The Traditional Chinese Medicine Solution to Flu Prevention

The NY Times reported saturday on the difficulties in developing antibiotics to treat the antibiotic resistant super-viruses which have become common in recent years, causing a serious public health issue. The US is considering subsidies to the pharmaceutical companies to encourage future development. Antibiotics are not typically profitable for the pharmaceutical companies in comparison to drugs for chronic diseases like diabetes, allergies, or HIV. the reason for the lower profit is that antibiotics are only taken for a couple of weeks at which time the disease is cured. Chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, blood sugar disorders, thyroid problems or MS, require lifelong drug therapy as the drugs do not provide a cure. Therefore it is profitable for the pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs to treat these type of disorders. Because of the drug resistant super-viruses, & because flu viruses frequently vary, antibiotics must be changed year to year, so it is more difficult for the pharmaceutical companies to recoup the cost of research and development.

All of this means fewer drugs available to treat flus. So what is one’s best strategy for fighting the flu? Prevention.

Prevention means staying healthy. Keeping your body in optimal condition so that the immune system is strong and can prevent the virus from gaining the advantage in the fight. The TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) strategy for wellness highlights preventative care and intervening early, before disease takes hold. In contrast, the western health care model dominate in our country does not stress prevention. Rather, doctors wait for disease to get fairly advanced before commencing treatment. While TCM effectively treats both acute and chronic disease, this distinction in emphasis on preventative care is one of the many important differences between the two diametrically opposed systems.

Prevention includes the basics of eating nutritious food (3 balanced meals/day) getting optimal rest (minimum of 8 hours of sleep) and exercising regularly (several times/week) to keep the body strong. A good percentage of Americans are not emphasizing these basics, especially in this deep recession where we find ourselves running faster and faster on the rat wheel to keep from falling farther behind.

Living a healthy lifestyle takes effort and prioritizing. It is imperative for maintaining health and disease prevention. With the cost of health care skyrocketing in this country, it also makes economic sense to protect one’s health as disease treatment is becoming more and more expensive, and insurance companies are covering less and less of the costs.

In addition to the basics of healthy diet, sleep and exercise, other aspects of a healthy lifestyle must be incorporated for disease prevention. Stress reduction is a key factor. Stress is well known to cause illness. One of the first questions i ask patients with acute symptoms of any condition is has your stress level increased recently? after years of experience, i have learned that in over 60% of cases increased stress positively correlates with the onset or exacerbation of any health problem, including neck or back pain, headache, high blood pressure, stomach problems (i can’t stomach this situation) MS, chronic illness, colds and flu, and so on.

There are many articles in my blog and on the resources page of my website discussing stress reduction. Briefly this involves identifying and eliminating stressors from your life and implementing stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, qi gong & incorporating quiet time to your life so to help you deal with the life stressors that cannot be eliminated.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy are helpful in calming the mind so that you are more able to deal with life stress. Acupuncture releases endorphins, the feel good chemicals responsible for the runner’s high. Acupuncture and herbs reduce irritability, depression, worrying and treat insomnia, all of which weaken the immune system, causing disease to take hold in the body.

Acu/herbal therapy strengthens the immune system, so it can fight off illness. TCM is effective in treating most health problems, including colds and flu. My patients are continually surprised at how quickly TCM methods eliminate colds and flu, or reduce the symptoms so that recuperation comes easier.

So the TCM solution to addressing super-viruses is three-fold. First: living a healthy lifestyle to stay strong so that a virus would have difficulty overtaking you. I haven’t looked at the CDC stats on who dies from super viruses, but i’m sure i can postulate that it is the elderly, weak and infirm in much higher numbers that healthy adults. Being healthy is your number one defense against disease.

Second: integrating preventative care techniques. Regular acupuncture treatments keep the body and immune system strong. This might mean monthly treatments during flu season, and 4-6 weeks intervals at other times of the year. There is an oft used herbal formula to strengthen the immune system and prevent the onset of colds, flu and allergy symptoms called Jade Windscreen. Jade refers to something precious (this effective herbal formula) and windscreen means screening out allergens and germs from entering the body. This formula can be taken long-term, from fall to spring, for allergy or cold and flu prevention.

Other preventative care techniques include stress management activities such as tai qi, qi gong, meditation, yoga, acupuncture and Chinese herbs in addition to eliminating stressors from your life.

Thirdly, beginning acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy to treat the disease as soon as it strikes and to help the immune system win the battle against the viral onslaught. KB