With Covid-19 currently wreaking havoc on the world’s health, economy and social interaction, it’s natural to be feeling pretty stressed and helpless. Every time we leave the house we are risking exposing ourselves to the virus and bringing it home to our loved ones. So is there anything more we can do to protect ourselves? Well, apart from the government recommendations of thoroughly washing hands, coughing/sneezing into your elbow, cleaning all frequently touched surfaces, staying at least 1.5 metres away from others, and staying home unless absolutely necessary, there ARE steps you can take to boost your immune system so that your body is in the best possible position to fight off infection.
What is Your Immune System?
Your immune system is your body’s defence against disease. The first line of defence is your skin. This keeps bacteria from entering your blood and tissue. However, if bacteria does manage to enter the body (usually through a cut, inhalation or ingestion), there are white blood cells, antibodies, the lymphatic system, spleen, thymus and bone marrow that can be called into action to fight off the infection.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the immune system slightly differently. Remember that TCM theory was developed thousands of years ago, before any kind of technology. It is based purely on observations made on nature, how the body works and how it responds to the environment. In TCM theory, the first line of defence is our “Wei Qi” or Defensive Qi. It circulates just under our skin and is responsible for opening and closing our pores, regulating sweating and our immune function. It relies on strong Lung Qi to perform its job of fighting off infection and clearing out any waste product. If there is any weakness or imbalance in the body, Wei Qi can become unstable, allowing pathogens to enter and cause illness.
How Can Acupuncture Help?
TCM always aims to treat the root cause of a condition rather than mask the symptoms. That’s why having Acupuncture to strengthen a weakened immune system is such a valued part of our treatment. There are several studies showing that Acupuncture can cause a rise in interferon levels (one of the immune system’s messenger hormones), and that Acupuncture enhances the level of immune cytokines and splenic CD4+ T cells (CD4+ T cells are referred to as helper T cells and are active in the immune system’s defence against microbes, including viruses). So acupuncture has certainly been shown to give your immune system a boost!
Regular Acupuncture treatments can assist in various immune disorders such as colds and flu, asthma, allergies, or can simply be used as a preventative measure.
Some More Tips
Other tips to maintain a strong immune system are:
- Reduce stress
Stress hormones have been shown to suppress the immune system. It’s very important to reduce stress where possible, by having Acupuncture, doing yoga, meditation, other forms of exercise, getting a massage, having a bath, listening to music, whatever works for you.
- Eat healthily
It might surprise you to learn that immune function is closely tied to gut health! In fact gut health influences most if not all of our bodily functions (including mental health!). It’s too complicated to get into here but suffice to say that the immune system and the gut have a very close relationship, so much so that 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut. So eat a healthy, balanced diet with good proteins, fats and carbohydrates and try not to overindulge in fatty, greasy, acidic or sugary foods.
- Get adequate sleep
Lack of good quality sleep disturbs the regulation of important chemicals produced by the immune system to fight infection. In fact, if you get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, you are 3 times more likely to get ill! This is why when you do get sick, you feel tired. It’s your body forcing you to get enough rest so that it can fight off the infection.
- Stay warm
Externally, it’s important to keep your body warm, and especially to cover the back of your neck. In TCM, this is where pathogens are said to enter the body. Internally, you can keep your body warm by eating spicy, warming and pungent foods, such as garlic, onions, radishes, cinnamon, pepper, ginger and chilli.
- Drink herbal tea
Astragalus root is one of the best herbs to boost the immune system. Asian ginseng is another great one. Otherwise, the good old ginger, lemon and honey combination is always a good option, and so enjoyable too!
If you have any questions you can always contact me, or if you’d like to take charge of your health you can book your appointment at Park Orchards or Mt Evelyn. Take care out there, stay safe and look out for each other!