With winter on our doorstep, you might be wondering how to boost your immune system. As an acupuncturist I am often asked how people can stay healthy, increase immunity and fight the dreaded cold and flu season.
5 simple ways to boost your immune system naturally
1. Wear a Scarf
A simple way to boost your immune system and keep colds at bay is to dress appropriately. In Chinese Medicine the neck is believed to be particularly susceptible to wind, which can leave you vulnerable to a potential cold or flu. Covering your neck with a scarf especially on those cold winter days can help to keep the body warm and reduce exposure to the wind.
Ensuring you dress appropriately for winter is important to prevent the body from getting cold. Wearing socks to bed is another helpful way to keep your immunity strong.
Sleep is key to boost your immune system. During sleep our body produces substances called cytokines. Certain cytokines play a role in our immune function, so the less sleep you get the fewer cytokines that are actually produced. Getting between 7-8 hours of sleep each night can help keep your energy and immunity strong. If you already have a cold or flu symptoms, ensure you get lots of rest. When we rest the body is able to use all its resources to help us get well faster.
Food is medicine. Our bodies naturally follow the seasons which is why we are drawn to warmer more nourishing foods during winter. In Chinese Medicine winter is associated with the kidney and the bladder, and is a time of hibernation and reflection. Transitioning from cold foods and salad to warm nourishing foods during winter will help boost your immune system naturally. Soups, stews, risottos and slow cooked meals are perfect winter foods. Not only do they warm our body, but the food is broken down during the cooking process and can be easily digested and absorbed.
Turmeric, ginger and garlic are also great to add to your food. They warm the body, increase digestion and are natural anti-virals. Incorporating warming spices such as cinnamon, rosemary and black pepper can also help to boost your immune system.
Bone broth is also a great winter warmer. It nourishes the kidneys, supports our vital energy (our chi) and helps to build blood. Simple to make, bone broth provides the body with easy to digest nutrients. Using organic or grass-fed bones and filtered water is best. It is perfect to freeze as a base for soups, stews and other winter dishes. Or to have as a hot drink with some lemon, honey and ginger.
Natural probiotics are also good to balance and boost your immune system naturally. Incorporating fermented foods such as fermented vegetables, kimchi, miso or non- dairy yoghurt into your diet helps to keep your gut healthy.
It is also important to stay hydrated, ensuring you drink adequate amounts of water and fluids each day. Hydration not only helps not our internal organs but also our largest organ, the skin, to stay nourished and supported.
Physical activity can help you stay healthy and keep your immune system strong. Exercise increases circulation, keeps the blood flowing and helps your immune boosting cells to travel around the body. While staying active and getting regular exercise can help boost your immune system, also be mindful not to over exercise. Over exercising can deplete the body and cause it to become run down, increasing your chance of getting sick. Finding the right balance for you is key to keeping healthy.
Something that might surprise you but can help boost your immunity naturally is massage. It can be used to nourish the kidneys which in turn generates warmth throughout the body. A great Qigong massage technique to do daily is to first bend over and using your fists bang over the back of your calves then up your back as you slowly stand up, then finish moving down your arms. Bending over stretches and nourishes the kidneys and the back of the leg, which is where the bladder meridian channel lies in Chinese Medicine. Nourishing the bladder and kidneys is another way to boost your immune system naturally.
Can acupuncture help the flu?
Short answer yes. Acupuncture helps to expel pathogens and viruses from our body and provides the body with an energy boost and nourishment. One of the best things you can do when you feel a sniffle coming on is to have an acupuncture session. Extremely restorative for the body as an acupuncturist I will look at increasing the energy to the kidneys and drawing the heat from the body. I will often use moxibustion or guasha on the upper back and neck area to help draw out the heat. Heat in Chinese Medicine is considered the root of the virus. Acupuncture can also help to settle an upset tummy and help to get blood flowing to the extremities. If you are feeling run down it is advisable to check you are not contagious before attending any appointments.
Regular acupuncture sessions will help to boost your immune system naturally to ward of colds and flu. Did you know acupuncture can boost the natural production of anti-viral cells for up to 3 days post treatment? Boosting your immune system and keeping it strong is key to beating the cold and flu season.
Beating the cold and flu season
When it comes to keeping colds and flu at bay, boosting your immune system naturally is a great line of defence. Keeping warm, hydrated and nourished certainly helps to keep your immunity strong. Acupuncture is also a great natural way to support your immune system ongoing, and to boost your immune system if you do happen to become run down this winter.
Grab a cup of warm herbal tea or bone broth and rug up this winter to ensure you stay healthy.