It's officially fall, and cold and flu season is right around the corner. Many patients ask me what they can do in addition to their regular Acupuncture treatments, to stay healthy. Here's a few easy tips!
Drink Enough Water
Water makes up nearly 60% of your body weight, and is critical to a healthy immune system. Proper hydration helps all of your body’s systems function at optimum levels. Drinking adequate amounts of water will help your body’s own, natural detoxification systems function at peak efficiency, and help carry nutrients to your cells. Sugary or caffeinated liquids do not count toward the basic requirement of 64 ounces of per day. If it’s hot out or if you’ve been exercising, increase your water intake. If you find it difficult to drink plain water, spice things up with a wedge of lemon, slices of cucumber, mint leaves, or even a couple sliced strawberries for flavor.
Get Enough Sleep
When sleep suffers, the immune system suffers. Studies show that when you are sleep deprived, our levels of T-cells go down, and inflammatory cytokines go up, leading to an increased risk of contracting colds, flu, and other illnesses. Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and if you are among millions of chronically sleep-deprived Americans, try to get yourself a little extra sleep one night a week.
Get a Massage
A recent clinical study published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that a single massage will significantly decrease the body’s levels of stress hormones, and increase the body’s production of cells that boost the immune response. Seriously, who doesn’t love a great massage therapy session?
Among the many ways chronic stress can wreck your overall health, it lowers the immune response and makes you more susceptible to catching every little bug that you come in contact with. Choose healthy ways of managing your stress levels. Take a 20 minute walk, listen to a guided meditation at the end of the day, inhale a calming scent like lavender, or do a few simple yoga asanas to bring your attention back into your body and off of the day’s responsibilities.
Take Immune Boosting Herbs
Most people know to take some vitamin C when they feel a cold coming on, but what other supplements can you take to keep your immune system performing at its peak? As an acupuncturist and herbalist, I have a few favorites from the Chinese Materia Medica. As always, consult your healthcare practitioner before adding any new supplements to your health care regime.
Astragalus is an adaptogen which helps the body cope with physical, mental and emotional stress. It has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to fight colds and flu.
Reishi mushroom, known as “Ling Zhi” in Chinese medicine, has strong antiviral, antifungal and anti inflammatory properties.
Cordyceps has been shown to boost production of ATP,increase levels of strength and endurance in athletes, and also promotes the adaptive immune system, including cellular and humoral immunity.
Studies have shown that many essential oils have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. Diffusing oils into the air will purify the air and help relieve stress or boost your mood. You can also put a few drops of essential oil into a glass spray bottle filled with water to make your own sanitizing spray. Some great oils to choose for this purpose are Thyme, Lemongrass, Melaleuca (Tea Tree), Lemon and Rosemary.
Allison Blaisdell, MSTOM, Lic.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in private practice at Maverick Square Acupuncture in Boston, and also at Massachusetts General Hospital. She offers private and community acupuncture treatments, as well as online holistic health coaching and consultation. Her mission is to educate and empower her patients to achieve their best possible health.