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Immunity: Preparing for the Season of Viruses

By Dr. Mao, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D, Dipl. C.H., ABAAP

Despite smoldering temperatures throughout different regions, the season of cold, flu, and viruses officially kicks off. With children returning to school and adults back in the office after vacations and travels, the risk of contracting viral infections increases. Fortifying our immune system and adopting preventive measures is essential. Drawing on and integrating the wisdom of both Eastern and Western medicines, we can develop a holistic approach to enhance our immunity and prepare for the challenges of the upcoming season of viruses.

Here are five tips that I practice that will help increase your protection against contracting viruses:

1. Sleep

Sleep is critical for immune system repair and defense. Studies show that missing adequate sleep for three consecutive nights can depress your immunity substantially. Moreover, for those who think getting vaccinations will fully protect you, think again. Studies show that a lack of sleep the night before vaccinations may significantly diminish the vaccine's protective properties! I aim for 8-9 hours of sleep each night to ensure optimal immune function. If you have trouble sleeping, try the Sleep herbal formula.

2. Hygiene

Now that COVID-19 seems to be in the rearview mirror, although periodic spikes may still occur, many people have stopped hygiene practices acquired during the pandemic. These include frequent hand washing, proper cough etiquette, and avoiding close contact with sick individuals. Yes, I know you are tired of it. However, I still wear masks in crowded indoor public facilities like markets, airports, planes, train stations, trains, buses, sports games, and performances, which has gone a long way to prevent picking up unwanted viral passengers! So far, so good, as I've yet to get COVID-19 and have avoided any colds or the flu.

3. Herbal Support

Herbal remedies such as honeysuckle and forsythia, also known as yinqiao, and other immune-supporting herbs, are tried-and-true remedies with thousands of years of use to prevent and treat colds and the flu. Our Immunity formula contains these herbs, and I typically take one dose daily. It serves as a preventive, and at the first symptom of a cold or flu, I will step up and take three doses daily. Another formula I take daily is the Natural Immunity Plus which contains multiple species of mushrooms such as reishi, turkey tail, lion's mane, and maitake. Studies show these mushrooms support your immune and energetic function.

4. Stress

Daily stress management techniques are essential for preventing stress from suppressing your immune system. Try mind-body practices like meditation, qi gong, tai chi, and yoga consistently to help rebalance your central nervous system and prevent a sympathetic or survival state from depleting your defenses. Choose a practice that appeals to you. In-person classes are also available at Yo San Qi Studio. You can sign up for classes here. In addition, acupuncture can reactivate your vagus nerve and engage your parasympathetic nervous system to get you back to a state of "safety and healing."

5. Nutrition

Align with the principles of Chinese medicine by consuming warm and nourishing foods to help maintain a harmonious balance in the body and ward off colds. Foods like ginger, garlic, scallions, cinnamon, anise (the active ingredient of Tamiflu), curry made with turmeric, edible mushrooms, including shiitake, maitake, turkey tail, and lions mane varieties, as well as chicken broth, all support immunity. Learn more about food as medicine from my book, The Tao of Nutrition.

By embracing these holistic principles and practices, we can enhance our immunity and prepare ourselves for the challenges posed by the season of viruses. A balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, proper hygiene, stress management, and mind-body practices are all essential components of a comprehensive strategy that will make the upcoming fall and winter healthier and happier for you and your loved ones!


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