Late September is usually a time of particular concern for my clients with asthma, allergies, and those prone to bronchitis and pneumonia. Accordingly, I begin working extensively with these clients in early August, strengthening their immune systems and helping to create resilience to the known challenges of autumn.
If we take good care of ourselves, our strong interior will keep illness away. If a particular pathogen is very strong and overcomes this resilience, our wei qi will activate to expel the pathogen as quickly as possible.
However, as we are being reminded constantly, this year’s cold and flu season is expected to be more severe, with the H1N1 virus added to the usual mix of flu and colds. As a result, even my clients who typically stay strong and healthy throughout the fall and winter are apprehensive about what measures to take to remain flu-free this year.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to ANY cold, flu, or other virus is two-fold. First, we “release the exterior,” and then we “strengthen the interior.”
What is meant by “release the exterior”?
If you are reading this article you have probably heard of “qi” and have a sense that qi refers to energy in the body that typically travels through defined channels (or meridians). You may not be aware that, in addition to this meridian chi, there are 27 other types of qi working in your body! One of these is called “wei qi” and refers to the layer of qi that resides just underneath the skin. Wei qi is the body’s defensive qi, responsible for providing a barrier against external pathogens (a bacteria, virus, or bug bite) that threaten to invade the body and do harm. When we speak of releasing the exterior we are speaking of energizing the wei qi so that it effectively boots out the invaders before they have a chance to penetrate. We know that our wei qi is strong if we experience only mild cold or flu symptoms while family members or co-workers are in bed sick for days. A rash or flushing with a drippy nose or watery eyes lets us know that our wei qi was successful at releasing the pathogen.
There are specific acupuncture points and Chinese Herbal Tonics that can boost the wei qi. It is recommended that these be used at times when you are feeling particularly run down, or when you may be exposed to folks who are sick or who may be sick. For example, I suggest to my clients that they use wei qi enhancing formulas two days before and two days after being on an airplane or a train, the entire week of the Christmas-New Year holiday, and so forth. I may also prescribe certain Qigong exercises to enhance the wei qi.
“Strengthening the Interior” refers to prevention.
It encompasses all of those activities which we know we need to do to stay healthy – frequent hand washing, eating right, exercising moderately, and getting enough rest. Acupuncture, massage, and ayurvedic treatments also work to keep you strong, healthy, and resistant to colds and flu.
If we take good care of ourselves, our strong interior will keep illness away. If a particular pathogen is very strong and overcomes this resilience, our wei qi will activate to expel the pathogen as quickly as possible. If our energy is weak and the pathogen is strong, we will become ill. It is then important to listen to our body and get rest, drink fluids, and let ourselves regain strength before returning to our daily activities.