Winter started early this year, and if it’s like last year, we can expect a long and cold one. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, external cold attacks the surface of the body and invades it through the meridians, the pathways through which the life-energy known as “qi” flows. Cold can obstruct these channels, damaging Yang (vital energy).
During the winter season, it’s important to keep your body warm, and not just for your comfort. Here are some simple tips to protect the body from the effects of external cold:
1. Keep your head warm.
Cover your head with a hat and your neck with a scarf, and dry your hair before going out. Keeping your head warm prevents your muscles tightening up with the cold, which can contribute to headaches, migraines, colds, flu, and stomach cramps.
2. Keep your feet warm.
It is said, “Cold starts under the feet.” Since the feet are the body parts farthest from the heart, they have the least blood circulation and lowest temperature. Cold feet affect the upper respiratory system and impair the body’s resistance, leading to upper respiratory infections and colds, abdominal pain, painful periods, and even cardiovascular disease. Use warm socks and boots. Soaking your feet in warm water before going to sleep can also help.
3. Keep your back warm.
As the site of two important Chinese Medicine energy pathways, the underappreciated back is actually a very important part of the body. If the back is uncovered, cold invades the body, diminishing Yang and Qi and potentially contributing to chronic bronchitis, asthma, allergic rhinitis and more. Keeping the back warm is especially important for older people with hypertension and cardiovascular disease. In addition to wearing warm clothing to protect your back, you can take a sun bath indoors by exposing your back to the sun in a warm sunny room for about 20 minutes.
4. Keep your stomach warm.
As the organ that takes in food and water for digestion and absorption, the stomach plays a vital role in the production of energy and in strengthening the immune system. Exposing the sensitive stomach to cold can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, indigestion, and low immunity. To warm the stomach, avoid eating raw food and drink fresh ginger tea daily. A great stomach-warming practice is to rub it clockwise 100 times, then 100 times counterclockwise before going to bed.
During the winter, many people feel lazy and reduce their activity. As a counterbalance, reduce the amount of food you eat in order to avoid gaining weight. Refrain from eating raw food as this slows digestion. Add these warming foods:
• Soups and stews, especially those made with rich stocks and bone broth
• Root vegetables, squashes, winter greens, mushrooms
• Apples, pears, citrus fruit
• Miso and seaweed
• Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
• Nuts, especially walnuts.
A few final tips to stay healthy during winter: Wash your hands regularly, get plenty of sleep, and reduce stress.
By following the path of nature and respecting this time of the year, you can protect your health, nourish your inner life, and enjoy the slower pace.
By Arwa Atwan
Arwa Atwan is an Ohio licensed acupuncturist and a national board certified NCCAOM practitioner. She sees patients at Future Life Now here in Northside. www.futurelifenow.com; 513-541-5720.