They only way to truly protect yourself during flu season is to have a healthy immune system. And the only way to have a healthy immune system is to make self-care a priority. I feel like that needs to be said twice. Make…self-care...a...priority. Your immune system is miraculous -- we are exposed to multitudes of germs every single day and almost never get sick because our immune systems work. Until they don’t. Because they get worn down. They get worn down when we are overtired, when we are stressed, when we are not eating healthy foods, when we are exposed to extreme weather. Luckily there are many things we can do to support our immune systems and a little TLC goes a long way: Add some Herbal support. Herbs like astragalus, echinacea and goldenrod have been proven to strengthen the immune system.

  1. Wash your hands. (NOT with hand sanitizer or antibacterial soap)! In Acupuncture school we learned that the single best way to stop the spread of disease is hand washing. So, wash your hands often. But bear in mind that a healthy immune system starts with healthy gut bacteria! So, don’t kill off the good guys with hand sanitizers and antibacterial soaps. Soap and water will do just fine.
  2. Stress Less. I know this is easier said than done but stress is the number one enemy of your immune system. When your nervous system is in “fight of flight” your immune system is literally switched off. Try and spend some time in “rest and digest’ every day, weather that is meditating in the morning, walking through the park at lunch, yoga after work, or turning your phone off on the weekends. Be disciplined about your downtime!
  3. Wear a scarf. In Chinese medicine, cold and wind are considered an EPF’s (external pernicious factors) They can access your system through a point at the back of your neck and bring on a cold. This may sound a little farfetched, but when you get sick your neck gets achy. And your glands get swollen! So, I think it is best to keep this area protected.
  4. Cook your veggies. Winter is not the time for salads and green juices. It is not the time for a cleansing diet. It is best to eat warming, building foods that nourish and fortify! So, roast your veggies, try healthy grains, cook soups and stews. And add in warming spices like ginger and cayenne.
  5. Add some Herbal support. Herbs like astragalus, echinacea and goldenrod have been proven to strengthen the immune system. Kitchen Herbs like oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary all have antibacterial and antiviral properties. And my personal favorite is mega doses of Vitamin C!
  6. Get 8 hours of sleep. When you are depleted your defenses are down. Don’t get depleted. Winter is the time to rest and recharge -- take advantage of the cold and the dark and stay in! Go to bed early! I think it may be the single most important thing you can do for your immune system, and your overall health.
  7. Get some Acupuncture. As discussed in my last blog post, acupuncture is a great immune booster. It supports the wei qi, or defensive qi, protecting against infections and environmental factors. Studies show that acupuncture increases the number of white blood cells which destroy bacteria and viruses. And it also alleviates stress which in turn supports immunity.