Winter is here and with it comes cold and flu season. While it’s common to get sick during wintertime, it’s not necessary. In fact, you can use Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques to boost your immune system and improve your health naturally over this chilly season.
Using Traditional Chinese Medicine During Winter
Each season has a special meaning in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Winter is significant in many ways. It is a time for internal work such as meditation, conserving energy, and enjoying peace and quiet.
In TCM, winter is associated with the water element, and this corresponds with kidney and bladder health. Eating foods containing water, drinking broths, and enjoying water or tea is encouraged in the wintertime, as these all assist in healthy kidney and bladder function.
This focus on water is no accident. Many people do not consume enough liquids in the wintertime, and this drying of the mucous membrane encourages colds/coughs to last longer and generally causes poor health and discomfort. If there’s one thing you do to benefit your health this winter; it should be to drink plenty of fluids.
Ten Ways to Boost Your Immune System in Cold and Flu Season
Traditional Chinese Medicine has much to say about staying healthy over the winter months. Here are just ten ways you can utilize centuries of knowledge to improve your immune system over the cold and flu season:
1. Get plenty of rest.
With short days and long nights, it feels natural to go to bed early or take naps throughout the day. Be sure to get the rest you need to stay healthy and happy.
As a note, I recognize that taking naps during a work day may not make sense for you. However, you can still find time during a break to do something restful. Turn off your phone and meditate or read a book instead of catching up with social media or the news. Bundle up during lunch and head out to the park to breathe in some fresh air and enjoy nature. Journal on the bus or simply sit back and watch the people around you. All of these actions can be quiet, contemplative, and restful.
2. Enjoy nourishing and hydrating foods.
Food is medicine, and it’s essential during the winter months to watch what we put in our bodies. The holidays encourage overeating and consumption of many sweets, which can be detrimental to health. Now that the holidays are over for many of us, it's time to get back to eating nourishing, seasonal foods. Here are a few winter foods that you may want to enjoy this winter:
- Persimmons and pomegranates
- Dark, leafy greens
- Cranberries, apples, and pears
- Lentils and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
3. Don’t put pressure on yourself to accomplish your goals immediately.
New years resolutions can feel urgent - and overwhelming. Give yourself time to accomplish your goals for 2019. You have the entire year.
4. Try acupuncture or moxibustion.
Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques like acupuncture, moxibustion, or cupping are not just for existing discomforts. You can use them as holistic preventative techniques to help improve your immune system and benefit overall health.
5. Spend time with people whom you enjoy.
Studies show that curating personal connections and building a robust social group benefits health and improves recovery times. So, try to find time to maintain the meaningful relationships you have with friends and family.
6. Bundle up when you go outdoors (but do get outdoors when you can).
Even if you’re the kind of person who wears shorts in 30-degree weather, I encourage you to stay warm and cozy with a hat, scarf, gloves, warm socks and, yes, pants, as the temperatures plummet. It’s important to get outside, absorb some vitamin D, and enjoy nature - but it’s also beneficial to your health for you to stay warm.
7. Enjoy quiet contemplation through meditation and mindfulness.
Winter is a time to look inward and store up energy. It’s also a time when many of us are reminded of all the good in our lives as we wrap up the holidays. So, spend some time this season improving your inner self by practicing gratitude and mindfulness.
8. Try contemplative exercises like qigong, tai chi, or yoga.
While some outdoor activities may be prohibitively cold, you can get moving through mindful practices like yoga, tai chi, and qigong. Let your mind wander or repeat a mantra as you stretch and move with these simple exercise techniques.
9. Take long, deep breaths.
Deep breathing is a great way to relieve stress, improve blood flow, reduce inflammation and more. Additionally, as you move through cold and flu season, remember that the ability to breath comfortably is something we take for granted when we are healthy. Take some time to remind yourself of the joy of congestion-free breathing a few times a day.
10. Add immune-boosting herbs and spices to your diet.
Enjoy immune boosters like cinnamon, ginseng, ginger, and cardamom throughout the winter months. These and many other herbs and spices can help keep you healthy and improve the taste of every meal this season.
There are many Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques, herbs, and traditions that can benefit your immune health. Find out more by making an appointment here at AOM Health.