Bolstering Our Immunity for the Season
Over the last year, I’ve been asked a lot about how acupuncture can be beneficial in treating Coronavirus. There have been a lot of studies done with herbs and acupuncture to both prevent and treat the symptoms of colds and flus, even the novel ones such as we have been introduced to in 2020. While we thankfully Phoenix hasn’t been one of the major hot spots for the virus this year, it is important to maintain all practices that can keep us healthy. This includes good sleep, hydration, exercise, nutrition and modalities such as mindfulness, acupuncture and massage to maintain our equilibrium in all areas of our lives.
Unfortunately, aside from a few blurbs here and there, I haven’t heard too much in the media this year about how to empower ourselves and strengthen our own innate healing mechanisms. Our bodies are beautiful things, designed to withstand incredible trauma, regenerating and producing powerful chemicals that protect us from invaders. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten that the body knows how to heal itself, and that if we tend to it and listen to its messages, we can strengthen this innate capacity for wellbeing on all levels.
One of the easiest ways we can do this is to move our bodies. Notice I don’t use the word “exercise.” I do this intentionally, because so many people have a negative connotation of exercise, thinking that this means they have to go to the gym for two hours every day, or that they need to suddenly become so passionate about running that they sign up for the local marathon. Next month. Let us not forget about those of us who may really want to go to the gym or a yoga class, but lack the confidence to even begin because we don’t look like the person next to us, wearing the perfect clothes and striking the perfect pose.
Moving our bodies should be fun. Get outside and breathe in some fresh air. Phoenix is gorgeous this time of year, so take advantage of it. Talk your two-legged or four-legged family members for a walk. Play catch in the back yard or do some stretching in the park. Dust off your snowshoes and play in the snow if you’re in a part of Arizona that allows such winter fun. Turn off the news and play your favorite music while you cook or clean, moving with joy to the rhythm of the music. Even if you’re stuck behind a desk working for eight hours a day, open some windows and doors to let in that fresh air, and take frequent breaks to get outside and absorb some nourishing Vitamin D.
Whatever you choose to do, do it with joy. Whenever possible, do it with a companion, again, two-legged or four-legged – it’s all the same in terms of sharing joy and love, and why not engage some mirror neurons to set off cascades of healing, uplifting hormones that come from movement and engagement?
Constant engagement with the news or current events is bound to create stress and tension in the body, resulting in increased cortisol levels and feelings of fear and anxiety. It’s great to stay informed but try and do this in a balanced manner. Limit your news consumption (this goes for social media feeds) to say, half an hour twice a day. If that seems impossible right now, what if you challenge yourself to at least cut your information intake in half? Do this for a few days and see if you notice a difference in feelings of anxiety, irritability and concentration. Notice if this affects your quality of sleep, especially if you typically watch the news before bed (please don’t).
Speaking of sleep, if you do nothing else, prioritize your sleep and water intake. Especially in the winter, our bodies need eight to ten hours of sleep a night. Give yourself permission to allow this natural healing time to take place. I know. I know. Some of you are saying, “I’m just fine with only five hours of sleep.” Maybe you are. And maybe you aren’t. Let yourself sleep in. Take naps. Do all the sleep hygiene things you already know best nourish you. And while you need to drink at least half your body weight in ounces each day, lay off on the fluids for at least the last hour before you go to bed. Hydration is good. And so is an uninterrupted night of sleep.
Increasing our intake of nutrient dense foods and reducing our intake of dairy, sugar (including pasta) and processed foods can go a long way towards keeping us strong and healthy as we go more deeply into “flu season.” I like to maintain an 80/20 rule, making healthy, nourishing choices about 80% of the time, and allowing myself to enjoy things that may not be as healthy the other 20% of the time. As with anything, it’s all about balance and bringing joy into all aspects of our life. Feeling guilty while eating your favorite dessert is much worse for you than the actual ingredients of that treat. Enjoy your coffee and your steak…in moderation.
Finally, of course, modalities such as acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic and other forms of energy work are extremely beneficial for balancing and strengthening our immune systems. Acupuncture can help to strengthen lung function, while soothing our nervous systems to allow our bodies and mind to recalibrate and balance of their own volition. Massage also help to soothe our nervous systems, along with releasing stored muscle tension and toxins that can build up in our systems, contributing to fatigue and general feelings of malaise.
We are healthiest when we are happiest, and we are the happiest when we are happiest. Engage in life and strive for balance in all you do. This will lead to peace and health, regardless of what’s happening around you.