In Chinese Medicine, it is believed that our bodies are a microcosm of the world around us. As the season shifts from fall to winter, the environmental changes affect our bodies. Just as there are places on our planet that are dry (deserts, Arizona, the Sahara), damp (rainforests, Florida), hot (deserts, places near the equator), cold (North Pole, Iceland) and windy (Antarctica, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire), these conditions also occur in the body. There are different times during the seasons that these conditions are in excess or deficient. Examples of these imbalances within the environment include tornados, hurricanes, blizzards and drought. Imbalances because of climate changes can occur in our bodies, as well. Examples of imbalance in our bodies as the season changes to winter include allergies, colds, flu, depression and fatigue.
If you experience allergies/sickness:
- Stop consuming dairy, sugar, caffeine and oranges.
- Dairy creates phlegm and mucus (ex. yogurt, cheese, milk)
- Sugar lowers your immune defenses (ex. sweet treats, sodas, baked goods)
- Caffeinated beverages cause dehydration (ex. coffee, sodas, energy drinks)
- Oranges and orange juice creates phlegm and mucus
- Avoid over the counter (OTC) medicines. They suppress your body’s natural immune response to the illness and stop your body from doing its job, which can lead to a ‘lingering virus.’ It can lie dormant and resurface again shortly and/or it could lead to other imbalances within your body such as headaches, trouble sleeping, temperature fluctuations, increase in PMS, etc. Replace your OTC with homemade chicken noodle soup that will help you heal with ingredients including iron, collagen, vitamin-rich marrow, ginger and garlic. Taking Esterol Ester-C, Vitamin D, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) and fish oil supplements also can ease discomfort.
- Increase fluids. It is important to drink lots of water. If needed, use homemade electrolyte drinks and coconut water.
- Rest. Take it easy, go to bed early and do not exercise. Evaluate if you are sweating like you normally do. If you are NOT sweating, you can start the healing process by helping your body sweat again. Enjoy a very warm cup of soup, tea or porridge/congee while wearing warm clothes and nestled under some warm blankets with a warm hat. Once you start to sweat, continue to stay bundled up for about 30 minutes.
If you experience depression or the blues:
- Increase aerobic activity. Try to fit in 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity 4 to 5 days per week.
- Go outside during the day. Take a walk around the block. Exposure to sunlight relieves depression.
- Have your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor and supplement accordingly.
- Be social. Schedule more outings and events with friends and family (i.e. book club, shows, dinner, concert, movies, parties, etc.)
- Consider whether a light therapy box/sun lamp is right for you.
Lastly, according to the teachings of Chinese Medicine, winter is the time to hibernate and even gain a pound or two. Give yourself permission to slow down a little bit, sleep a little longer and indulge with moderation in your favorite comfort foods.
These suggestions are rooted in Chinese Medicine with a sprinkling of western medicine as it relates to incorporating some vitamins and supplements. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping and gua sha are all modalities of Chinese Medicine and can help your body heal itself as it experiences imbalances created by seasonal changes.