Warming Up For Winter
Natural ways to support the immune system for winter are easy and practical to implement and may include environmental and dietary adjustments, herbal and nutritional supplements.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the COLD is recognised as a cause of disease itself (the Pathogen) and exposure to cold can lead to mild or severe disease, depending on the depth of penetration into the body.The LUNGS are the portal of entry of COLD and the upper back is the site of specialised Acupuncture points that represent the Lungs. Keeping the upper back warm to support the Lungs and keeping the lower back warm to support the Kidneys is one way to strengthen Lung immunity and to enhance resistance to disease. Keeping the soles of the feet warm is another way to enhance the function of the Kidneys, which, in Traditional Chinese Medicine supports the Lungs, the Bones and the Nervous system.
Qigong is an ancient form of Chinese exercise where breath and movement combine to cultivate Qi or “Life force.” Yoga in its various forms is another type of exercise combining breathing and movement to harness the qi and open the Chakras or energy systems in the body. Both forms of exercise improve circulation and enhance endocrine function and general wellbeing. Reduction of stress through the practice of meditation, exercise, Qigong and Yoga improves resistance to infections. In Winter, it requires discipline to maintain an exercise regime, but the physical, mental and emotional rewards are proven.
Dietary adjustments in winter should include the use of warming spices and herbs such as curries, turmeric, cardamom, ginger, galangal, cinnamon, chilli, black pepper, cumin and Cajun spices. Warming spices have been researched and are known to increase the production of digestive enzymes in the pancreas and intestines. Turmeric is a powerful antiinflammatory spice that has been found to have anti- cancer properties, helps fight infections, prevents heart attacks and reduces nerve plaque damage in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease.The University of Maryland Medical centre reviewed the research on the health benefits of Ginger and it is believed to be an effective treatment for the common cold and influenza as well as a digestive aid. Ginger can interact with warfarin and aspirin so care needs to be taken under these circumstances. Cardamom has been found to benefit bronchitis and asthma. Cardamom increases sweating and may benefit coughs and colds.The University of Michigan in 2009 studied the synergistic effects of Black pepper and Turmeric on breast cancer cells and found that they acted together to inhibit breast cell proliferation. Garlic enhances Natural Killer cell activity and is antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral in action.
Warm herbal teas taken at the start of the day and before the meal improve digestion and circulation – for example Ginger tea, combinations of Ginger,Lemon and Echinacea, Elderberry and Rooibos teas are readily available.
Include lots of dark leafy greens in winter, such as Silverbeet, Kale and Asian greens – these can be marinated in cold – pressed olive or sesame oil, blended with lemon or lime juice and Himalayan salt and the addition of warming spices makes a nutrient –dense warm salad.
Bowel flora can influence our immune systems and many diseases are associated with unfavourable changes in our bowel flora. Specific probiotics for enhancing immunity include saccharoymyces boulardii and Lactobacillus rhamnosus . Probiotic effects may be mediated through immune regulation and through control of inflammation. Certain probiotics reduce asthma and inflammation. Specific probiotics in high concentration are more targeted than a generalised formula.
Acupuncture is a very effective immune boosting treatment and Biopuncture, a German technique, practiced by specially trained practitioners, combines acupuncture with injection of homotoxicological, immune enhancing remedies into the acupuncture points. Homotoxicology is a system of treatment with remedies that have been proven to stimulate macrophages to eliminate virally affected cells. These remedies are both catalysts and immune stimulants and can be safely taken at the start of the winter season to prevent cold and flu.
Medicinal mushrooms have been extensively studied in China. Those that stimulate the immune stystem or regulate the immune responses include Ling zhi ( Reishi mushroom),Shitake and Cordyceps. These are available as supplements in concentrated forms.
Other herbs are successful immune enhancers, for example, Astragalus ( best given in a balanced TCM formula), Echinacea, andrographis and traditional Chinese formulas such as Jade Screen formula and Ginseng and Astragalus combination are classically prescribed for patients who have depleted resistance to colds and flu.
In summary, boost your own immunity this winter by practicing Qigong and/or Yoga as well as regular exercise, adding warming spices and herbs to your diet, and including supplements of medicinal mushrooms .Visit your health professional at the start of the season for a boost of Biopuncture/Acupuncture and it is useful to check your levels of zinc,Vitamin D and iron. Low levels of these nutrients predispose to infections.