Dare I say that we're fiiiiinally getting through the worst of the cold & flu season? This undoubtedly has been one of the worst seasons on record. People are still trying to get rid of bad flu viruses and the weather seems to not want to warm at all. This means your immune system needs an extra boost right now.

We're a very reactive society - we tend to talk about helping our immune systems once we're already sick. But what about being proactive and keeping our bodies as healthy and squeaky clean as we can? Studies show you can successfully slide through the sick season unscathed, with just a little TLC for your immunity.

Here are some easy and quick tips to keep you on the healthy side of life:
*Consult your physician before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications

1) Gut health
Hands down, your gut health is your #1 marker for your immune health.
Probiotics are at the top of this section. You have single strain and multi-strain varieties. Be careful though with the advertising - more is not always better with bacteria. Many capsules and yogurts will advertise "8 different strands!," which really means there are 8 different bacteria strands that likely will compete with each other for the right to live in your gut. Some people are sensitive to that, and can feel quite sick or compromised. Regardless what you choose, make sure that you have the Lactobacillus (helps with carbs and lactic acid) and L. acidophilus (anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial) species.
ACV. Apple cider vinegar is immensely popular for helping neutralize your stomach acid. I personally love Bragg's ACV far better than any other label. Mix one teaspoon of ACV with a few ounces of water and enjoy that on an empty stomach in the morning, within 30 minutes of waking up. You can also add a bit of honey to the ACV if it's particularly strong for you.
Marshmallow root extract. This herb has been documented all the way back to ancient Egypt. It's widely used to soothe the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. It's commonly used for dry cough, constipation, diarrhea and minor stomach ulcers. Dilute one dropper of the liquid with 8oz. of water one time a day.

2) Stress
Chronic states of stress can wreak havoc for your immune system. Stress causes chronic inflammation that is harmful to tissues in your body, and it suppresses your immune cells that are needed to fight infections. Some studies have suggested there is a link between chronic stress and autoimmune diseases, as well as the growth of pre-cancerous cells.
Although many find it difficult, meditation is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to ease stress. There are many apps to guide you with this, as well as meditation centers. Start with an easy goal, like 2 minutes, and increase it by 1 minute every other day. Make it part of your routine. Other accessible ways to destress include putting your legs up the wall (helps calm your nervous system, EFT or tapping... and there is always acupuncture :).

3) Sleep
We are terrible at sleeping. I'm even writing this blog after midnight; I'm guilty of it, too! It's so crucial to receive at least 7-8 hours of sleep (new parents, I'm sorry, I know that doesn't include you quite yet). Sleep and the circadian system have a strong regulatory influence on the immune system. Research shows that numbers of T-cells (the good guys that fight infection) increase during sleep cycles. Also, proteins called cytokines are also produced when you're catching zzz's. Cytokines are essential messengers during an immune response and help your system react quickly and effectively.

My appointment is over. Now what?

You just had an acupuncture treatment, and you can’t remember what you’re supposed to do for post-treatment care. Read up for a refresher!

Q: This was my first acupuncture appointment. What should I do now? 

A: Give yourself a restful 24 hours, or rest as much as possible. The most important things to remember are to: 

  1. Drink plenty of water, as water helps the lymphatic system flush out toxins in your body and also helps moisten the connective tissue spaces where the acupuncture points were applied.
  2. Eat a good meal. Go for warm, cooked foods instead of raw, cold foods, as warm meals are easier for your GI tract to digest. Leafy greens, grains and healthy protein are all good options.
  3. Get plenty of rest. Most people sleep better the night after they receive acupuncture. Make sure the time you spend in bed is at least 7 hours, or ideally 8-9 hours.

Q: My muscles are really sore from the trigger point therapy we did. What can I do for the soreness?

A: Try applying heat to the area, like a warm towel or heating pad. Epsom salts are also wonderful to use, as they have lots of magnesium, which is great for sore muscles. Keep in mind that the soreness is a natural reaction, and is just from the release of lactic acid and other biochemicals from your muscles. The soreness usually subsides within 24 hours.

Q: I’m supposed to do foam rolling for my area we worked on. How do I use the foam roller for the specific area?

A: A general rule of thumb is to roll along the direction of your muscles. For example, if your quads are tight, use the foam roller up and down the quads. If your back is achy, foam roll up and down, vertically to your spine. For hard to reach areas, such as the hip flexors (yes cyclists and runners, that’s you!), grab a lacrosse ball and get in those tight areas. Foam rolling should be intense but not incredibly painful.

Q: When should I come back in for treatment?

A: It depends on what we’re working on. For new injuries, I need to see you once a week for 4-6 weeks so we can get a routine going for your rehab. If it’s a chronic injury, it’s usually once a week for 2-3 weeks, and then every other week for 2-3 weeks. If you’re coming in for maintenance, that frequency is up to you. Most of my clients come in every two or three weeks for maintenance. The most important thing is to remember that acupuncture is preventative. I need to see you before your symptoms flare up (whether that be allergies, pain and constriction, insomnia, digestive issues, etc.).

If you have any specific questions, you can always reach me via email or text! I will always respond at my earliest convenience.