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9 Ways to Boost Your Immunity

Posted Oct 06 2009 8:01pm

Fall is always the time of year when colds and flu begin to spread; but this year, thanks to the infamous swine flu, it’s being talked about more than ever. The whole thing may be overblown, but it’s certainly a good year to take care of your health.

Chinese medicine has a lot to offer in terms of immunity and prevention (in large part because of the history of terrible plagues in China when the medicine was being developed). If you are concerned about your immune functioning, consider using acupuncture and herbal treatments to boost your resistance. And, try the suggestions below to keep your body’s natural defenses going strong:

  1. Cut back on sugar, especially refined sugars: studies show that immune functioning is compromised for up to 5 hours after consuming even a small amount of sugar – in part because it interferes with the absorption of Vitamin C.
  2. Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for immune functioning, and helps you fight off colds and flu. Foods high in vitamin C include parsley, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, and red peppers. You can also take a multivitamin or Vitamin C supplement.
  3. Get enough sleep. It goes without saying that our resistance is higher when we are well rested. It’s easy to compromise on sleep when we have a lot to do, but it’s really worth it to prioritize your rest so you can stay healthy. Plus, life is a lot easier and more fun when you’re not sleep-deprived!
  4. Eat root vegetables and other immune-boosting foods. In Chinese dietary theory, root vegetables are strengthening to the lungs and therefore to your immunity. Try roasting sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips and onions; or make a fall root vegetable stew. Other good foods for your immune system: cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower), garlic, onions, and leafy greens.
  5. Wash your hands, well and often. This means using soap, getting a good lather, and washing the front and back of your hands, wrists, and between your fingers. You should wash for 20 seconds- about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”! And, skip the antibacterial soap – it’s useless against viruses, and bad for the environment.
  6. Call in sick when you’re sick and encourage colleagues to do the same. (If the swine flu scare does nothing else, perhaps it will counteract the ridiculous idea that it’s responsible to come to work when you’re not feeling well).
  7. Cover your neck. According to Chinese medicine, illnesses invade through the back of the neck, which is often left uncovered. It is particularly vulnerable if you’ve been hot or sweaty, or if it’s windy or drafty. Wearing a turtleneck or scarf helps keep you protected.
  8. Sleep with a humidifier. The air, both outside and inside, gets drier this time of year, which can dry out the mucus membranes in your nose and throat. This causes tiny cracks to form, giving germs easy access to your bloodstream.
  9. Take immune-boosting herbs. If you have a compromised immune system, or a history of catching colds easily, consider taking a Chinese herbal immune formula during flu season. The most famous of these is “Jade Windscreen Powder”, a classical formula with three very gentle ingredients (it’s often given to children). It helps boost the “wei qi”, which is the energy that circulates on the surface of the body and prevents illness from invading. Talk to your acupuncturist if you’d like to get started!
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