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Melinda Leeson, DOM, HMC
7029 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite A.
Sarasota, FL 34231
phone: (941) 926-9082
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TCM TREATS COLDS AND INFLUENZA
Sunday, January 03, 2010
How do I recognize a cold or flu?
Colds and Flu are acute respiratory tract disorders that appear suddenly with any combination of the following mixture of symptoms: runny nose, watery eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, sore throat, tightness in the chest, fever and chills and head or body aches. Symptoms last about a week, sometimes more, and can easily deteriorate into bronchitis or pneumonia if not identified quickly and treated correctly.
Many airborne viruses and bacteria enter the body via unprotected nasal passages, oral mucosa and skin. These pathogens would like nothing better than to set up housekeeping in human lungs and sinus cavities. The state of their victim's defensive system, their age, lifestyle, diet and environmental situation impacts the success of their attack.
Who is most affected?
Elderly people are susceptible because the strength of their immunity and organ systems has deteriorated over time. Children are especially vulnerable because their tender skin pores are more open to invasion, and their immune systems are undeveloped. Children under the age of six have weak digestive systems that too easily malfunction, allowing dampness or phlegm to build up in the stomach and chest areas. This condition worsens during a cold, producing lingering deep-seated coughs and respiratory difficulties. 'Homeland Security' for the respiratory system can be severely aggravated when the individual is exposed to a chilling wind, sudden weather changes, or frequent trips between indoor air conditioning and outdoor rainy environments.
How does Traditional Chinese Medicine treat Colds and Flu?
Traditional Chinese Medicine can effectively relieve the symptoms of both colds and flu. The first step is to recognize that each episode of cold or flu is produced by the invasion of a particular pathogen. Each individual's response to that pathogen will reflect their own unique susceptibility (defense weakness) at that time. As such, the over-the-counter formula that you successfully used to treat your last cold/flu won't necessarily successfully treat your next one. The nature of the invading pathogen and the individual's susceptibility together form distinct symptom patterns, which Chinese Medicine then treats with acupuncture and/or herbal formulas. Your acupuncture physician can teach you to recognize these patterns as soon as you experience your first symptoms. If you have Chinese formulas at hand, you can stop the invading pathogen in its tracks.
Many of my patients have accumulated a little store of these pattern specific formulas. They call me on the telephone and we identify the 'invader' pattern, their current defensive state, and which herbs will correct both. As a result, their illness is never allowed to manifest into a full-blown cold or flu. Instead, it can be reduced to minor discomfort lasting 12 hours or less. Once the individual is sufficiently recovered, I usually do acupuncture and prescribe herbs to rebuild their immune system. Many patients come in just prior to the flu season for this type of modulating treatment. In most cases, the patients report no subsequent incidences of colds or flu.
Can I learn to recognize these patterns?
Chinese Medicine divides colds and flu into three major symptom patterns, all of which are initially conveyed by “wind” plus a particular pathogen such as “Cold”, or “Heat”, or “Damp”.
Each pattern has features unique to its type:
1) WIND COLD: (corresponds to viral infection)
More chilly than feverish with a strong aversion to cold,
Sneezing, runny nose with clear watery mucus, possibly coughing
Occipital headache or stiff neck, and body aches all over.
Tongue coating is thin and white
2) WIND HEAT: (corresponds to bacterial infection)
Very sore throat, swollen tonsils, possibly coughing
More fever than chills, with sweating
Stuffed or runny nose with yellow or green sticky mucous
Frontal headache or slight body aches
Thirsty for cool drinks
Restlessness or irritability.
Tongue color may be more red at the tip.
Coating is thin, possibly yellow
3) PHLEGM DAMP: (Often occurs in summertime and will have additional features resembling “cold” or “heat”)
Fever that is unrelieved by sweating
Sensation of heaviness in head and body (woolly-headed)
Sensation of chest oppression with prolonged coughing and/or
Nausea and/or vomiting with no appetite
Thirst but only drinks a little
Diarrhea or sticky, loose, difficult stools
Tongue coating is thicker and slimy or sticky.
After identifying the thermal imbalance in the body (wind, wind-cold, wind-damp, wind-heat), your Chinese medical practitioner gently applies an equal and opposite message to restore balance and harmony. Acupuncture is one very effective means of sending these types of messages, strengthening key points where the wind pathogen originally entered the body. Herbal formulas are equally effective and can be conveniently stored for future use.
Warm, acrid herbs encourage sweating and drive out “wind-cold” pathogens through the pores.
Cool, acrid herbs expel “wind-heat”.
Aromatic herbs disperse dampness outward and harmonize digestion in “phlegm damp” disharmonies.
Recognizing the patterns when they first appear will become easy with practice. Your Chinese Medical Practitioner can help initially to identify the patterns as they occur, and can supply you with the basic herbal formulas that address each individual pattern quickly and effectively. The time to seek additional medical advice is when symptoms other than the ones listed above predominate, or when there has been no response to the herbal formula you first tried. Viral and bacterial pathogens are very opportunistic, and will sometimes simultaneously invade deeper layers of the body's defenses. In this case the more complex pattern needs to be treated by your practitioner or a medical doctor if Western medical intervention is deemed necessary.
Diet and Home Therapies:
Specially prepared foods can assist in the recovery from colds/flu. Try one of the following food therapies:
FOR WIND COLD:
Chopped scallions and fresh ginger steeped in boiled water will produce an excellent sweat to drive out a “wind cold” virus. Chicken soup warms the lungs and strengthens digestion. Avoid cold or iced drinks.
FOR WIND HEAT:
Apples and pears are cooling. Drink plenty of room temperature water to replace fluids lost through sweating. Honeysuckle flower and peppermint teas also cool the fever in a “wind heat” pattern. Avoid highly seasoned or greasy foods that tend to aggravate this syndrome.
FOR PHLEGM DAMP:
Eat light, easy to digest, relatively bland foods to disperse dampness. Clear broths harmonize digestion. Add barley and mung beans instead of rice or noodles. Add fresh string beans, mushrooms and asparagus in season for a delicious way to resolve any damp condition. Especially avoid phlegm producing foods such as bananas, cow's milk or cheese, peanut butter, peanuts and sugar.
With just a little advance preparation and some expert advise from your Chinese medical practitioner, you too can feel great and breathe easy through the flu season.
For an appointment to evaluate your symptom pattern and customize your treatment plan, please contact:
Melinda Leeson, DOM. (Doctor of Oriental Medicine), HMC (homeopathic physician)
7029 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite A. Sarasota, FL 34231 Telephone: 926-9082
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