Every year millions of Americans suffer from the family of viruses we call “the Common Cold”; more still, will contract some sort of Influenza. Both of these common viral illnesses cost us greatly in time lost at work or school, the monetary cost of symptom relief remedies and, for an unfortunate number of us, more serious complications that lead to hospital stays. It is true that the need for serious medical intervention is USUALLY restricted to those with weaker immune systems, like the very young or very old, or those immuno-compromised by other illnesses/treatments. That does not mean that the average, “fairly healthy” person is not in some danger from viruses that seem to be evolving into some risky invaders.
Why is immediate help is Important?
In Chinese Medicine this type of infectious disease was seen, studied, diagnosed and treated centuries ago. Much of our information on these sicknesses was developed in response to deadly outbreaks that took many lives and prompted the doctors of the day to devise plans to combat them and save as many of their people as possible.
The earliest stage of a disease is easiest to cure.
One of the ideas that came out of this effort was the importance of early intervention. Two of the main theories of disease progression are the Wen Bing or Warm Diseases (four levels) and Shang Han Lan or On Cold Damages (six stages). They deal with slightly different disease types and presentations, but both track the progression of disease from initial, superficial symptoms to deeper, more intense symptoms. In both cases the earliest stage of a disease is easiest to cure. This is because the “evil” (virus) has not fully invaded the interior of the body and managed to take hold of a large number of cells. The patient is usually still quite strong, the immune system has not become overworked by the effort of driving out the invasion.
This is the optimal time to seek treatment. Why?
Well, a strong body is better able to take advantage of any help that can be offered by the practitioner. With Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs the focus is on helping the body drive out the “wind” (which is how we refer to this type of disease). Unlike the usual treatment in the West of just managing symptoms (bring down fever, suppress cough, dry up mucus), we aim to build the body’s own immune response to wipe out the virus so that the symptoms are no longer needed.
Yes, I just said the symptoms are NEEDED when you have a cold. The fever creates a hostile environment that kills viruses, mucus is the body’s carrier of dead virus OUT of your system and coughing helps move mucus up and out of the lungs. While they are unpleasant, just shutting down these systems of defense will not help you get better any faster.
By boosting the body’s efficiency in destroying viral invaders Chinese Medicine not only wipes out symptoms, but also shortens the duration of the infection overall.
Once a disease has progressed deeper into the body, it becomes more difficult to push it out. It has taken hold of more cells. Symptoms have lingered and the body becomes tired from fighting. Maybe you’ve even lost sleep, or haven’t been able to eat well or stay hydrated. All of these things make it harder to get well.
Acupuncture to Boost Your Immune System
Your Acupuncturist can choose certain points to treat the boost the immune system, strengthen the lungs, and help move phlegm and mucus out of the body. They can also suggest herbal remedies that do the same things. Often they can recommend herbs that you can keep on hand, so that you can respond to the very first signs of a cold starting – stopping it in its tracks before it gets a chance to get bad.
Prevention of Colds and Flu
Our grandmas used to say “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. What that means in this case is preventing illness from taking hold in the body – by making the body’s systems strong and resilient – is always going to be better for us than worrying about how to cure disease once it starts. This idea is at the heart of what Chinese Medicine Practitioners strive to do every day.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
In the case of cold and flu viruses it looks some thing like this: Cold and flu viruses are always present in our environment. At times they are able to travel from host person to host person more easily (because we are cooped up in the winter, on a plane or other confined space, or other factors make our immune defenses weaker) and so we have a “cold or flu season” occur. Some people suffer greatly from these illnesses during their peak “season” and even in times when not a lot of other people are experiencing them. Other folks tend to cruise through those peak times with hardly a sniffle, maybe having one bout of a mild cold during the entire year.
What’s the difference? The strength of function of the Lung and Digestive systems can determine whether or not you are a cold “sufferer” or “skipper”.
In Chinese Medicine, the Lung organ system is tied to our immune function. Strong Lung function is able to repel viral invaders before we experience more that just mild symptoms, sometimes no symptoms at all. It is a protective boundary built out of our healthy mucous membranes and skin layer. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine can boost the strength of this organ system, making the person more resistant to viral infections. The digestive system also plays a role in immune strength. In Chinese Medicine a weak digestion leads to phlegm and lack of energy and strength. This can be addressed by Acupuncture and Herbs as well.
Whether you have a newly developing cold or flu, or are one of the many people who tend to catch them easily, you should give us a call today and find out how this amazing medicine can help.