Temperatures have dropped and we’ve had our first snowfall of the season. My local pharmacy is now advertising flu shots, which is a good reminder that flu season is just around the corner. Did you know that acupuncture for flu prevention works? Acupuncture should be part of your self-care routine for staying healthy.
Acupuncture for flu prevention
One of the strengths of Traditional Chinese Medicine is it’s ability to help prevent illness. Your acupuncturist will do a health assessment which will include a tongue and pulse diagnosis, as well as asking questions about your general health. The assessment will look for signs that any of your organs are not functioning at peak efficiency and may be an area of weakness that leaves you susceptible to poor health. Acupuncture is more than just needles. Your therapist may also recommend herbal medicines, diet changes or lifestyle tweaks to help keep your physiology balanced to prevent illnesses such as flu and common colds.
Acupuncture for relief of symptoms
If you do find yourself suffering from a cold or flu, acupuncture can help you get well faster and provide some symptom relief. First off – stay home! Most clinics will let you schedule a virtual/video consultation. Your therapist will ask questions and look at your tongue to assess your symptoms. They may recommend some specific foods or herbal medicine to take and guide you through some acupressure on various points for symptom relief.
Other flu prevention tips
Flu prevention is mostly about avoiding the virus as much as possible. Last year flu numbers were down due to the Covid-19 restrictions that kept people working from home and limiting gathering sizes. Other restrictions such as social distancing (staying 6 meters away from others) and mask by-laws contributed to the low flu numbers. Things you can do to limit your exposure:
- when shopping keep your distance
- send sick co-workers home
- work from home if you are feeling sick yourself
- if a household member is sick try to maintain your distance and have them wear a mask
- continue to use alternatives to hand-shaking
Frequent Hand Washing
This one should be automatic by now. The viruses that cause flu and common cold can linger on hard surfaces (tables, doorknobs, faucets, cutlery, phones, keyboards/mice) for up to 8 hours. Research has found hand washing is one of the best methods to prevent flu. Wash your hands frequently and especially after touching communal surfaces. Use hand sanitizer if washing isn’t possible – such as when you are out. Avoid touching your face – nose, eyes, mouth – as these are the main portals for the virus to enter your body.
Get Plenty of Zzzz
Sleep is when the body repairs itself. In addition to avoiding the virus, flu prevention is about keeping your immune system functioning at its best. If you are trying to keep from getting sick make sure you don’t over-extend yourself. Prioritize tasks and only do the really important ones. Get to bed early and get a good nights sleep to help your body recharge. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. Get more than you might normally need when you are trying to avoid getting sick.
As well as plenty of sleep you need to eat plenty of foods that can boost your immune system. Food should be our first medicine. Lean protein and plenty of veggies give us the vitamins and nutrients we need to stay healthy. Raw, crunchy vegetables are hard to digest so skip the salads. During the winter the best way to eat vegetables is cooked – lightly steamed or in soups and stews.
Try to get a good variety of vegetables and add plenty of root vegetables to the mix. The Skittles ad campaigns have the right advice, just the wrong product. “Taste the Rainbow” is great advice for getting plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Eating all the colours helps ensure you are getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
In addition to eating plenty of healthy foods make sure to avoid a couple keys foods that damage the immune system – sugar and alcohol.
Good blood flow is the key to good health. All of our tissues & cells depend on the oxygen and nutrients delivered to them via the blood. Our immune system is also dependent on the circulatory system. Think of it as public transit for the white blood cells and immune cells. They can’t get to the site of infection to fight off the invading virus if the blood flow is sluggish.
Moderation is key though. You need enough gentle exercise to keep things flowing, but don’t over-do it and run your system down. Think about a brisk walk for 30 minutes not a marathon run. Plus, if your house is full of sick people its good to get out and breathe some germ free air for a bit.
Relax & Laugh
Numerous studies have found stress to be closely linked to our immune systems. Short-term stress can be beneficial to the immune system. However, constant worry and chronic stress eventually starts to disable the immune system. Find ways to relax and de-stress your life. In addition to using acupuncture for flu prevention it is also great for stress relief.
It’s hard to feel stressed about anything when you are having a good time and laughing. “Laughter is the best medicine” is an oft quoted axiom. Take time to find something to laugh about and share that with a friend. People with good social support networks (ie/ friends & family) get sick less often. Other ways of relaxing can include going for a massage, seeing your acupuncturist, meditate, go for a walk, read a book, enjoy a hot bath with epsom salts… Pick something that appeals to you.
Go on a Cleaning Spree
As mentioned above, germs can live on hard surfaces for up to 8 hours. Touching those surfaces and then your face is a fast route to catching both the flu and the common cold. Be extra diligent about cleaning up during flu season. Disinfect your cubical/office area (even “at home” offices) – desk, phone, keyboard, mouse, computer. All areas of frequent touch in the house as well – door knobs, counters, desks, etc. A super simple disinfectant is bleach. Use 1 part standard bleach in 20 parts water. Wipe on clean surface and let air dry.
Get a flu shot
Vaccines and immunization are a touchy subject these days. The Covid-19 vaccines have polarized people and there is a lot of misinformation out there. It may feel like a burden to consider another vaccine. The flu vaccine is produced in advance of our flu season. Scientists try to predict which virus will dominate. Sometimes the predictions are wrong and the vaccine is less effective than other years. But it always provides more protection than no vaccine. Talk to your doctor about whether the flu vaccine is right for you.
In the tea above the ingredients all have healing properties: ginger fights inflammation, relieves nausea and stomachache and induces sweating; bulb of green onion induces sweating; fresh garlic boosts the immune system and provides a bit of relief from congestion; cinnamon is warming, an anti-viral and boosts the immune system; lemon juice contains plenty of vitamin C and green tea is an antioxidant.