Use Chinese medicine to give your immune system a much-needed boost in winter.
The immune system is our body’s defence system, protecting us from external threats like harmful bacteria, viruses and toxins – as well as internal hazards such as rogue cells and free radicals. All of which are very prominent in the winter months here in the UK.
So how does our immune system work? And how can Chinese medicine help keep you healthy this year?
Everything you need to know about our immune system and Chinese medicine
Our immune system comprises two main parts. The first is innate immunity. This protects you against outside threats via protective barriers, like mucus and stomach acid. The second is our adaptive immune system, which constantly develops with you. Each time you are exposed to a germ or illness, your adaptive immune system keeps a record of it and helps your body build up a pre-programmed defence so it cannot make you sick in the future. This adaptive immune process is a complex system of chemicals, cells, and biological pathways.
There are many causes of immune deficiency in the modern world. Excess sugar, hydrogenated fats, dairy, heavy metals, antibiotics, recreational drugs, air pollution, deficient light, stress, inflammation, shallow breathing and physical stagnation can all deplete our immune system.
Another major cause of immune deficiency is chronic stress. One study found that exposure to chronic stress actually changes the activity of the genes of immune cells—making them more likely to attack the body’s own tissue and trigger an autoimmune response. And to make things worse, chronic stress also creates inflammation, which disrupts the workings of the immune system. You can learn more about it here.
According to the tenets of Chinese medicine, the human immune system has three primary centres: the thymus gland, the adrenals and the spine. The spleen, bone marrow and lymph vessels and nodes also play a key role.
Inspired by Chinese medicine, the Hayo’u Method helps to boost your immunity with simple daily rituals, that are as enjoyable as they are effective.
Chinese wisdom teaches that good circulation is the foundation of our health. Efficient circulation keeps the cells of the immune system moving, so that they can work effectively.
So, start with the Tapping Ritual. Bamboo tapping is a great way to boost circulation and encourage a smooth flow of blood and qi around the body, supporting your wellbeing whatever your age or physical state.
Tap your thymus gland every day. Your thymus is situated behind your breastbone, and it’s where T cells, which fight infection, are produced in the body.
Gua sha is a great way to directly support the immune system. Firstly, it helps disperse toxins through increased circulation. Then as the blood is reabsorbed by the body it promotes an enzyme (HO-1) which is both anti-inflammatory and immune boosting.
Gua sha offers a unique stimulation of the immune system through fascia and connective tissue.
Keeping our fascia moving is an important prevention strategy. As the lymphatic channels run through fascia, when fascia is ‘slippery’, the lymph fluid moves through easily and the immune cells within the lymph fluid are able to fight infections and subsequently, reduce inflammation.
Start by focusing on the chest, neck and upper back because it helps to clear lymph, moves blood and reduces inflammation – which weakens one’s immunity. The lymph nodes and tonsils are all in that area, so this motion keeps them clear and working at full capacity.
You can practice body gua sha from the comfort of your own home, we have lots of online tutorials. An added bonus is that it is safe to use on a wide range of patients, including kids, and it doesn’t require any needles.
There are many more remarkable self-care techniques you can do easily and from the comfort of your own home. Founder Katie Brindle has created a free immunity factsheet, which you can download here
Breathing, inflammation and the vagus nerve
Assessment of the Effects of Pranayama/Alternate Nostril Breathing on the Parasympathetic Nervous System in Young Adults.
Anant Narayan Sinha – Published 2013 in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research