Eight Simple Ways To Boost Your Immunity During Flu Season

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Eight Simple Ways To Boost Your Immunity During Flu Season

Photo credit: William Brawley

Photo credit: William Brawley

As these autumn days get shorter and cooler, we start to be inundated with ads and offers for flu shots, reminding us that cold and flu season is quickly approaching.

Whether you opt for a flu shot or not, there are a number of ways that you can be proactive to boost your immune system before it has to ward off these nasty bugs.

Stay Warm

We’ve all heard that catching a chill doesn’t really give you a cold, but Chinese Medicine tells us to bundle up anyway.   The more energy your body has to put towards maintaining your core temperature, the less it has for fighting germs. It’s especially important to protect the nape of the neck from cold and wind.  When the muscles in this area get cold and tighten up, TCM says that the body’s natural immune response to germs is weakened.  A study in 2015 showed that cell response to viruses was weaker at colder temperatures.  So grab your scarf and hat the next time you head out of the house!

 Simplify Your Diet

Photo credit: Laurel Fan

Photo credit: Laurel Fan

With the weather getting colder, and Halloween around the corner, sugar becomes a constant temptation.  Processed sugar greatly reduces your body’s immune response and increases inflammatory responses, making it less likely that you’ll be able to fight off those bugs.  When you’re getting those sugar cravings, drink a glass of water, then go for some fruit and nuts.

Eating foods that are nourishing, cooked, and warm helps your body have more energy for fighting off the bugs that you come in contact with.  This is the perfect time for teas, soups and to make sure you are eating some vegetables daily.   It is not a great time for lots of dairy, salads, or other cold, raw foods.   If you are around people who are sick, or feel like you might be fighting something off, eating less meat is a good idea.

Simplify Your Life  

As we move from Fall to Winter, everything in nature slows down, but this tends to be the time of year that many people are packing their schedules with work, school, and social obligations.   Try to schedule some down time to read a book or go for a walk, or have dinner at home and curl up with a movie.  Give your body and mind some space to rest.

 Get Enough Sleep

This is the time when it’s more important than ever to make sure you are getting enough sleep.  Many studies have shown that the time when you are sleeping is just as important as how long you sleep, and that people working late nights tend to get sick more often.  Chinese Medicine’s wisdom tells us to be asleep by 11PM for optimal health.

Wash Your Hands

This is common sense, but it’s worth repeating.  Wash your hands before you eat, especially after riding on public transit or handling public items like menus and gas pumps.  Also, try to avoid the habit of chewing on things that aren’t food, like hair or pens.  Taking these precautions doesn’t make you a germaphobe – it keeps you healthy!

Breathe Deeply

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, autumn is the season of the Lung.  It just so happens that the Lung also rules over the immune system for the body in TCM.   So often in our busy lives, we breathe very shallowly while we focus on our work. Try taking a break every half hour or so to take 3 deep breathes.  This will help your Lung Qi to move freely and makes sure that you’re getting plenty of oxygen into your blood stream.  It can also help your neck and shoulders to relax!

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

Take a Walk

Walking or any moderate exercise is a great way to shake off stress.  Though any walking is good, walking in the woods or in nature has been shown to be even better at reducing stress and improving your health.   Plants emit a chemical called phytoncides that protects them from rotting and insects.   A series of studies in Japan recently showed that when people breathe these phytoncides, they show an increase in the level of “natural killer” cells, which are part of the body’s immune response.  The Japanese call this practice “forest-bathing”.  So go bathe yourself in some fresh air and enjoy those fall colors!


Manage Your Stress With Acupuncture and Herbs

Studies have found that psychological stress can lower your immune system function, resulting in more colds. Regular acupuncture can help your body to function at its best, boosting your immune function and lowering levels of stress-induced hormones like cortisol, which suppress your immune system.

While you are there, talk to your acupuncturist about herbs that can boost your immune system.  Stay tuned for more information on supplements and herbs for immune system support!


Photo credit: Piotr Pawlowski

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Showing 2 comments
  • amnon g.

    Good advises for retired or bored people.
    Simplest solution is to get vaccinated

    • Naomi Skoglund L.Ac.

      Thank you Amnon! I’m so glad you brought us back to the flu vaccine. The advice I’m giving here is relevant whether you get vaccinated or not because A) the vaccine only protects you against a certain number of strains of the influenza virus, but not all the strains and B) there are plenty of other reasons that people get sick besides a flu virus like the common cold, Streptoccocus bacteria, etc.

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