Chinese Medicine Tips for Winter Wellness

Winter is in full swing, and it can be difficult this time of year to avoid getting every cold and flu that comes around. Chinese medicine has some tips to help keep you well all season long.   The ancient Chinese were experts at observing the rhythms of nature and adjusting their lifestyle to match.  In the classical Chinese medicine texts, an emphasis was placed on disease prevention through seasonal adjustments in lifestyle and diet.  This is because the external environment greatly affects our body’s internal landscape, and when they are in harmony, illness is less likely to occur.  Here are four simple tips to help keep your body balanced and immune system strong throughout the cold months.


1. Accessorize

The ancient Chinese (and grandmothers around the world!) noticed that we have an increased susceptibility to pathogens like colds and flus when we’re exposed to cold. The Chinese noticed that this was especially so with exposure of the back of the neck, the head, and the feet.  Keeping all of your body parts warm will help insure that blood, nutrients, lymph, and immune cells circulate efficiently throughout the body, helping you stay well!  So get out those scarves, hats, gloves, warm wool socks, and slippers, and keep yourself bundled up!


2. get More Rest

As days got shorter and colder in winter, the ancient Chinese noticed that many animals became less active, conserving energy and resources until Springtime.  They noticed that people’s health also fared better if they conserved more energy in Winter by being less active.  On top of that, the masters of Chinese medicine said it was appropriate to increase our time sleeping to correspond with the longer nights in winter.  It’s always important to listen to your body, but when listening, many people notice this desire to do more mellow activities in the winter and sleep in a little later.  If so, follow this instinct! Of course, all things in moderation.  This is not a suggestion to sit on the couch and do nothing all winter. ;-)


3. choose Warm Drinks

Just like Chinese Medicine urges us to stay warm with what we put on our bodies during winter, it also urges us to only put warm things in our bodies.  This means no cool or cold drinks which are thought to be appropriate only at the height of summer when we really need to cool off.  In the winter, all drinks, including water should be warm.  The good news is that you can boost your health in two ways by having your warm drinks be nourishing and immune boosting teas!  Two local tea shops that I love, Tea Chai Te and Townshend’s Tea, have some great immune boosting blends.


4. eat Well Cooked Foods

Along the same lines as the warm drinks, the classical Chinese medicine texts stated that human health remained more balanced when foods were warm and well cooked in winter.  This is because raw and cold foods are considered cooling to the body, and with the externally cold conditions, this further stresses the body. Cooked foods, by contrast, have a warming effect on the body.  Different cooking methods also affect the overall warming effect of the food.  For example, roasting a vegetable will add more warmth to it than steaming.  If you want to learn more about this Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pritchard explains it in more depth.  I know that some people really enjoy having smoothies throughout the year as an easy way of eating fruits and vegetables, but practitioners of Chinese medicine would caution that these cold, raw fruits and vegetables are doing more harm than good by overwhelming the digestive system with cold.  Consider swapping out that routine for cooked veggies and eggs or a warm bowl of oatmeal with nuts, seeds, and cooked fruit in the cooler months.