged with phlegm, and the blood may acquire a condition known as blood stasis.
Exercise and deep breathing are two ways to boost your lung’s function. If you tend toward chronically weak lungs, then consult your Oriental Medical Doctor regarding acupuncture and herbal treatments that can help you strengthen your constitution. TCM is especially effective in treating chronic asthma and bronchitis.
Impact of Stress on Immune Function, Mental Clarity
Long-term stress can negatively impact many of your body’s systems. If you find yourself in a stressful situation at home or work that lasts for days or months, you may find that you begin to suffer recurrent colds and a lack of mental focus. Dealing with your stress, altering long-term stressful situations, and slowing down will ultimately help strengthen your immunity. Some patients find it difficult to switch gears between “go mode” and “slow mode.”
I encourage all of my patients to live normal lives, even demanding lives, but to make time to attend to their body’s needs so that their quality of life may be preserved for a lifetime. Acupuncture and herbal support can help people with demanding careers to perform better at work and enhance their quality of life.