If you're like me, you don't want to have to miss work because you've caught a virus. So what steps can you take to stay healthy when everyone else is getting sick?
The best offense is a good defense, as they say. Here are my favorite tricks to stave off infection.
R&R - That's right - good old fashioned rest and relaxation is a great preventative. When you don't get enough sleep, your body can't fight off illness very well. Stress causes an increase in your body's cortisol levels. Cortisol is known to lower your immunity. So listen to your body. If you feel tired, respect that and get a little extra shut-eye. If you're struggling with insomnia and stress, stop by for an acupuncture treatment! Acupuncture helps reduce stress and will improve your sleep.
Diet - Avoid processed foods as much as possible. The more your food is processed, the more qi, or energy, is lost from it. You need to keep your qi at its peak in order to fight off illness. Cook your food and avoid cold beverages. According to Chinese medicine, the Spleen (which often seems very pancreatic in function) is responsible for extracting qi from your food. Cold and raw foods are harder on the Spleen - especially in the colder weather.
Wear a scarf - In Chinese medicine, the back of the neck is vulnerable to wind, the 'pathogen' responsible for the cold and flu. Wearing a scarf in colder weather keeps you protected. I like to think of it as armor for my immune system.
Wash your hands - Do this often. Germs can live on surfaces like door handles for a long time after they were first touched by a sick person. Make sure to use warm water and soap, and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, or the length it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
Take Vitamin D - People are more familiar with Vitamin D's ability to stave off depression in the winter, but it's also a critical factor in your immune system. In Seattle, we don't get enough sunshine in the fall and winter to provide enough of this important vitamin, so it's necessary to supplement.
The flu shot - Although this is controversial (and absolutely a personal choice), flu shots are safe for most people, and prevent many common strains of flu. This is especially important if you work in a field where you come into contact with sick people, like health care or education. It's also important if you are in close contact with immune-compromised people who rely on the immunity of others to keep them safe.
Sometimes, even the most diligent person ends up getting sick. As you know, there's no cure for the cold and flu, but there are a lot of things you can do to lessen the severity and duration of your illness.
Come to FCA! - As soon as you start to feel the first tickle in your throat, make an appointment. If you can get acupuncture at the very start of your illness, we can often stop it in its tracks. We can also provide you with Chinese herbs that not only address your symptoms with minimal side effects, but that also have antimicrobial properties.
Stay home - Other than your visits to the clinic, if you're not feeling well, stay snug in your bed at home. Not only will you give your body the recuperation time it needs, but you'll also help to prevent the spread of illness.
Drink plenty of fluids - Drink warm water with lemon, and eat chicken soup. Your body needs to stay hydrated in order to fight infection.
Raid your kitchen - Most people don't know how many every day items they have in their pantries that have powerful anti-microbial properties. Garlic, raw honey, turmeric, thyme, and oregano are just a few ingredients that you can add to whatever you're cooking to turn every meal into medicine.