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Filtering by Tag: immune

Your Immune System And Sleep

When it comes to keeping our immune systems healthy, one of the most important factors is also one of the most overlooked: sleep. This has been a big factor in my health since we started sending the kiddo to daycare. Sure, he’s bringing home bugs left and right, but admittedly, my biggest failure is not getting enough sleep to combat those meanies.

Quantity and quality of sleep are both important when it comes to keeping those bugs at bay. Why? There are a number of factors. First of all, your body produces certain sleep-enhancing cytokines as part of a whole concert of physiological actions that help you fall asleep. Some of these cytokines are also beneficial in fighting infections. So when you sleep less, you produce less of these helpers and are at higher risk of getting sick.

In addition to a decrease in beneficial cytokine production, sleep deprivation also reduces the total number of antibodies produced. This creates the perfect storm - just introduce a virus and you’re toast.

Experts recommend at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night for adults, and more if you feel like you might be coming down with something.

Luckily, research has shown that acupuncture is beneficial for both the immune system (read the research here) and sleep (read the research here).

We also have herbal formulas that we can individualize for you - whether you need help with sleep, your immune system, or both!

As we talked about back in February, there are other things you can do to improve your sleep:

  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. If you can't escape a noisy environment, invest in a white noise machine, humidifier or fan to mask the offending sounds.

  • Stick to the same bedtime and wake time. Yes, even on the weekends! When your body has a consistent rhythm it is easier to wind down.

  • As part of your bedtime routine, shut off your electronics and dim the lights at least one hour before bed. Do some light stretching, read an old-fashioned book with real pages to turn, or listen to some relaxing music.

  • Try a hot bath with epsom salts and essential oils. The cooling of the body after a bath can help to induce sleep. Some experts suggest doing this about 2 hours before bed.

  • Exercise can help, but try not to do it in the evening, as it can have a rousing effect on your mind and body.

  • Avoid napping, if possible, especially in the afternoon, as this has been shown to disrupt nighttime sleep in some individuals.

  • Download the Relax into Sleep Meditation (#50 on the page) from the Meditation Oasis podcast page and listen in bed.
    ***This is the one exception to the no electronics rule. Get it cued up before you start your bedtime routine, and then just hit play and look away quickly!

    A good night's rest is an important piece of your immune system health, as well as your overall health. Don't skimp - make it a priority!
    Please feel free to talk with us about any sleep or immune system trouble you may be experiencing, we’re here to help!

Boosting Immunity With Acupuncture and TCM

What is the immune system exactly? It’s not an organ or a meridian like we use in Chinese Medicine. So what is it? In Western medicine, it’s described as a group of specific cells that act together in order to protect the body from foreign viral or bacterial invaders. These immune cells live all over the body. That’s why you feel it EVERYWHERE when you start to get sick. Typical symptoms are the headache, body aches, chills and fever, sinus issues, digestive problems, etc etc. Those are your troops rallying together to wage in the war against foreign attack! This immune response is actually a really good thing. Without this response, we would be susceptible to ALL of the foreign invaders ALL the time (that sounds horrible), as opposed to just the biggies.

When talking about boosting the immune system, we really want to make sure your first and second lines of defense are working optimally. If your first defense mechanism isn’t strong enough to kill or remove the virus/bacteria from the equation, your body will bring in the big guns-- the adaptive immune system to finish up the job. This part of your immune system is what vaccines are based off of. The body forms a “memory” of what antibodies it needs when a particular strain of disease attacks again. This is how it has the ability to fight it off faster in the future.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we focus on all systems working together to form the strongest immunity for your body, with an emphasis on a few meridians in particular. We look at sleep, gut health, mental and emotional stressors, and other illnesses affecting the system.

Coined the “wei qi” of the body in TCM terms, the immune system is boosted by ensuring that protective layer is stabilized in each individual. This begins with with lung meridian. Known as the meridian that’s the most affected by external factors, the lung meridian controls both the breath (obviously), but also the skin. If you’ve been around someone that has sneezed in your face, touched you after wiping their nose, been around you while they had the flu or a cold, etc, that might make you more susceptible to whatever they’ve got! Make sure you keep your hands clean and ask someone who is coughing or sneezing to potentially wear a mask if they’re in your environment. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

The second most prominent organ system we look at with immunity is the gut! Would you believe that our immune system STARTS here? More and more research is coming out saying that our digestive health is one of the most influential systems in how we fight off inflammatory agents-- whether that’s allergies, the flu, autoimmune disease, or general colds. The more inflammation your body is trying to reduce in your gut, based on what you feed yourself, the harder it’s going to have to work to reduce inflammation elsewhere.

