In Chinese Medicine, the body’s protective shield is called Wei Qi and is controlled by the lungs. This is our protective layer and keeps us from being infected by external pathogenic factors. When our protective qi is strong we are able to ward off diseases, if it is weakened we can fall ill to viruses/cold/flu and if it is very deficient, the disease may penetrate to deeper levels of the body affecting the internal organs.
Wei Qi energy controls the opening and closing of our pores and is nourished by the air we breath, the food we eat and the water we drink. A strong immunity depends on the circulation of Wei Qi which is driven by the lungs and respiratory system. The respiratory system is made up of the sinuses, throat and mucous membranes, which are usually the first to be affected by invasions of external pathogens.
In Chinese Medicine both the physical and emotional aspects of the body are treated together with Acupuncture, nutrition and herbs. The emotions that are associated with the lungs are worry, sadness, grief and letting go. When addressing the emotional health of our lungs, it is important to be open to new ideas, let go of attachment to the past and deal with grief in a healthy way (not avoiding it).
Keeping the physical aspect of the Wei Qi healthy can be done by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. Exercise, deep breathing, meditation, drinking clean filtered (not bottled) water and eating clean foods (fresh, local, free of additives and pesticides).
Our immune system can be weakened by too many free radicals, these are molecules that are generated by our body when exposed to toxins or irritants. Contaminants can be from poor air/water/food quality, radiation (including positive ions from computers, phones and TV monitors), cigarette smoke and alcohol. These free radicals can be eliminated by antioxidants like Vitamin A, C, E, some B vitamins, zinc and selenium; found in unprocessed whole grains and vegetables.
While our ability to utilize oxygen and absorb nutrients is essential to keeping our immune system working, the most important thing is our emotional state and attitude. According to The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, “Those who act with bravery and courage will overcome diseases, while those who act out of fear will fall ill.”
Modern studies have shown how stress negatively influences our immune system. The American Psychological Association reports findings in 2004 of a meta-analysis of over 300 studies of stress and health. Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, of the University of Kentucky, and Gregory Miller, PhD, of the University of British Columbia reported that “For stress of any significant duration – from a few days to a few months or years, as happens in real life – all aspects of immunity went downhill. Thus long-term or chronic stress, through too much wear and tear, can ravage the immune system. The meta-analysis also revealed that people who are older or already sick are more prone to stress-related immune changes.”
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs can help to keep the Wei Qi strong and the lungs healthy as well as reducing emotional stress. The following list describes at home diet and lifestyle recommendations for building and keeping your immunity strong.
- Eat whole foods (fresh, local, mostly produce, free of preservatives, dyes, additives and pesticides) – lots of fruits and vegetables, and also nuts and seeds. Do not eat late at night, limit oils and fats.
- Drink clean water (filtered, not from a plastic bottle), breathe fresh air (air filter/ionizer if not able to get fresh air).
- Exercise most days of the week. (30 min to target heart rate 5 days per week)
- Sleep soundly 7-8 hours per night.
- Spend time daily in gratitude, forgiveness, and meditation (can weaken immunity if reinforcing rigid thinking/habits).
- Whole food supplements such as wheat or barley grass concentrates, sea vegetables, chlorella and spirulina. Vitamins C, A, E, B, zinc, selenium.
Protective and Purifying Foods For the Lungs and Immune System:
- Pungent foods: hot peppers, chilies, ginger, onion, garlic, turnip, horseradish, cabbage, radish, daikon radish and white peppercorn
- Mucilaginous foods: seaweeds, kombu, marshmallow root, flaxseed, fenugreek
- Dark green and orange vegetables (high in provitamin A): carrot, winter squash, pumpkin, broccoli, parsley, kale, turnip, mustard greens, watercress, wheat or barley grass, green and blue green algae, nettle
- Fiber: The indigestible portion of foods- the bran of grains, pulp of fruit, cell wall of vegetables, apples, cherries, carrots, etc…
The Board of the American Society of Acupuncturists. “American Society of Acupuncturists .” 18 Mar. 2020.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books , 2002.
“Stress Weakens the Immune System.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 23 Feb. 2006, www.apa.org/research/action/immune.
Translated from the Chinese with an introductory study by Ilza Veith. Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Berkeley :University of California Press, 1966.
“Those who act with bravery and courage will overcome diseases, while those who act out of fear will fall ill.” –Inner Classic