Article contributed by Dr. Elysha Zamora L.Ac.

Winter is a time of rest, conservation of energy and hibernation in nature. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced society those are luxuries many of us cannot afford. That is why it is so important to follow the tenants of Chinese medicine for keeping our bodies strong and healthy during the coldest months of the year.

Chinese medicine dictates that we should live in accordance with the season. This implies eating properly, having regularly scheduled meals and allowing the body and spirit proper rest.  However, many of us don’t take heed of the seasonal changes, i.e. working long hours during the winter-time, eating hot and spicy foods during summer and not taking any down time. It’s these practices that can lead to imbalances in the body and to weakened defenses against fending off disease.

Winter should be a time of quiet reflection. The frigid and harsh winter tells us to “slow down”.  The winter diet should consist of warm and nourishing foods. All of our bodily functions, including our digestive systems, function at a reduced level during the winter to conserve energy. Eating foods that are easy to digest, such as hearty bean or scallion soups, steamed vegetables and adding spices such as black pepper are winter appropriate choices.
It is also important to take preventive measures against sickness this time of year, such as receiving weekly acupuncture treatments and taking supplements to strengthen the immune system. The body needs to conserve energy to stay warm as defenses can be slightly weakened.  Many acupuncture points serve the function of immune boosters- such Sanyinjiao or Spleen 6 and Hegu or Large Intestine 4. Taking the Chinese herbal formula Gan Mao Ling during the winter can help ward off colds and flu, as well as the homeopathic supplement Engystol. Talk to your practitioner to see if either of these choices would be appropriate for you. Practicing Qi Gong, Tai Chi or meditation can help keep the body strong as well as helping to ward off stress, which may weaken defenses. If you do get sick, consult with your practitioner immediately to receive an acupuncture treatment and begin an herbal formula. These measures may prevent the disease from further progression and may help shorten the duration of illness.

Following the principles of living in accordance with the season, taking preventive measures and allowing the body to rest will help everyone enjoy the winter season even more.  Taking care of your body, mind and spirit during this time of year will ensure that the winter months and holiday season will be happy and healthy.