It is a little ironic to write an article about the cold winter season while sitting on a beach in Punta Cana in sunny 84 degrees. I promised a few patients that I would give some tidbits on how to protect yourself from the elements. I didn’t have the time over the last two weeks, so here I am!
I’m sorry but not sorry. I personally don’t need vacations during the summer months as many others look forward to getting away then. On the flip side, especially as I get older, I find myself logging into the daily weather channel much more frequently. As children, we are happy to play in the snow in the frigid temperatures with hardly a care when our hands or lips were frost- bitten. As we start aging, we tend to be more cognizant of the inclement weather.
Too quickly we reach an age where our joints can actually predict the Damp weather more accurately than the local weathermen! Many of my patients with arthritis can predict before a rainfall, storm or snow will begin.
Their joints start aching even more intensely. Their joints may swell up even while they are still indoors. Yes, this is a real thing! You do not need to be outdoors for your body to take notice of the weather. Even indoors, your body can sense the barometric pressure and reacts accordingly. Foods can have a direct association as well. Avoiding damp producing foods such as dairy, and cold salads and veggies can be helpful. Introducing warm, cooked, sautéed or grilled veggies is much more beneficial to avoid furthering the dampness accumulating around the joints. It can also benefit the Lungs to help with respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
Some people describe the extreme cold temperatures as causing pain and discomfort that feels bone deep. They literally dread the cold temperatures. Some are fortunate to be able to be snowbirds, and head to Florida or other similar warm climates during the winter months.
In Chinese Medicine we consider ‘Wind’ as the vehicle that allows diseases to invade the body. It allows the pathogen to gain entry when passing the surface level of your immune system. There are various types of diseases, and there are certain preventative measures you can take to help try and build up an additional layer of protection and provide an even greater immune boost.
If you were to describe wind, by its very own nature it moves and blows from side to side. It both kicks up and dies down. The same can be said for diseases that can be seen as brought on by wind. It can be seen in both too much movement, or in a lack of movement. A person who suffers a stiff neck with no range of motion, can often be found to have been previously sitting in front of an open window, or had the air conditioning blowing on them. The wind actually locked in and caused a lack of movement where they are now stiff. Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, in its freezing stage presents similarly. The joint has been frozen and is literally locked down. Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease demonstrate a combination of both too much movement seen with involuntary tremors, as well as a lack of movement when the person can get stuck or frozen.
The best thing you can do to prevent wind from affecting you, is to avoid a direct hit. If you choose to have a fan oscillating near you when you sleep, adjust it so it is not blowing directly on you. In terms of prevention, it can be that simple! Ridding the body of internal wind is more complicated. However, all of these illnesses are treated effectively by Acupuncture.
You may be familiar with the common picture seen hanging in many pre-schools showing someone sneezing while using a tissue covering both their nose and mouth. This is a very accurate way to teach basic manners. Warm diseases are passed on via the nose and mouth. Diseases that we are very familiar with today, such as Covid, the Flu, and even the common cold, are easily transported in this manner. The symptoms that can follow may actually present as a ‘Warm’ disease. One may suffer from a fever, have sweats, have a runny nose or cough that may have yellow or green productive phlegm. These are all signs of heat in the body. Typical over the counter aids such as Tylenol and Advil can help reduce the fever but it may be more of a band-aid masking symptoms than ridding of the illness. This is a case when building your immune system up prior to the exposure can be exponentially helpful. It does not mean to say that you will never get sick. However, utilizing Acupuncture to boost your immune system as preventative medicine, is the best defense you have! It can provide a coat of armor so that if you do have exposure and get sick, hopefully it will be minor and you will get through it much more easily and faster. I have seen this time and time again with my patients over the last few years.
‘Cold’ diseases gain entry to the body in the back of your neck. This is an area of exposure which can also bypass the surface levels of your immunity. Some of the symptoms may be similar to those presented previously when we discussed illnesses brought in by wind. However, to differentiate, it is usually accompanied by body aches and chills. The person who suffers from chronic internal cold diseases, may also experience an extreme aversion to cold. They abhor the cold weather to the point that they avoid going out in sub degree temperatures. We all have that one friend who is layered up beyond what we feel is customary for the current weather. This is because the chronic deep chill which can be truly uncomfortable for them. It is essential to layer up with clothing, especially wearing a scarf around the neck. This is a good time to utilize warming foods to heat the body from the inside out. Ginger, and cinnamon are very warming in temperature, as well as bone broth and hot soups in general.
When fever and chills alternate, it is a sign your body’s Wei Qi or immune system is working to prevent the illness from entering your body. It is what we consider the ‘good fight’ between the illness or pathogen, and your immune system trying to protect you. Regardless of which type of illness is trying to set in, whether it may be wind, hot, cold or damp, we all recognize that feeling of “Oh no, I’m about to get slammed.” Sometimes you just have a feeling that you are about to take a hit, where you may be lethargic or just feel like something is off, and where you feel it coming on. This can help with wind, damp, cold, or even hot diseases. This is an opportune time to layer it up. Take a hot bath and put on multiple layers of clothing and get under the covers. Forcing the illness out by sweating via your pores is a great tip. It can help to try and avoid getting sick when caught within the first few hours of something brewing. While it may be super uncomfortable sweating it out, it is worth the change of clothing if you can stop it from getting you sick entirely. That is the most important time to run for an Acupuncture treatment and make sure to continue pushing out the illness and supporting your immune system.
Maintaining and supporting your immunity should be part of your daily regimen. It should include exercise, proper nutrition, avoiding stressful situations whenever possible, and Acupuncture! The first examples are those which you can do for yourself. Scheduling and adding Acupuncture to your wellness regimen is essential during these challenging of times. Acupuncture can be the icing on the cake. In terms of optimal wellness, it can help you to weather any storm. It can also be extremely helpful to have your Acupuncturist guide you towards achieving better health with no negative side effects.
Even while on vacation, I continue to incorporate all my immune support suggestions. Practicing what I preach is something I believe highly in. Signing off from the beach, but knowing I’ll be back in 20-degree weather confronting the deep chill in no time.