10 Steps to Cold and Flu Protection and Care

Cold and flu season is upon us again. Here are some suggestions for adults and children from acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, Laura Ann Meyer, on how you can avoid colds and flus, what to do if you get them, and some insight into Chinese medical theory.

• REST : It’s a verb and means taking charge of time and planning for it just as you plan to exercise or go out to dinner and a movie. Going to bed a few minutes earlier, sitting once or twice a day with your feet up and eyes closed—even for 5 minutes—does make a difference. Taking a nap or staying in bed with a good book or DVD is healthy. Getting enough sleep is essential to maintaining a strong immune system.

• WARM FLUIDS: Drinking warm herbal teas and making more delicious soups with onions,garlic and veggies in bone broth or strong veggie broth hits the spot. Being hydrated ensures that the lymphatic system drains freely and circulates smoothly. Any hot beverages and foods are useful such as chicken bone broth, egg drop soup or miso. Hold them in your hands and inhale the hot aromas. I encourage the use of fresh, organic, non-GMO (gene modified organism) produce. For animal products try to eat organic, free-range and grass fed. Limit your intake of sweet foods and sugar; they impair the body’s ability to kill bacteria and challenge the immune system with unnecessary stresses.

• VITAMIN C: This vitamin is known to shorten the length of colds. Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It is recommended to take an anti-oxidant with other anti-oxidants, rather thansingularly, because of the way they work to rid the body of oxidative stress from the immune system. There are several delivery systems to choose from. My favorites, depending upon the need, are fresh, organic fruits and veggies, and a supplement called Anti-Oxidant Factors
made by Solgar. If you do choose to take Vitamin C on its own I like Metagenics’ Ultra Potent-C and for children, Metagenics’ Ultra Potent-C Chewable.

• GENTLE MOVEMENT and JOINT ARTICULATION: A short walk, a few minutes of yoga stretching or qi gong breathing, even splashing in a hot tub to create some movement of the joints and articulation of the body is beneficial. There is a belief in Chinese thought that “evil” (read: virus and bacteria) lurk near the joints so gentle movement allows them to be thrust from their hiding places where the blood constituents can eliminate them efficiently. Relaxing
your shoulders and softening the muscles in your neck improve lymphatic drainage from the head and neck, as well.

• A HOT SHOWER OR HOT BATH: Magnesium Epsom (Epsom Salts) can help induce sweating and reduce toxic lymphatic waste. It also relaxes muscles and helps you sleep.

• PROBIOTICS: These good bacteria enhance the body’s ability to cleanse the intestine. Increase the use of intestinal flora products such as Metagenics’ Ultra Flora Plus DF, which contains 15 billion live Lactobacillis acidolphilus and Bifidobacterium lactis per dose. For children I recommend Metagenics’ Ultra Flora Children’s chewable tablets.

• HERBAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Many herbs have been shown in studies to have remarkable effects to boost the immune system. In order to prevent colds and flus I use a Chinese herbal formula called Immune + made by Evergreen Herbs, which strengthens the immune system. Studies have shown that Immune + increases white blood cell count (1,2,3,7,8,9,10,13,14,15) inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria 6 , and inhibits the growth of cancer cells (4,5,7,11,12). This formula is also helpful for children who experience recurrent respiratory infections. One of my favorite Chinese herbal formulas to use during a cold or flu to reduce the symptoms and shorten the amount of sick days is called Lonicera Complex made by Evergreen Herbs. The herbs in Lonicera Complex are antibacterial, antiviral, and enhance the immune system. I use this for colds, flus, sore throat, oral herpes, bronchitis, and pneumonia. This formula has been proven to treat both viral and bacterial infection (16,17,18,20,21) as well as reduce the severity and duration of viral infections (16,18,23) and bacterial infections (16,17,19,22). Chinese herbs are available for purchase with a prescription from a licensed acupuncturist.

• VITAMIN D: Know your vitamin D level and be sure it is over 35ng/ml. If you don’t know your vitamin D level we have made it easy for you to find out through our Empower ME for Health Initiative. Sunlight is also important during flu season. Go for a walk at lunchtime.

• AVOIDING GERMS: Wash your hands more often. Consider getting an air purifier with a HEPA filter. If you do get sick remember to cough into the crook of your elbow instead of your hand. Teach your friends, family and co-workers to do this, too.

• LAUGHING MORE: It has been proven to improve immune function.

*All supplements and herbs mentioned in this article are available from the True North Supplement Store. All proceeds from store sales go to support our nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. No True North practitioner receives monetary benefit from the supplements sold in the True North store.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, wei (defensive) qi is located at the exterior surface of the body and provides the initial protection against germs. When wei qi is strong, germs cannot penetrate the body. When it is weak, a wide variety of infections can occur. In Chinese medical theory these attacks on our immune system are conceptualized as occurring in three stages:

In STAGE 1, the cold enters the body via the upper respiratory tracts as a “wind-cold” or in other words; a virus. In Chinese thought you need to protect the back of the head, neck, and chest from wind and cold to prevent catching a “wind-cold”. Symptoms include achy muscles, stuffy head and nose, headache, sore throat, low grade fever, cough, clear or colored phlegm, and a possible change in bowel activity. This is obviously the best stage to arrest its development with home remedies and herbs. Herbs to induce sweating are especially good for the first stage of infection. These include peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, and chamomile. Add a pinch of cayenne to enhance therapeutic value.

If the “wind-cold” progresses to STAGE 2 it has progressed to a “wind-heat” which includes a bacterial response to the initial viral invasion (the really sick stage). If you’re inclined to use western medicine, this is the stage to use it. The symptoms become worse and more “interior,” such as really sore throat with swollen glands, earache, movement into the bronchi or lungs with lots of highly colored mucous from sinuses and chest.

STAGE 3 is the final stage of infection where the illness returns to the sinuses before resolving and completing its cycle.

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