Autumn is beautiful, but don't let flu season catch you off guard. Boost your immune system with acupuncture!
Biomedical Explanation of Influenza (The Flu) and Treatment The flu is a serious illness and should not be taken lightly, each year an estimated 3,000 to 49,000 people die from the flu.  Flu symptoms include: sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches and soreness, congestion, and cough. Swine flu is also often associated with vomiting and diarrhea. It is a good idea to differentiate between a common cold and the flu, because symptoms can be similar. Flu symptoms are usually more severe and have a more rapid onset than common cold symptoms. Just like cold viruses, flu viruses enter your body through the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes, or mouth. Each time you touch your hand to one of these areas, you could be infecting yourself with a virus, which makes it very important to keep hands germ-free with frequent handwashing to prevent both flu and cold symptoms. Although a common cold and flu both have similar symptoms, a common cold rarely causes a fever over 101 degrees. If you have the flu, you will probably have a fever initially and you will feel miserable. Body and muscle aches are also more common with the flu.
A common complication of the flu is pneumonia, particularly in the young, elderly, or people with lung or heart conditions. If you notice any shortness of breath, let your doctor know, because this may be a dangerous condition. Another common sign of pneumonia is fever that comes back after having been gone for a day or two.
Most flu symptoms gradually improve within two to five days, but it's not uncommon to feel malaise for over a week. Most often, you will need nothing more than bed rest and plenty of fluids to treat the flu. In rare occasions, a medical doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). If taken soon after you notice symptoms, these drugs may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications. Some strains of influenza have become resistant to oseltamivir and to amantadine, which is an older antiviral drug.
The best way to treat the flu is by prevention, please see the list below for natural methods to prevent the flu. In biomedicine, a flu vaccine made with inactivated flu viruses may be given to help prevent the flu. However, flu vaccines are made using old viruses from the prior seasons and are only about 60% effective in preventing the flu. The CDC released a study estimating that the flu vaccine for 2012-2013 was only 56% effective in preventing the flu.  Therefore anyone who gets colds and flus frequently is a perfect candidate to use acupuncture to boost their immune system and reduce susceptibility to catching a cold or the flu.
Acupuncture and Flu Prevention Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get colds and flus over and over again, and some people never get them, even when exposed to the same viruses and environmental conditions? In Traditional Oriental Medicine, colds and flu are considered to be external pathogens invading the body. When our body`s “qi” is strong we are able to fight off these pathogens. If our qi is weak we come down with symptoms of cold and flu: headache, chills, fever, body aches, cough, and sore throat.
Qi can be translated into many different meanings in English, in this case the qi we are discussing is described as “wei qi.” Wei qi is translated to “Defensive Qi,” and it acts as our immune system to prevent external pathogens, such as the flu or a common cold. When our wei qi is strong, our bodies can easily fight off illnesses, this is why some people never get sick. In recent clinical studies, scientists have been able to determine the role acupuncture plays in boosting the body’s immune system by enhancing the production of natural killer cells, which is the primary defense mechanism against organisms that make us ill. Natural killer cells also act on a complex immune building system that regulates white blood cells directly linked to the fight against infections, allergic reactions, and even autoimmune disorders.
For patients who are worried about catching the flu or suffer from frequent colds, they should use acupuncture in conjunction with western medicine to boost their immune system and prevent illnesses. Acupuncture does not have any contraindications with any biomedical treatment of the flu or common cold, so it can be added to other methods of treatment and prevention. A great benefit of acupuncture is that it has been used as a preventative medicine for thousands of years and you do not have to wait until you are sick to to benefit from its’ immune boosting function. In order to get optimal results, you should begin getting regular treatments a few weeks prior to flu season because your body needs time to respond and build up its’ defenses. Acupuncture should be continued until the end of flu season in order to maximize the defense of the body’s wei qi.
7 Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System for Flu Season
Get enough sleep. Sleep is the best time for your body to heal and regenerate itself. If you are suffering from insomnia, acupuncture can help bring your body into balance and restore regular sleeping patterns.
Go for a walk. Keeping active can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Reduce your stress levels. There are hundreds of studies with evidence that show stress negatively impacts health and reduces your body’s ability to fight infection. Go for a midday walk during lunch to help unwind a bit, you achieve #2 at the same time! Acupuncture can also help reduce stress by boosting your body’s natural painkillers, such as endorphins and dynorphins.
Cook with garlic. This herb has microbial properties that can help fight off certain bacteria and viruses.
Eat a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup. Grandma was right, not only is chicken soup delicious, but studies show that it can boost the immune system and may help you get well faster.
Limit alcoholic drinks. Brown University released a study that shows alcohol can suppress the immune system. Excessive alcohol is toxic to immune system cells called dendritic cells, which help seek and destroy invading pathogens. This can lead to more infections, and susceptibility to colds and flus.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. This will help reduce the number of pathogens trying to enter your body, and keep you healthier overall.
What Can We Do For You? New York Acupuncture and Chiropractic has 3 convenient locations in New York City one in Bergen County , NJ. We are dedicated to improving your wellbeing and restoring your body’s natural balance. We look forward to helping you boost your immune system, and reduce the risk of getting the flu or a common cold. Whether you are a commuter from the tri-state area, a Manhattan resident, live in New Jersey or a visitor, we strive to improve your health as effectively as we can. Give us a call and schedule an appointment to find out how we can help you: 212-293-1722.