It’s winter here in the Bay Area and I must admit, I snicker a bit when people complain.. I grew up in Michigan where “winter” means four feet of snow and -20 degrees. Nonetheless, people get sick here just as much as in the frigid north. There are a few good tips out of the Chinese Medical Dictum that can help you stay healthy.
1. Wear a scarf. In Chinese Medicine it is believed that illness can be caused by wind. The Chinese word for wind is “feng”. Yup, just like Feng Shui, which means “wind water”. Most of the acupuncture points located on the back of the neck and upper back have the character “feng” in it. This is where wind can enter the body and manifest as an achy neck and back, a runny nose, headache, a sore throat, and a fever. If you keep those wind points covered when you are outside, under an A/C duct, near a fan, or around any other cold and draughty environment, you can protect yourself from wind entering your body. On this same note, take care not to leave the house with a wet head. Also, if you work in fitness or love to workout, make sure that after you exercise you take care to change into dry clothing. If you feel damp and cold, you may be more suceptible to catching, well, a cold! Oh and flip-flops? Do I really need to say anything about wearing flip-flops in 45 degree rain? Good, I’m glad we’re clear on that.
2. Eat warm foods. Chinese Medical Practitioners believe that the Qi that protects us is made from the air we breathe and the food we eat. Cold food and raw food are more difficult to digest. This compromises half of the energy we use to build our protective Qi. By eating warm soups, steamed vegetables, and such we let our body focus on protecting us. If you must must must have salad or are a raw foodie, try to make sure that you have ginger tea with and between your meals to keep yourself warm.
3. Neti-Pot, Neti-Pot, Neti-Pot! Do your colds go straight to your sinuses? Do you work in healthcare, around a lot of sick people? Do you work around a lot of people period? Do you take public transportation? Do you fly a lot? If you answered yes to any one of these questions a Neti-Pot is a worthwhile investment. Our nose and sinuses are part of the primary line of defense against pathogens in the atmosphere. As we inhale through our nose, bacteria and other lovely things get caught in our nosehair to prevent them from going further into our sinuses and lungs ( I hope this makes you want to blow your nose:) A Neti-Pot is designed to help you rinse your sinuses. It is a little different than sinus flushes where you use a spray bottle to blow saline solution into your sinuses. The Neti-Pot is designed to gently flush your sinuses, not blast them. You can also change what you rinse your sinuses with. On a nit-picky note, I’m just not that into ramming a solution from a plastic bottle up my nose… I haven’t checked recently to see if sinus flush bottles are BPA or phlalate free, but I’m not taking any chances.
You can buy Neti-Pots at Whole Foods, Pharmaca, and other alternative health type retail places. The ceramic ones are best and they look like a little genie lamp… think, Aladdin has a head cold… much sexier yes? You’ll need a Neti-Pot, organic sea salt and a tincture of Organic Goldenseal Extract. Herb Pharm is one of my favorite brands. Goldenseal has natural anti-biotic and anti-viral properties and is great to put right where the problem is!
If you are just looking to prevent infections and keep your sinuses happy, you only need the sea salt and warm water. I keep the Goldenseal on hand in case I even feel a twitch of a sinus infection coming on.
To the Bathroom sink we go. Have a box of kleenex at the ready. Wash your Neti-Pot before you use it. Fill the pot with lukewarm water. If it is too warm, it will really burn and your nose will be very angry with you. You should be able to stick your finger in it and have it feel gently warm. Stir in a quarter TEAspoon (a tablespoon would not feel good at all!) of Organic Sea Salt. Make sure it is completely dissolved. If you are flirting with or already have a sinus infection or a cold, add a full dropper of the Organic Goldenseal Extract. Now the fun part…
Put the spout end of the Pot into one nostril so it makes a seal. Turn your head to the side so the Neti-Pot nostril is away from the sink. Lean over and point the top of your head toward the bottom of the sink. The more upside down you can get your head the better. At this point the solution will pour up your sinuses and back out the other nostril. This can be a bit creepy at first. If your eyes start to burn you may have used too much salt. This is okay, just keep it in mind for next time. When you think you’ve used about half of the water, remove the Pot and bring your head up. Gently blow your nose. Repeat on the other side.
If your nose is so blocked that the water won’t come through, use slightly warmer water, but not too hot. You can also try to gently push some air out of your nose while you are upside down, sometimes that will break the blockage loose.
I recommend using a Neti-Pot every evening for general health and 2 to 3 times a day with Goldenseal when you aren’t feeling well.
4. Miso soup. Food of the Gods and great for when you are just starting to feel sick. If you’ve got that little tickle that says “Oh god, here it comes”, get thee to Whole Foods for your Neti-Pot, Sea Salt, Goldenseal Extract, and a big bucket of fresh Miso soup. Most Whole Foods make them on site. Or go to your favorite Japanese Restaurant and get some to go. Go home, Neti-Pot your sinuses, take a hot shower, get your jammies on (socks and scarf required), get under a blanket, drink your soup and take it easy.
5. Get some acupuncture! If you come in just as your cold is starting, we can probably knock it out, or at least dramatically decrease the length of time that you are sick.