Thrive in Winter by Bing Qian
“A person who is healthy has a thousand dreams. A person who is sick has only one.”
When you think about your life goals and desires, I’m sure that good health plays a major part in most of them. After all, we need health to fully enjoy and participate in many areas of life: work, relationships with family and friends, sport and exercise, celebrations, recreation… I was reflecting on this the other day as I checked in on my progress for the plans I made for myself at the start of the year, and realised how important a role my overall sense of health and energy plays in their fulfilment.
I realised that I was feeling a bit sluggish and lacking energy in general… not sick, just slightly prone to sniffles, tired, and bloated. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to lose a few kilos for the past few months because I determined that was part of the problem and so I made an appointment at the clinic and discussed this with my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. And in particular, how to thrive in winter?
She determined which of my systems were deficient in energy and what I needed to do to stimulate and balance my Qi energy, so that I would be able to replenish my reserves of nutrients and energy, and actually thrive in winter, in preparation for the demands of spring growth. As well as boost my immunity against all of the winter colds and flu strains. It was one of those cases that proves the dangers of self-diagnosis even in your own area of expertise.
I’ve been reminding my clients to review their Chinese herbs, exercise, and eating habits, listen to their body, stop detoxing, and make sure they’re getting extra sleep so that their body stays energised and resilient throughout the winter, even when you’re surrounded by people who are sneezing, coughing and sniffling. Yet, I hadn’t changed my own regime to fit the changing season.
What Did I Do?… and What Happened?
- Exercise: I’ve changed my exercise habits and I’m doing less vigorous (for me) outdoor activity and more stretching and indoor movement.
- Sleep & Rest: I’m conscious that along with the benefits of electricity and 24 hour light comes the temptation to stick to the same hours of sleep all year round and to feel lazy when I go to be earlier or struggle to get up at my usual time. TCM tells us that our needs vary with the seasons and I have noticed that indulging that desire for extra sleep seems to result in fewer colds, sniffles and flu attacks.
- Nutrition: This is not the time of year to detox. Your body will function better on a nourishing diet that is warming and soothing and that meets your specific needs. My practitioner suggested that I swap my fresh fruit and nut breakfast for a bowl of rice porridge as a way of increasing my energy and reducing bloating and then eat as I chose for the rest of the day.
- Herbs: I’ve changed my herbs to balance my system and boost my immunity so that it can fight off infections and viruses. The beauty of using herbs to help you ward off threats of infection is that you can modify your regime (under supervision) to meet your specific needs throughout the season and strengthen whichever systems show signs of vulnerability.
Not only do I now have more energy, I also lost 2kg in the first week of this regime, even though it seems counter-intuitive given that I was eating more carbs and calories, sleeping more, and doing less vigorous exercise. It just shows the importance of balance and an individualised approach. i can’t over emphasise this enough – TCM tailors a treatment plan specifically for you, based on where you are currently at, and does not give you a general “one-size-fits-all” treatment.
Obviously I’m biased, but I strongly recommend that you schedule an appointment with your favourite Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner before you succumb to one of the many strains of viral or bacterial infection this winter. Your practitioner will be able suggest appropriate seasonal modifications to your herbs and diet so that you are able to resist infection, no matter what form it takes.
A Brief Word On Flu Shots…
One of the reasons I have chosen not to get a flu shot for the past years is that the vaccines are formulated on the basis of a pre-season guess about the most likely strains this year. I prefer to approach this by staying healthy and focusing on balancing and strengthening my immunity to all attacks – not just particular strains of influenza. Having said this, the influenza virus should be taken seriously, especially by those in high-risk groups where vaccinations are recommended, especially if you’re at higher risk due to age, pregnancy or chronic health problems.
Staying healthy and focusing on balancing and strengthening immunity is not the only solution to the question of influenza and so I advise our clients to discuss this with both their TCM practitioner and their GP if they are concerned. To be honest, like most health questions, I don’t believe that there is a one-size-fits-all recommendation on this subject because it depends on your particular state of physical, mental and emotional health.
Should you bother with cold and flu drugs?
While medicines from your pharmacy can give you some relief, they’re only masking your symptoms and won’t make you get better more quickly or stop you from being contagious. You can infect other people before you even start having symptoms.
And it’s important to watch out for how much pharmaceutical medicine you’re taking. If you are taking different cold and flu medications, you could risk overdosing, which can cause damage to your kidneys and liver.
Salt water nasal sprays are a better choice because they’re extremely safe and very effective.