Fighting Flu Season with Acupuncture


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While the flu is actually not a season, we have become programmed to think of it
as the months of November through March. On average, the flu hospitalizes
thousands every year, especially the young and elderly. There are also a number
of deaths related to the flu, mostly due to people already having compromised
immune systems.

The flu, also known as influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that
is caused by a number of viruses. To date, there are approximately 26 to 30
different known strains of the flu virus. This is one of the reasons the flu vaccine
has only mild efficacy. The flu vaccine itself, typically only covers five to seven
strains of the flu. Symptoms of the flu include fever, coughing, a sore throat,
fatigue, muscle aches, pains, runny nose and watery eyes.

The good news is we can avoid the flu by implementing healthy habits and taking
care of ourselves throughout the year. The best way to treat a disease is to avoid
it. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a great tool to have in the toolbox for
preventing the flu. Utilizing botanical Chinese formulas and acupuncture
treatments can be very beneficial in keeping the flu at bay.

Regular acupuncture treatments help boost immunity, while balancing and
regulating the body’s energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”). Several studies have
shown acupuncture can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections
and shorten the length of time that somebody is ill.

TCM botanicals or herbs are also a great way to ward off the flu bug. Two herbs
in particular are specified for strengthening Qi and boosting the immune system.
The first is huang qi or astragalus and the other is dang shen or codonopsis.
There are a couple of other herbs commonly used as antivirals too. These are
ban lan gen (isatis root) and da qing ye (isatis leaf).

Along with TCM, there are other things we can utilize to avoid catching the flu.
Regular exercise, ample sleep and a proper healthy diet are two of the best
things anybody can use to stay disease-free. Exercising enough to break a sweat
without overdoing it has been shown to reduce the incidence of the flu. So
incorporating practices like tai chi, qi gong and yoga can actually reduce physical
and emotional stress, while strengthening the immune system and preventing
disease.

Eating a healthy diet is essential for preventing any disease, not just the flu. This
includes eating a very balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Foods that contain beta-carotene are especially helpful at boosting the immune
system. Carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes and garlic are good examples of beta-
carotene rich foods. Also drinking at least 64 ounces of water on a daily basis is
highly recommended. Ample fluid intake helps the body flush out invaders and
toxins, while keeping the mucus membranes and upper respiratory tract healthy
enough to fight off the virus.

Taking advantage of what TCM can offer, while incorporating healthy daily habits
will insure this upcoming flu season passes by without wreaking havoc on any of
us.