The cold / flu season is upon us. Here are a few simple self-care tools to help us stay healthier.
Protect the surface:
- Wear a scarf and hat when it's cold and windy - the back of our head and neck are particularly vulnerable to wind and cold according to Chinese medicine.
- Avoid drafts ~ do not sleep with an open window anywhere near your head, dry your hair before going outside or going to bed
- Wash hands frequently, especially after sneezing or coughing and being in a public place (library, bus, post office, supermarket, etc)
- Stay at least 3 feet away from people who have obvious cold symptoms, when possible
- Drink plenty of water / fluids, avoid iced drinks
- Do the nasal salt water wash daily (we have easy-to-use Nasopure available at the clinic or you can use any type of neti pot, if you have one)
- Supplement extra Vitamin C
- Emphasize warm / cooked seasonal foods during cold weather: soups, hot cereal / porridge (rice / oatmeal), cooked veggies, especially dark leafy greens
- Add some probiotics to your diet with fermented foods such as sauerkraut and yogurt
- Minimize dairy, greasy foods, dairy, coffee and sugar
- Avoid / minimize alcoholic beverages / intoxicants
- During the holidays, opt for simple healthy food whenever you have a chance, to balance out all the holiday treats.
Congee is easy to digest and is nourishing in cold weather season as well as during a cold / flu. Many Chinese families serve congee to the whole family on a weekly basis. The basic method to make congee is as follows:
Cook one cup of rice in seven to nine cups of filtered water over a period of six to eight hours. This can be done overnight and it is ideal to use a slow cooker, although you may use any cooking pot. Use white or brown rice.
Herbs and/or meat or vegetables are added as directed by your practitioner for your condition. Good things to add for cold / flu season: ginger, green onion, chicken / broth. Astragalus (Huang Qi) and mushrooms (shitake, regular white or brown button, etc) are good immune tonics that can be added to the congee to prevent colds.
You can also try out Pam's breakfast grains or the herbal soup mix available at Sarana.
Stress is an immune-suppressor! Limit / control stress by:
- Practicing Tai Qi / Yoga / Qi Gong / other gentle exercise on a regular basis
- Getting emotional support when you need it
- Getting regular acupuncture: Acupuncture can assist in relieving stress, help you get sounder sleep and re-balance your energy. It can help boost your immune function and increase your resistance to cold / flu viruses. Do not wait until you are sick, get consistent "acupuncture tune ups" to help keep yourself healthy! If you are traveling for the holidays, get a pre-trip session and another treatment when you get back. For affordable acupuncture while traveling, check this list of low-cost community acupuncture clinics all over North America. (Contact the clinic to check on their holiday hours.)
Several herbal formulations are helpful for various symptoms / stages of a cold. Combined with regular acupuncture, they often can help lessen the intensity and shorten the duration of the illness. We have herbs available at the clinic. It is always best to consult your acupuncturist to make sure you have the correct formula, but in a pinch, there are a few common formulas you can purchase on your own, to use on a short-term basis. Natural foods shops often carry Chinese herbal remedies.
Gan Mao Ling
• General formula for beginning of a common cold or a flu, contains anti-viral herbs
• Helpful with: headache, bodyaches, chills / fever, slight sore throat, neck and shoulder stiffness, sinus congestion.
Bi Yan Pian / Nose Inflammation Tablets
• Effective for early stages of common cold with nasal congestion / runny nose, sinus headache and sneezing as primary symptoms
Yin Chiao Chieh Tu Pien / Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian / aka “Yin Qiao”
• Good formula for the early stages of the cold with: swollen sore throat, body aches, neck stiffness, cough, fever (with or without chills)
• Not as helpful if there is no sore throat