Don’t you just hate getting a bad cough, cold or ‘flu – like illness …. it is always so much worse than we imagine! And if we get them frequently it can make us really unwell and unable to get on with life. Chinese medicine has a wealth of advice on how to avoid these common air-borne infections and helps to answer our ‘Why me?’, ‘Why now?’ questions. Ancient Chinese explanations may sound strange, but you will find that the basic ideas fit well with our personal experiences and knowledge. Instead of ‘immune system’, Chinese medicine talks about ‘Wei Qi’, and instead of ‘virus’ it describes an invasion of ‘Wind’.
Thousands of years ago there was no way of seeing viruses and bacteria, but Chinese doctors knew that some illnesses were caused by an invasion of pathogenic factors and they called these Wind, Cold, Heat and Damp (the capital letter indicates the word is being used with its Chinese meaning). Wind, which includes all the air around us, can take Cold into the body. The back of the neck and upper back are especially vulnerable to entry of Cold, so it is important to keep your neck warm with a scarf in cold and/or windy weather or if you are in a cold draught. Wearing warm and waterproof clothes in the winter may not be very fashionable, but Chinese medicine tells us they are important for keeping well. What a good excuse for a fun shopping spree!
Once in the body, Wind, Cold and Damp block the free circulation of Qi and this causes coughs and sneezes and lots of mucous (Damp) in the nose, sinus and lungs. Blocked Qi can also produce Heat, which you may feel as a fever.
However, our bodies don’t always allow this invasion of Wind etc. – sometimes we ‘go down’ with a cold and other times we get away with it. This is because we have an inbuilt defence system called Wei Qi. Wei Qi circulates round the body just under the skin and when it is strong it will protect the body from an invasion (or infection). To keep our Wei Qi strong we need good food and rest, and good air to breathe. We also need to have our spirits raised by relationships with others and some sources of enjoyment and meaning in life. You have probably experienced getting ill when you are especially overworked, stressed or unhappy – in these situations you may need some extra help to strengthen your Wei Qi.
A course of acupuncture can be excellent for strengthening Wei Qi – or in modern terms for strengthening the immune system. As an acupuncture practitioner I would need to ask you for full details of your past and present health problems and your current life situation, so that I can decide which aspect(s) of your Qi to focus on. If you like to take an active part in treatment, we can also discuss other things that you can do to help yourself. Acupuncture treatment will need to be individualised for each person, and for this particular situation. Drugs such as antibiotics may be an important short-term treatment, and one that can be used at the same time as acupuncture, but for a long-term solution it is important to strengthen Qi and get it into balance.