For example, I had pizza the other night (Yes, I eat pizza sometimes!) and the next 2 days my allergies were terrible. My body was working overtime to digest the inflammatory gut-bomb that I dropped on it and in the meantime, my first lines of defense weren’t able to do its job keeping my allergies at bay. If you eat correctly, and feed yourself well, you’re giving your body the best chance to maintain health on all fronts.

Remember, our immune systems are as unique to each individual as a fingerprint! Not one system is the same, so that’s why things like acupuncture and Chinese herbs are especially helpful when treating the immunity. We can customize every treatment and formula to fit your specific set of issues - whatever they might be. Ask us about how to boost your immunity next time you’re in for a tune-up!

Practicing What I Preach - Fighting Off A Cold

Ahhh, spring. Now that winter is dying down and spring is spring-ing, it's important to keep our allergies in check along with maintaining some protection from the nasty colds and flus that have been circulating. SO, I thought I'd tell you exactly what I do when I start to feel under the weather; just in case it gives you inspiration on how to take care of yourself in the future. Think of it as a WWSD (what would Sarah do)?

As I boast to most of you, I don't get sick often. Almost never in fact. But recently, my immune system did get put in its place when I came down with a cold about a month or two ago. It started with the typical symptoms: sore throat, congestion/runny nose, headache and body fatigue. Of course it happened during my few days off, so I was busting my behind to get well before getting back to work. If I had caught it early enough, our Cold Quell herbal formula would have been enough to kick any early symptoms I had been experiencing. Unfortunately, I was too late for that stage, but I took a few doses anyway. Next, I took double probiotics along with shots of lemon juice, cayenne, apple cider vinegar, oil of oregano, and ginger throughout the day (all of which were cold pressed by a juice bar-- I didn't make them myself). The immune system starts in the gut, so I knew I had to boost the bacteria in my digestive tract in order to fight this off quickly. I immediately stopped any extra sugar (including fruit), grains, or dairy, so as to not contribute to any phlegm production or immune suppression. I drank hoards of Breathe Easy and Throat Coat teas (from Traditional Medicinals) along with tons of water and bone broth as well. I know, I know, at this point, it sounds like a lot. Within 24 hours I received 2 acupuncture treatments with Karen and she got me started on stronger Chinese herbs. I continued this regimen for 2 days, slept a lot and boom, the cold was gone at the end of 48 hours. 

The same can go for allergies. I used to suffer from horrible allergies in Austin, but here I don't experience much. However, when I get a little sneezy and start to get itchy in the back of my throat (the main indicators for me), I jump to the same sort of routine. Apple cider vinegar in hot lemon water, no sugar, dairy, or grains, and I take the AllerEase herbal formula. 

Long story short, I usually find the easiest road to recovery involves cutting back on some of the things you're used to, and incorporating a few things that you might be less familiar with. Also, as with most things, jumping on symptoms when they first occur instead of letting them become a chronic condition is key.

Wishing you all a beautiful and healthy spring! 

Immune Support - Keeping Healthy at the Change of Seasons

It's that special time of year - colds are still running rampant, and yet allergies are starting up too. What's a person to do?

Here are some tips for helping your immune system stay in balance:

  • Get good sleep

  • Exercise regularly

  • Keep stress at bay

  • Watch your diet:

    • Eat lots of plants - consume a good variety of fruits, and especially veggies to get your nutrients

    • Limit dairy and gluten - for a number of individuals this can trigger the immune system, making allergies worse, as well as making you more susceptible to infections by causing systemic inflammation

    • Eliminate sugar - it has a very detrimental effect on your immune system

  • Consider a few supplements:

    • Vitamin D - especially important in Colorado, Vitamin D has been shown to improve immunity

    • Probiotics - keeping your gut in shape helps to balance your immune system, as your gut is often your first line of defense

    • ColdQuell herbal formula - can prevent colds, or shorten duration if you happen to catch one

    • AllerEase herbal formula - treats the symptoms of seasonal allergies without the brain fog/fatigue of most allergy meds

    • Immune+ herbal formula - For immune enhancement, this formula can be taken throughout the cold season

And, of course, acupuncture helps!  

This review of studies from the National Institutes of Health concludes "more and more research has revealed that acupuncture can regulate immunity, for example, to enhance anticancer and anti-stress immune function and exert anti-inflammation effects." Check it out if you want to get super nerdy about all the different effects acupuncture can have on your immune system. 

As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.


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