Cold and Flus = January Blues
Happy New Year. Congratulations on making it through the festive period in one piece. The season brings consistent indulgence, emotional frazzle and tinsel everywhere.
Due to these ‘stresses’ January is when I see a large rise of colds and flu in the practice. It’s officially Winter with dank, dark days and often patients are run- down so pathogens prevail. Pathogens are neither fun nor sociable. Every office fears the watery-eyed colleague who is snuffling and coughing. God forbid if you sneeze, the tuts of disapproval are audible.
The average person (with a life of expectancy of 75) is predicted to experience 200 colds in their lifetime, averaging at 2.6 a year! Now here’s the time for me to boast - I have not had a cold or flu over the ten years that I’ve been treated by acupuncture. It’s something of a ‘no kleenex’ miracle. Here’s how acupuncture and functional medicine can help you achieve the same.
Why do we get colds in winter? Damp and Diet
Damp is a major cause of symptoms in Chinese medicine (CM). It tends to flourish in Winter. Dampness in your body is what creates phlegm, mucus, brain fog, and that ‘can’t get out of bed’ morning exhaustion. A damp environment can cause infertility, suppression of lung function, and loose stools.
Damp does exactly what it says on the tin - creates a sluggish system filled with too much moisture and cold.
Sugar, dairy, fried food, and booze create dampness that clogs up your system. Think of smelly weeds in a pond. Or to be even more graphic, mucus throughout your body. GROSS.
Diet is key. In CM, it is advised you avoid cold foods in Winter - so anything from a fridge: sandwiches, sushi, salads, etc is out. Foods should be eaten at least room temperature and you should avoid all cold drinks including cold water. This is why the Chinese are mad about tea - hot tea warms the digestion.
This idea includes raw food too, so cook all your veggies or have soups and stews in Winter. The theory is the body has to work really hard to break down and heat up the food for digestion. This effort depletes your general energy and eventually weakens your system. A sluggish system cannot defend itself and your immunity becomes compromised.
How can you prevent colds and flu from a functional medicine perspective?
Before I get into how acupuncture can help you, functional medicine provides good ideas for supplements to prevent colds and flu. There are the usual things used to boost your immune system: Vitamins C, D, and Zinc are a good base for fighting infection. The B vitamins are important to keep energy levels optimal. Olive leaf extract has now become the new echinacea (both, in my opinion, taste vile but the gain outweighs the disgust). I take Olive leaf in a glass of water if I feel the first signs of a cold and ‘volia’ the cold never materializes. The same works with oregano oil.
Tips to stop Cold entering your body via Acupuncture Points
Here is how you can use knowledge of acupuncture points to help prevent colds.
Kidney 1 is located in the middle of the arch of your foot and is the entry point to the kidney channel. Always wear slippers, uggs or thick socks in the house, especially on tile floors. The cold can get into the body here and travel up to your kidneys which do all the filtration and cleaning. Cold in the kidney channel can create hormonal dramas for women and lower back ache for all.
The location of Bl23 is on your lower back above your trousers just before the waistline. It is the engine room for the kidney channel. Mine, and nagging parents everywhere, were actually onto something when they said ‘Cara tuck your singlet in. Do you have a singlet on?’ (vest for the Brits). Keeping your kidney warm with that extra layer is a thing. Simply put ‘cold kidneys = a cold’.
Du 14 is located between C7 and T1 where your neck starts to meet your spine and is perhaps one of the reasons that scarves are traditionally worn in Winter. If left exposed this point is primely located for cold and wind to enter the body. In fact, the flu is described as a ‘wind invasion’ in CM. This point is used to excellent effect when a patient feels a cold developing. It’s quoted to work by ‘strengthening defensive and nutritive qi’.
Increased Immunity Through Acupuncture
I have a variety of options for treatment for colds and flu, depending on the type of infection. I can tailor the treatment to the symptoms you have.
I treat imbalances between meridians to allow things to flow. A block between the ST and LI is usually connected to a blocked nose.
I am able to balance things in your system, boost lung function through the lung channel and improve the quality of the blood through the spleen and liver channels. Strong blood creates flow and stops things from getting stuck and therefore causing issues. Lu 11 is a genius at banishing sore throats.
Acupuncture also calms the central nervous system which allows your body to process stress effectively. Stress is one of the causes of immunosuppression: the mind and body reach overload and then no longer have the means to defend against invasion.
The good news is if you come to the clinic at the first sign of the cold or flu I can use points to move it on before it takes hold. If the infection has settled in I can usually shorten the length and severity of the symptoms. The main goal is to avoid colds and flu altogether. Imagine that? You’ll become the office favorite.