Immune-Boosting Strategies to Stay Ahead of the Cold – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Posted: September 14, 2020 at 7:58 pm

In a season when we would usually be out cheering on our local sports teams, we are spending more time at home and repeating a new mantra: Wash your hands, practice social distancing, wear a mask.

But what if you could play offense instead of defense to fend off colds and viruses? What if adjusting your daily habits could build your immunity to help your body fend off illness, not only this year but every year?

Thats not only possible, says Katie Moksnes Bowman, its something she encourages her patients to do every day.

Stress is the number one way we increase inflammation in the body, says Moksnes Bowman, a licensed acupuncturist and Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine (DACM) for Northwestern Health Sciences University. She says inflammation can affect digestion, sleep patterns, pain, and your bodys immunity.

The key to improving your immunity is to reduce inflammation in your body.

The amount of stress that has been created from the pandemic is causing issues for people physically and emotionally, she says. In Chinese medicine, your digestion matters, sleep matters, your immune system matters.

When I am in practice with a patient, we talk about sleep, bowels, diet and movement at every single treatment. I really want to work with them where theyre at.

She sees patients ranging from professional athletes to seniors with mobility issues and everyone in between, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.

In Chinese medicine, we really view the body as a whole, she says. For example, if a patient has shoulder pain, Moksnes Bowman proceeds knowing the shoulder does not work independently from the rest of the body.

"The amount of stress that has been created from the pandemic is causing issues for people physically and emotionally. In Chinese medicine, your digestion matters, sleep matters, your immune system matters." Kate Moksnes Bowman, Northwestern Health Sciences University

If you are not digesting your foods properly, if youre not getting a good nights sleep, she says, I can do a ton of work on your shoulder, but its not going to repair well.

To help patients improve their health and build their immunity, she suggests small changes in diet and exercise, such as drinking enough water, reducing caffeine and sugar consumption, adding anti-inflammatory foods to their diet, and getting more movement every day.

I am not going to overhaul your whole diet, she says. If you do not want to stop eating pizza, I cannot make you stop eating pizza. But she might suggest that you try goat cheese on your pizza or sample a cauliflower crust.

I see myself as a reminder person, she says. I have patients come in and I say, How did your diet go this week? Did you eat something green? That means a plant, you know, not a green Jolly Rancher.

That question always gets a laugh, but the point is that little changes can make a difference in reducing inflammation and improving immunity.

When we are talking about diet and exercise, both of those things reduce inflammation and so does sleeping. Sleeping is a time to repair your body, Moksnes Bowman says. Asked what tops her list as the most important step, she says: Its not a hierarchy for me. Its more of a circle than a list, because all of those things are going to influence the next thing.

Small adjustments in diet and exercise are something patients do on their own between clinic visits, where Moksnes Bowman and other practitioners offer a range of therapies, from acupuncture and massage to cupping, Gua Sha, herbal medicine and even recipes to help improve your immunity.

If you have a lot of stress and are getting the common cold five times a winter, I would suggest you consider herbal medicine, she says. She advises against buying supplements in the grocery aisle. Seek a health professional who is specialized before taking Vitamin D, C or Elderberry syrup. They are all really good things, but theyre not always the right thing for everybody. Its always important to make sure you are taking the right amount.

Creating good sleep habits and a good sleeping environment are important, too. If you are on your phone or watching TV at night, the blue light from the device stimulates a part of the brain that doesn't allow you to fall asleep as well, she says.

Improved diet and exercise, combined with acupuncture or other types of Chinese medicine, can reduce inflammation over time by increasing blood flow and releasing endorphins, which Moksnes Bowman describes as that calm, happy hormone. That is our own bodys way of reducing pain in the body.

And that calm, happy hormone can lead to a good nights sleep, as described in a text from one of Moksnes Bowmans patients, who said: I cant believe how much my sleep improved by getting acupuncture.

The results arent anecdotal, she says. Sleep-tracking devices demonstrate that acupuncture can improve sleep; they record how well and deeply you are sleeping and if you are waking frequently during the night.

And while youre getting those extra ZZZs, your body is resting and fortifying its immunity.

One of the side effects of social distancing and working from home has been an increase in loneliness. Moksnes Bowman says that after a brief shutdown of the NWHSU Bloomington Clinic several months ago, she noticed two things when the clinic reopened: Patients who had missed appointments were in pain, and they were lonely.

People wanted to talk for so long, she says. I made my treatments a bit longer so patients could just talk, because people were feeling lonely.

She and other practitioners frequently refer patients to therapists, Tai Chi or Pilates instructors or others when they see an opportunity to help the patient move, relax or sort things out. Taking a deep breath and getting some release is also good for building a sense of well-being.

Think of amping up your immune system as the ultimate DIY project. Add some green to your diet, make sure you drink enough water, cut out some caffeine and get enough sleep for starters, and then add some acupuncture or massage. Together those steps can help fortify your immunity.

And keep in mind that this year, none of that replaces the need to frequently wash your hands, socially distance wherever possible and wear a mask when its not.

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Located in Bloomington,Northwestern Health Sciences Universityis a pioneer in integrative natural health care education, offering degree programs in chiropractic, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, massage therapy, medical assisting, medical laboratory programs, post-bac/pre-health, radiation therapy, and B.S. completion. At press time, itsBloomington clinicis open to the public and services include chiropractic care, Chinese medicine, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine, Bloomington Clinic offers integrative, natural care for the entire family in one location.

Each monththe Bloomington Clinic providers host a Provider Talks webinar that discusses topics from foot health to the ABZzzzs of Sleep to Promoting Health through the Seasons. Learn more about the webinar serieshere.

Telemedicine is a convenient way to care for yourself during these unprecedented times. Appointment times vary depending on the service. Providers are part ofNorthwestern Health Sciences University, a non-profit industry leader in integrative and natural healthcare education that provides access to the latest evidence and state-of-the-art technology so you get the natural solutions you truly need.

See more content fromNorthwestern Health Sciences University.

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Immune-Boosting Strategies to Stay Ahead of the Cold - Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

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