Coronavirus: 3 Healthy ways to protect yourself
Published 7th March 2020
WOW, it seems like the world has gone mad. Coronavirus panic is in full swing and there is much talk about preventing the spreading of the virus. But are there actions we can take from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view to protect ourselves from catching the virus or, fighting it off quickly?
The terminology and philosophy of Chinese Medicine is very different to what we are used to in the western world. Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”) is described as Defensive Qi and is the closest thing in TCM to what we would call the immune system.
I’m sure you will have heard of Qi and know that it is a type of ‘energy’ or ‘life force’ in TCM. There are however, lots of different types of Qi, which move in varying ways around the body and have different roles/ functions.
Wei Qi is the “defensive Qi” and its job is to protect the body from invading illnesses. It moves in the space between the skin and the muscles. Almost like an invisible protective shield. So if a person has strong and ample Wei Qi, they are less vulnerable to picking up bugs and diseases.
How do you get plenty of Wei Qi?
Wei Qi is created via the spleen (digestion) by taking nutrients from the food we eat and combining that with the air we breathe. So many of us rush around all day forgetting to eat, making poor food choices or eating on the run. I know it takes more effort to think and plan our meals, but when facing times of physical or emotional stress, the investment made into our diet becomes increasingly importan
1.What should you eat?
The spleen is thought of as a hot, dry oven that needs warm food to work effectively. If you constantly put cold (literally cold out of the fridge) food and drinks into it, and damp foods (dairy, caffeine, sugar, alcohol) then it will not work properly. As a result, it cannot transform the food and air into Qi. This then leads to you feeling tired and the functions of the body all starting to decline (immune system dysfunction, muscles not working/ healing properly, sleeping issues).
Warm foods and old fashioned type cooking eg soups and casseroles are perfect. Chicken Bone broth is used almost like a medicine in TCM and it is excellent for helping the spleen to make the Qi and Blood. I recommend it to almost all of my patients as they often have spleen, blood and qi deficiencies. It’s relatively easy to get hold of on the internet, Ocado and specialist shops or you could even make your own. You can add the chicken bone broth to your soups, bolognese sauce etc. Around 3 -4 portions a week is ideal.
Super Foods, Herbs and Supplements
Nikki Hill, a local Naturopath recommends looking after your gut for optimal immune function as she says “80%of your immune system resides in your gut, so good gut health is key to a healthy immune system”. The best way to improve your gut microbiome, Nikki says, is by eating a rainbow of fruit and veg – try to get as much colour on your plate as possible. She also recommends incorporating fermented foods such as Kimchi, Kefir, Kombucha, Natural yoghurt, Sauerkraut, Miso and Tempeh into your diet a few times a week. These foods are readily available in most supermarkets nowadays. Avoiding refined, and processed foods as much as possible is also key to good gut health and she recommends supplementing with a probiotic if you have been on antibiotics in the past or catch colds and flu regularly as this will help improve your gut microbiome and overall immunity.
Nikki says “Vitamin D is a crucial vitamin needed for good immunity and deficiency in this vitamin is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection”. Unfortunately, a lot of us who live in the UK are low in this vital vitamin due to lack of sunlight. Nikki suggests getting your levels checked with your local GP and if you are deficient to supplement with vitamin D.
Nikki’s favourite herb to boost your immune system and improve ‘Wei Qi’ is a Chinese herb called Astraglaus. She says this herb is best taken as a tonic to boost immunity but cautions its use during an acute infection. The best herb to take, if you do get an infection, Nikki says, is Echinacea. She suggests taking herbs in tincture form for best absorption.
Breathing air is often overlooked in its importance to the creation of Qi. Literally try to fill your lungs deeply at least once an hour to revitalise yourself. Also exercising regularly, particularly an aerobic type of exercise is so important for long term health and wellbeing. Dan Campbell of Opex Fitness Manchester, recently wrote an interesting article as to why aerobic exercise is more suited to humans for long term health due to our evolutionary past. You can take a look here.
But in essence, improving the function of the lungs will benefit your health, in particular your Wei Qi.
It is also the job of the Lungs to disperse the Wei Qi around the body, acting like a pump. So it is important that they are kept healthy and strong. Obviously smoking is not good.
The lungs and the skin are connected in the Five Elements theory of Chinese Medicine. They fall into the category of the metal element . One function of the lungs is the correct and appropriate opening of the sweat glands in the skin. If the Lung Qi is deficient, the pores can become too open and allow an invading pathogen to penetrate the body. In particular, the back of the neck and head is a vulnerable area when it comes to allowing an external pathogen to invade, so it is really important to keep this area covered up.
The idea of eating well, exercising, breathing and staying warm are not new concepts when it comes to staying healthy. But for most, it is a regime that is adhered to for maybe half of the time. Eating well from Monday to Thursday and then it all goes out of the window for the weekend. What I would ask you to consider, is that by prioritising these factors for at least 80% of the time, you will be in a much stronger position to defend yourself from any incoming illness. Once we have recovered from the coronavirus, you can be guaranteed that something else will be on the horizon. How amazing would it be to have a full year without catching a cold or a bug, or at worst suffering for only 24 hours.