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A stuffy nose, a lump in the throat that refuses to go away, a throbbing headache, body aches… chances are, you’ve experienced one or all of the above before. With cold and flu season coming up, are you ready to resist the flu bug or are you resigned to downing cold remedies?
Flu, According to TCM
Flu is a respiratory illness that is caused by viruses. And its symptoms are all too familiar: nasal congestion, running nose, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, fever, headache and fatigue.
From the perspective of TCM, flu and its symptoms are not just the body’s internal war, but is caused by six external pathogens: “wind”, “heat”, “dampness”, “fire”, “dryness” and “cold”. Acting on their own or in combination with “wind”, each person may experience different flu symptoms.
Fun fact: the two common types of flu are the “wind-cold” type and “wind-heat” type.
The “wind-cold” type occurs more often in cold environments or seasons, with symptoms such as running nose with clear mucus, severe aversion to cold, chills, fever, and coughs with white phlegm. While the “Wind-heat” type flu occurs more during the hot and dry seasons, with symptoms like sore throat, fever, running nose with yellow mucus, cough with yellow phlegm, deep yellow urine, and dry or hard stools.
In battling these pathogens, having a strong “vital qi” (正气) is essential. With strong “vital qi” or immunity, external pathogens cannot enter the body easily. On the other hand, if one’s “vital qi” is weak, the body will be more susceptible to environmental changes, thus allowing external pathogens to enter through the nose and mouth.
Tips to Prevent Flu
Prevention is always better than cure, so practice these tips to help take down germs.
#1. Basic Hygiene
The most basic step to prevent flu is maintaining good basic hygiene. This means:
• Washing your hands often, avoiding contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
• Having sufficient rest
• Staying hydrated
• Avoiding crowded areas and close contact with sick people
• Covering your coughs and sneezes with tissue paper
• Wearing a mask if you are already down with flu
#2. Exercise Regularly
Like to sleep in? Too much sleep and rest can actually slow down circulation of “qi” in the body, allowing the virus to attack. To unwind, squeeze some exercise in instead! Not only will it release endorphins (the “happiness hormone”), the workout will also increase “qi” circulation and boost your immunity.
As a recommendation, do some moderate exercise such as jogging, swimming or hiking for at least 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week. Even climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift can help improve your “qi”. Time to get those dust-collecting sports shoes out!
#3. Have a Balanced Diet
TCM herbs like American Ginseng and cordyceps* can boost your overall immunity, keeping the flu bugs at bay. In addition, having a healthy balance of “yin” and “yang” goes hand in hand with good dietary habits. Eating spicy, oily and deep-fried food in excess causes ‘heatiness’, while ingesting too much cold food and drinks can harm the body’s “yang”, affecting your digestive functions.
If you’re already down with the flu, these easy recipes can help:
Brown Sugar Ginger Tea
• Ginger: 6 slices
• Brown sugar: 4 tablespoons (to taste)
1. Add 500ml of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Add ginger and brown sugar and boil on low fire for 15 minutes.
This recipe is suitable for the “Wind-cold” flu. Ginger and brown sugar have a warming nature, which can induce sweating and dispel the “Wind-cold” pathogen, relieving aversion to cold and chills.
Winter Melon Chrysanthemum Porridge
• Winter melon: 100g (cut into cubes)
• Chrysanthemum: 10g
• Rice: 50g
• Salt and/or sugar to taste
1. After rinsing the ingredients, add rice and chrysanthemum into a pot.
2. Add 500ml of water and bring to a boil. After boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add winter melon to the pot and cook for another 10 minutes or until desired consistency.
This recipe is suitable for the “wind-heat” flu. Both chrysanthemum and winter melon are cooling, and help to clear heat and detoxify, dispersing the “wind-heat” pathogen. Winter melon also helps to remove dampness.
*Disclaimer: ‘qi’ tonics like ginseng and cordyceps are not recommended to be taken when one is down with the flu.
#4. Medical remedies
If you find yourself down with the “wind-cold” type of flu, prepare a warm cup of Ge Gen Tang (葛根汤) for yourself and drink it while it’s warm. Known as one of the best choices in relieving cold, Ge Gen Tang (葛根汤) also works well in easing muscle aches and generate fluids for a quicker recovery.
However if you are down with the “wind-heat” type of flu, characterized by sore throat and/or yellow mucus and phlegm, Ban Lan Gen (板蓝根) can help dispel unwanted heat and toxic substances from the body to make your body feel less “heaty”.
#5. Improve Circulation with Acupressure Point Massage
Even while you’re sitting in the office or at school, try these acupressure point massage techniques to boost your immunity and circulation:
So the next time you sense a cold or flu coming on, try these tips to end the year strong no matter what comes your way!
Contributed by Li Guang Jun, Associate Senior Physician, Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic @ Eastpoint Mall and Serangoon NEX
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