By Michael Dell’Orfano, Lic.Ac.
As acupuncture patients and massage clients of Stepping Stone, everyone reading this probably knows that regular treatment with these two modalities can really aid our immune system and lessen the likelihood of coming down with the common cold or flu this season. So, what can you do at home on your own time to reinforce these treatments and further increase your chance of not getting sick this winter?
- Dress appropriately for the season! DO wear warm pants, heavy jackets, gloves and a winter hat. DON’T be the person in shorts or a T-shirt on a cold winter day.
- Protect your neck! The Chinese culture is fond of wearing scarves to protect their neck to prevent wind and cold from penetrating the nape of the neck. In acupuncture theory, points exist near the base of the neck that are used to treat cold symptoms since it is thought wind strikes here first.
- Wash your hands often around sick people and when in public places. “Germs” are everywhere! Don’t touch your food and orifices of your body with dirty hands unless you want to take a major risk of getting sick.
- Exercise routines are not just for nice weather and looking good. Make sure you keep up with your exercise year round. Don’t stop in the winter because it is too cold and too dark to leave the house. Exercise at home if you don’t want to do it outside or at the gym. Even if you have no equipment, you can find other ways to keep in shape, as this will stimulate your immune system.
- Eat healthy to prevent getting sick. Whole foods are packed with nutrient rich minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids and proteins that play a key role in keeping us from coming down with illnesses. Eating junk foods with sugar weakens the body and causes inflammation. This will lower your defense shield making it possible for viruses and bacteria to penetrate into the body.
- Stay well hydrated. 6-8 glasses of water a day will prevent dehydration. All of the human cells rely on water to function properly. Drinking water will also help to flush out the toxins living in our body that can harm us if not disposed of in a timely manner. After all, we are mostly composed of water.
- Vitamins and supplements are essential to optimize intake of healing nutrients. Probiotics and multi-vitamins are a good starting point if you are unsure what your body needs more of currently. Working with a nutritionist or other healthcare professional to tailor your supplements and vitamins to your needs is ideal so that you don’t end up wasting money or overburdening your body taking too many pills and powders. The reality is that many foods are denatured in processing, soil quality is poor, and many humans have trouble absorbing nutrients from food. We need all the help we can get in addition to eating whole foods.
- Herbs and essential oils as medicine. Using herbs and essential oils either preventatively or as a treatment when you get sick is better for your body than just reaching for over the counter and prescription medicines right away since they are often as effective and less harsh on the body and don’t normally have side effects. Drinking herbal teas daily rather than coffee in the fall and winter is a great starting point if you are not well versed in herbal medicine. An acupuncturist or herbalist can guide you further when a specific remedy is needed.
- Sanitize! Disinfectant wipes should be kept on hand so you can use them to clean things that get touched often like phones, doorknobs, computers, steering wheel, remote controls, etc.
- Hibernate! Well, not really, but making sure you get adequate sleep in the winter is essential for recharging the mind and body to keep your immune system functioning at an optimal level.
- Consider getting the Flu Vaccine. Over half a million people die each year from complications from the influenza virus. It is not 100% effective, and it might not be what you want to hear, but it just might save your life.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking. Simply put, these things are bad for us if done on a daily basis, and they will increase your susceptibility to illnesses of all kinds, including the flu and common cold.
- Stay calm. As in, don’t get stressed out. The more stress you have the easier it is for bacteria and viruses to attack you when you are weak. Try taking a yoga class or meditation class if you find work or family life to be stressful and you don’t know how to cope.
- Buy an aromatherapy diffuser. They are awesome for both preventive purposes as well as for clearing out the air and your body of viruses that can do harm. Simple, fun and effective.
- Get a HEPA filter air purifier with UV light. Like the aromatherapy diffuser, they can be useful for destroying bacteria, viruses, mold and are great for people with allergies to smoke, pets and dust.