Shielding out winter with our immunity!
Freezing winds, pouring rain. Many of us are now struggling with the coming winter which feels like its hitting us stronger than ever. The scary part is: winter’s only just started. This is why we must consider our health and immunity now, to prepare our body so we can spend the best winter possible in 2021.
With the colder weather on us now, many of us can feel that our body is more sluggish, more stiff and we feel more vulnerable. In fact, respiratory illnesses including colds and flus are more common in the colder months (Johns Hopkins Medicine)! This comes to no surprise to most of us. One of the reasons is because people tend to stay indoors more, increasing the chance of cross infection. What many of us do not know is that various other diseases can be more prominent in winter! Heart conditions are more likely to occur or be aggravated in the colder months. This is called the Winter Cardiovascular Disease Phenomenon. Another frightening condition, stroke, has also been reported to significantly increase in the colder months.
This is why it is more important than ever to look inward to your health, to give your body the best groundwork to survive through this winter.
What is immunity?
The Encyclopedia of Biomedical Engineering (2019) defines ‘Immunity’ as:
‘a complex biological system endowed with the capacity to recognise and tolerate whatever belongs to itself, and to recognize and reject what is foreign (non-self)’
In other words, it is your body’s capacity to identify, defend, and fight against external factors that shouldn’t be in your body.
Our defensive formation
Our body has several lines of immunity to help us be in the best health possible.
- First point of immunity is the external defences. This is designed to keep external factors out; and consists of skin tears, saliva and stomach acid.
- Second point of immunity is internal fight against the pathogens that have already entered; and includes fevers and inflammations.
- Third point of immunity is acquired immunity to specific pathogens. This can be developed through previous immune responses or developed artificially by vaccinations.
What! Acupuncture can help with immunity?
Acupuncture is a practice of placing needles on certain parts of the body to induce specific reactions. Although the mechanisms of acupuncture are not entirely understood in biomedicine, there has been extensive research to suggest the benefits of acupuncture in immune modulation, neurological regulation, autonomic regulation and its role in the Neuro-Endocrine-Immune Network. Other research has also demonstrated the benefits of acupuncture in anti-cancer immune response, anti-stress immune response and anti-inflammatory immune response.
Specifically, acupuncture has demonstrated to:
- Improve cellular immunity by promoting NK (natural killer) cell activity and white blood cell activity
- Affect Immunomodulation by promoting macrophage, neutrophil, NK, lymphocytes and influencing immunoglobin production
Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective on immunity
TCM is a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and considers the homeostasis of the body to define health. When the body is in balance and therefore healthy, it will be better enabled to fight off the external pathogens from invading the body.
This capacity is mainly supported by the upright qi (zheng qi). If the upright qi is strong, it will be better equipped to fight the pathogens. If the upright qi is weak, it will be easier for the pathogens to invade. In essence, this is very similar to our understanding of the functions of immunity.
Once the pathogen is inside, the body will become out of homeostasis and acupuncture treatments are used to bring the body back into balance, which will better empower the body to expel the external pathogens.
Some home advice:
- Keep warm. The circulation of qi and yang (vitality) is hindered in the cold. This is like how atoms don’t vibrate as fast or how water doesn’t flow as well in low temperatures.
- Stay away from the cold winds. The cold winds cause your body to tighten up and your muscles to tense, applying greater stressors to your body, which can contribute to poor circulation of qi and poor health.
- Drink warming teas. Cinnamon, ginger and astragalus are all very good for warming the channels and promoting the qi and yang.
- Foot baths and hand baths. All the channels in the body start or end in the hands or the feet. Heat helps to stimulate and warm the channels to promote health and wellbeing.
Read also our other interesting article on TCM perspectives on immunity!
Talk to us!
Immunity is something that each of us should be thinking about going into this winter. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been used across various cultures and centuries to help support our immune health; and there is accumulating research to support its benefits.
If you have any questions, Daniel is an acupuncturist at the Kingsford clinic with keen interest on community health and wellbeing. His other interests include mental health and wellbeing and chronic disease management.