Healthy for the Holidays: Stop Illness In Its Tracks with Chinese Medicine

Our bodies are amazing and capable of keeping us in a healthy state (if we let it). However, as it often happens, we may over do it in one or more areas of our lives to tip ourselves out of balance—e.g. over-taxation due to work, play, exercise, improper diet, or all-of-the-above. As a result, our bodies endure more stress, leaving less time for self-healing. And rather than remedying with rest and nutrition, we often cope by consuming “unhealthy” foods & drinks, which adds more work for our bodies to process.

So… what should we to do to remain well?

Well, it’s actually quite easy, but takes a bit of conscious awareness. Typically, as we begin to fall out of balance, our bodies will give us little indicators, like a gentle alarm clock. If we opt to listen (and not hit snooze), we can recover quickly and bounce back into a happy equilibrium. However, if we ignore these little alarms and continue to live an unbalanced lifestyle (or more commonly, if we are unaware that these signals are even going off), the alarm will grow louder, then Louder, then LOUDER, until we voluntarily address it, or our bodies will shut down forcing us to address it. In the case of the common cold or mild flu, watch out for these basic alarms so that you can nip them in the bud before it blooms any further.

Alarm 1: Tickle in the back of your throat- You’re body is on the brink of getting sick. If you continue down your current path without making some adjustments, you WILL get sick!

Follow these 5 simple tips to self-healing, to get you back on track:

  • Get lots of rest- More often than not, you are just a bit burnt out from too much activity. So slow down and REST before you compromise your wellness. Consider also that if you don’t voluntarily rest for a bit now because your other priorities take precedence, just know that your body might force you to rest later, whether you like it or not, and it maybe even be for longer.
  • Eat simply– Your body needs energy to fight off any illness. But feed it simple, nutritious foods that are easy to break down into useable energy—like soups and steamed veggies. Avoid greasy and rich foods which expend extra energy to metabolize.
  • No alcohol- If you are coming down with a cold or flu and you opt to have a glass of wine or beer, or even a cocktail, your body will be too busy trying to metabolize the alcohol to fight off any illness. Give your body a break, and avoid alcohol at this time.
  • Drink plenty of water– Since the human body is made up of mostly water, it is important to stay hydrated to nourish the cells and flush out any unwanted toxins. Room temperature water is most easily absorbed.
  • Stay covered- In Chinese Medicine, external pathogens can enter through the skin and pores when the body is out of balance. By covering up, especially areas most susceptible—like the neck and upper back, you can create a barrier for illness to enter.

Alarm 2: Itchy throat and sniffles – You are in the early stages of catching a cold. In addition to the 5 Simple Tips (listed above), you should also:

  • Sweat it out. Get under the comforters and sweat out the pathogen, but remain covered. As mentioned earlier, external pathogens are contracted through the skin and pores. In the early stages of illness, the pathogen is still at the surface. When you sweat, you force the pathogen out. However, be careful not to invite them back in by exposing yourself to the elements after you sweat—e.g. exposure to cold air after leaving a hot steam room. Also note: (especially for the active individuals) Sweat from exercise is NOT recommended at this time, as it also taxes your body, thereby preventing self-healing.
  • Add ginger to your tea or meals. Ginger creates internal warmth to fight off your cold.
  • Strengthen the immune system with herbs or supplements. Herbs are very effective and powerful in preventing disease; however they can be harmful in certain individuals. It is best to consult a qualified practitioner before taking any herbs on a regular basis, even if it is easily available at health food stores. “Wellness Formula” by Source Naturals works well for general immune support. Take as directed on label.

Alarm 3: Sore Throat– Your body is now fighting against the pathogen, which creates heat in your body. In addition to the 5 Simple Tips, you should also:

  • Add mint to your tea or meals. Mint acts to vent out heat during the early stages of the cold or flu. Try “Throat” by Herbal Cup (available at most natural foods store), which contains mint and many other vital ingredients to combat a sore throat.
  • Use “Soothing Throat Spray” from Herb Pharma (available at most natural foods store) for immediate relief.
  • If symptoms do not subside, seek out a qualified practitioner to prescribe a personalized Chinese Herbal formula to eliminate the pathogen and prevent the illness from worsening.

For most people, if we allow ourselves to run the normal course of a cold or flu, we can expect to be “sick” for roughly 2 weeks or so. However, being sick is uncomfortable and can cause us to lose productive time. Wouldn’t it be nice to shorten that time to either not being sick at all or at worst 3 days?! Well, it is absolutely possible. The only catch is, you have to begin paying attention to your body and listen for the small alarms and respond accordingly.

I hope this quick guideline will help you maintain wellness throughout the year. Chinese medicine is very effective in helping us get through an illness quickly and preventing the cold or flu from developing into a more serious or uncomfortable condition.

Stay healthy,

Kairou Chiou, L.Ac.