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What can you do to stay healthy?

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared that we are now in a pandemic due to the Corona Virus Covid-19. 

Countries have locked down their borders, travel is being strongly discouraged, people are being encouraged to work from home, some businesses are temporarily closed, schools and universities have moved to online teaching and people are encouraged to model social distancing as we want to isolate the carriers of this virus, and hopefully prevent its virulent spread.

The hope is that if we socially distance ourselves for a period of time and do not exhibit any symptoms of illness in that period, then we could meet with others who also emulated the same way of life, and thereby grow our clusters of people we can interact with. 

We are encouraged to keep our distance, keep a clean and disinfected environment, wash our hands regularly and avoid touching any mucus membranes such as eyes and nose to prevent the virus from entering our bodies.

All of these suggestions are great, but sooner or later, we will go back to our work/play environments and may be exposed to the virus. So what can we do to ensure we do not get sick? What can we do to ensure that we do not pass on the virus to others?

To prevent ourselves from getting sick we need to ensure we have a strong immune system. In Chinese medicine, this is called the “defensive qi” or “wei qi” – our body’s ability to ward off contagions or climate induced pathogenic factors. When the defensive qi is strong, diseases from viruses and weather influences entering the body are completely warded off; if it is less strong, diseases may enter onto an exterior level and bring about a cold or flu, and if energy is very deficient, disease factors may penetrate to internal organs such as the lung and affect their functioning.

So how can we help keep our defensive energy high? How can we take steps to keep ourselves healthy? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Prevention is key: keep the social distance, wash your hands often, wash your clothes, keep your environment clean
  2. Light to moderate exercise: keep the circulation going, open the sweat glands to eliminate toxins. However, do ensure that you do not stay in a sweaty shirt or cold and wet environment after a workout. In Chinese medicine we say that cold and damp can enter through your open pores thereby triggering a sneeze attack or cause a stiff neck. In Chinese medicine, we would say that damp and cold have invaded your body. If you do feel that you got a chill, you can have a ginger or cinnamon tea and put a heated bean bag around your neck and shoulders to help you sweat out the pathogen.
  3. Do not tax the body by over-exercising! What does over-exercising mean? If you feel that your lungs or throat or nose are irritated after a work out, that you have a lot of mucus in your airways after pushing your limits, it means that your body is not strong enough at the moment and is getting tired or overwhelmed. Slow down the pace or duration as excess mucus production can be very hard to get rid off. A light tea (without milk and sugar) or warm lemon water with a pinch of salt can help reduce the mucus production.
  4. Avoid foods that create mucus! Why is there such a fear of the Corona Virus? It is because when the body is not able to fight it at the exterior level, and the virus goes into the lungs, it causes a lot of thick mucus which people are not able to cough out. The thick mucus blocks the airways and people are no longer able to breathe without being intubated and receiving oxygen therapy. So as a minimum we can ensure that we are doing our part by avoiding foods that create mucus.
    – Ice creams, yogurts, especially very thick and creamy greek yogurt, cheese, creamy sauces, milk are best to avoid when you have mucus issues.
    – sugar, chocolate, desserts can also cause mucus especially if you have a weak digestive system. If you tend to get bloated, or have difficulty digesting certain foods, or difficult bowel movements, this means that you digestive system is not working optimally.
    – creamy, rich foods that can make you feel nauseous especially if you have had gall bladder issues can also cause mucus in body.
    – eating too much raw or cold foods, can weaken digestive system and can lead to mucus production.
    – a weakened digestive system is not able to transform and transport nutrients properly and can cause mucus to build up in body.
    – have light tea (no milk or sugar) such as peppermint, chamomile or cardamom after meals to help the digestive processes and prevent mucus production.
  5. Keep a healthy gut! Eat whole foods, eat cooked meals, eat small meals, do not overtax digestive system by over eating, try to balance macro nutrients, and you can have probiotics to balance flora health in gut.
  6. Get adequate rest! Avoid stimulants especially late afternoon and evening, so as to get a restful night’s rest. With adequate rest you are stronger in fighting a cold or flu!
  7. Indulge in Spiritual Practices such as Meditation, and Diaphragmatic breath work while slowing down your rate of breathing. These practices can really help calm the nerves in such challenging times. It is important to stay calm and figure out ways to engage and connect with humanity. Practice Gratitude and Forgiveness with an open heart. Rigidity, Anger and Worry weaken the immune system and make you much more vulnerable to disease. In addition, the Diaphragmatic breath work helps you focus on using the lower lobes of the lungs, and keeping them healthy. The lower lobes of the lungs is where infection and pneumonia is usually harder to resolve.

Our front line health care workers have a very challenging time ahead of them if many of us get seriously ill at the same time. If they get too tired and exhausted, they themselves can succumb to the virus. So let us do our part, and keep our energies strong and help prevent the havoc the virus can create.

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