You know the feeling: one day you wake up- head pounding, nose stuffy and running, on fire one minute and shivering the next. We’ve all experienced the annoying discomfort of a cold or flu. Colds and flus are contagious infections caused by viruses that affect the respiratory tract.
In Chinese Medicine, we believe that if you live healthily, and nourish your body with good foods and exercise, it should be strong enough to fight off these viruses when they attack. It is only when our immune systems, or Wei (defensive) Qi is weak that we become sick.
Thousands of years ago, when Chinese Medicine began to emerge, the surrounding society did not have the technology or advancements available nowadays to identify and understand viruses better. However, they did understand that these sicknesses were caused by the invasion of foreign pathogens in to the body. Colds and flus are spread mainly by droplets made when people cough, sneeze and talk, which contain the virus.
Because the weather in autumn and winter is cooler and windier, a correlation must have been made between the weather and illness. In particular, these weather conditions, or ‘Wind- Cold’ (a disease name in TCM) were more prevalent in the colder months, and so were respiratory disorders such as colds and flus. Here ‘Wind’ not only relates to the physical, blowing force of the environment, but also to the pathogens found in the air at this time of year.
Wind-Cold is usually diagnosed where a virus causes symptoms of chills and fever (yet more chills and shivering than fever), headaches at the base of the skull and back of the neck, sneezing, clear mucus, a runny nose and bodily aches.
Wind-Heat is then related to conditions where a virus causes more fever than chills, a sore throat, coughing, a stuffy nose, yellowish green mucus, forehead headaches, red, sore eyes, sinusitis and earaches. Heat is generally considered more intense and aggressive of a sickness than Cold-types. This kind of illness is particularly prevalent in Australia, with our hot climate.
Here are some tips to keep infection away this flu season!
- Dress warmly: cover your skin with warm clothing, especially scarves to protect your neck against Windy weather.
- Incorporate acrid foods such as onion, shallots, ginger, cinnamon and garlic in to your diet to nourish and support the Lungs.
- Drink teas! I love ginger, cinnamon, green tea, peppermint and chai when I am sick.
- Eat warm, cooked foods to support the digestive system and keep your body at its optimal function: think soups, stews, grains, and lots of veggies!
- Rest: allow yourself the time to get adequate amounts of rest throughout winter. This is the ‘Yin’ time of the year. Exercise to stay fit but don’t overdo it. Yin Yoga, mat Pilates, walking and meditation are great options to keep your body moving.
- Get acupuncture! Acupuncture is simply amazing for kicking colds and flus, building up your immune system and keeping energy levels high in winter. Herbal medicines are a great supplement for immune health and fighting disease.
And if you do feel that a cold is coming on, my number one advice is to sweat it out! We believe that the best way to eliminate the beginnings of a cold or flu is to release the pathogen and sickness through the exterior (the skin). I like to rug up, drink a cinnamon or ginger tea and go to sleep in lots of blankets, or dress warmly and go for a run.