About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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Immunity: Your Protective Bubble

Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of people in our office who are fighting off colds. In fact, a particularly long-lasting cold is making the rounds right now. Some of those people tell us that they seem to get sick all the time and catch several colds each winter. The first thing they want to know is how to boost their immunity.

In Chinese medicine, the idea of immunity is something akin to a protective bubble that wards off potentially harmful pathogens (viruses, bacteria, pollen, etc.) that make you sick. This protective bubble is called Wei Qi, and when it’s strong, it keeps you healthy by fighting off colds and the flu. Unfortunately, when your Wei Qi is weak, lots of nasty bugs get through your bubble and make you sick.

So how, then, can you strengthen your Wei Qi? Well, because it’s a kind of Qi, or energy, having strong energy in general is protective. One of the best ways to do that is by eating good food–lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, which are packed with vitamins; whole grains; and small amounts of protein. As important as what you eat, is how well you digest your food. You can eat the most nutritious food in the world, but if you don’t digest it well, it does very little to protect your health. If you have digestive issues, getting them under control will strengthen your energy, and ultimately, your Wei Qi. And yes, acupuncture can help get your digestion back on track.

Another way to boost your Wei Qi, is through your lungs. In Chinese medicine, your lungs also help build Qi, and are considered the most exterior of your organs. That just means that with every breath, your lungs are coming into contact with the outside world. As the most external organ, your lungs are the protector of the outside of your body, too–that protective bubble called Wei Qi.

Taking care of your lungs, then, is a way to boost your immunity. Deep relaxing breathing; exercise; avoiding breathing really cold air; and if possible, not getting sick are all ways to keep your lungs healthy.

Getting enough sleep is important too, for a variety of reasons. However, as it relates to strengthening your Wei Qi, it’s imperative. Your body heals and rejuvenates itself while you’re asleep. If the quality of your sleep is compromised, immunity suffers.

Stress, especially long-term unrelieved stress also has a negative impact on many of your body’s systems, including immunity. During the fight or flight response associated with stressful situations, your body turns down the volume on the systems you don’t need right now to deal with the stress. Immunity gets put on the back burner until your stress dies down. Unfortunately for many of us, stress is a regular part of our lives, so immunity is kept on the back burner indefinitely. Dealing with your stress, altering long-term stressful situations, and slowing down will ultimately help strengthen your immunity.

Finally, Chinese medicine itself offers a number of ways to bolster Wei Qi. Acupuncture is effective to fortify your protective bubble, eliminate stress, enhance the quality of your sleep, and strengthen your lungs. In addition, there are a number of herbal formulas, as well as vitamins (A, C, E, D, and zinc), that can boost Wei Qi, and if all else fails, treat the symptoms of colds and flu.

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