As the world struggles to cope with the coronavirus, I asked a colleague, Dr. Sandra Kahn, to share her expertise as an Oriental Medicine Practitioner. In talking with her recently, she shared her views on how we can build our immune system and stay healthy. I asked Sandra to write an article that I could share with readers of Nurse Advocate. Her suggestions will help you do something positive for yourself during this challenging time. Please take a minute to read this post. Please feel free to comment on what you are doing to cope and care for yourself. If you have questions, please put them in the chatbox. I will do my best to get you an answer.
As an Oriental Medicine Practitioner, a common question I am asked is how does Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture work to help with the Immune System, especially during cold and flu season? Needless to say, this question has been the number one asked question in the past couple of weeks in the wake of what our state, our country, our world is experiencing right now. Discussing the Immune System is a conversation that I have been having with patients for over 12 years in my practice.
From the perceptive of Oriental Medicine, the body is a permeable organism that is in constant interaction with the environment. You may not be able to control your outer environment but you can assist your inner environment (your internal organs and systems) to be strong and healthy. In Oriental Medicine, we acknowledge the symptoms of how the body is processing the invasion of a pathogen vs. the symptoms of the pathogen itself. This shows us as Oriental Medicine practitioners what function(s) in the body needs to be restored back into balance in order for the body to process the disease or pathogen. The key is to restore function and maintain balance within your internal environment. We do this with acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, food therapy, massage, cupping, and gentle movement to reduce the inflammatory process, raise white blood cells and antibody levels, and release toxins to promote ultimate healing.
The best way to strengthen and protect your Immune System is by practicing preventative care and assuring a healthy Digestive System. Your gut is responsible for up to 80% of your immune function. Therefore, boost your Immune System with a healthy gut by reducing inflammation and building up your gut flora.
Your gut flora is highly sensitive to your diet, and unbalanced gut flora is linked to numerous disease processes and a weakened Immune System. Your gut flora manufactures vitamins and turns fiber into fat to stimulate your Immune System and strengthen your gut wall. The bacteria in your body outnumber your body’s overall cells 10:1 with most of these bacteria residing in your gut. Probiotics are a type of friendly bacteria that nourishes your gut flora and brings it into a balanced function. Fermented foods are the best source of nutritional probiotics due to their levels of lactic acid bacteria and quality nutrients. Some of the most common fermented foods include yogurt with active/live cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, and miso. Lactic acid bacteria are found mostly on the skin of healthy fruits and vegetables. You can increase your daily intake of lactic acid bacteria by eating fruits and vegetables in their raw state.
As you strengthen your gut health, there are *6* simple tips you can implement to help support and protect your Immune System:
Tip #1: Healthy Food Intake. In addition to the foods mentioned above, eat fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains. Foods and spices that may assist with immune function are ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, horseradish, and apple cider vinegar. Reduce and/or eliminate the intake of processed sugar as pathogens thrive in this environment.
Tip #2: Proper Hydration. Drink your water! Coffee, energy drinks, and sugary juices do not count towards your daily hydration requirement. Rule of Thumb: drink ½ of your body weight in ounces of water a day. My #1 secret on how I start my day with great hydration is with warm lemon water first thing in the morning. Why lemon? Lemons provide powerful antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidants, and immune-boosting properties, such as Vitamin C; aid in digestion as well as a liver and kidney cleanser; and reduce inflammation. Simply just add the juice of ½ a lemon (approximately 1 tbsp) in a 12 oz cup of warm water.
Tip #3: Get Your Sleep. Sleep is a vital indicator of health & well-being. It’s during sleep that the body processes the ultimate healing time. Assure you are sleeping 7-9 hours a night.
Tip #4: Regular Exercise. Physical activity on a consistent basis maintains healthy functionality of your internal organs and your body systems. Cardio, weight training, and stretching (such as yoga) is an all-inclusive exercise program.
Tip #5: Reduce Your Stress. Research has shown that high levels of stress hormones cause increased inflammation creating damaging effects on the body. Negative emotional states can alter your normal gut flora which increases permeability causing inflammation. Your flora can influence your emotional state because this good bacteria produces neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that play a role in mood and cognitive function, such as Dopamine. So…stop, breathe deeply, and relax. Panic, stress, anxiety, and excessive worry puts you at a greater risk for getting sick. Modalities such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, spending time with family and loved ones, appreciating nature, prayer, and practicing gratitude are some ways you can relax your body and regain calmness of your mind.
Tip #6: Practice Deep Abdominal Breathing. When working with patients, deep abdominal breathing is one of the fundamental practices I do with them. We have become a society of shallow chest breathers. Pathogens thrive in the lower respiratory tract. When you inhale and exhale, the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles around your lungs contract, thus expanding your lung capacity and allowing increased levels of oxygen to come into the body and releasing toxins out of your body.
By following these simple *6* tips in addition to strengthening your gut will help reduce inflammation and assist your body’s defense mechanism to fight against a foreign pathogen.
Most importantly, always practice preventative care and heed the advice from the CDC, WHO, NIH, and Department of Health. If you suspect you are experiencing any symptoms, please notify your medical doctor immediately and take precautionary care. Together we will rise up and move through this challenging time. Stay connected with your faith and maintain strong in your belief.
Sandra Kahn, A.P., R.N. is a registered nurse and Acupuncture Physician and owner of Acupuncture & Oriental Healthcare, Inc. in Davie. To learn more about Dr. Kahn and her work, visit her website at http://www.acupuncturemedicalcare.com If you have a question please feel to email dr. Kahn at [email protected]