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PREVENT

6 time-tested tips to keep healthy this winter

Sniffles and sneezes are inevitable during winter months, but Eastern medicine offers some tried and true ways to help your family stave off colds and the flu.

Here are six ancient tips from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help you stay healthy: 

Strengthen your gut
While modern science is just starting to look at the connection between the digestive and immune systems, TCM has long revealed the relationship between immunity and gut health. Following tips two through five below will improve your digestion and decrease inflammation in your body. This will give you more strength to fight off external bacteria, viruses or microorganisms that can cause disease.

Strengthen your gut

Eat cooked foods
TCM describes the digestive process as "making 100 degree soup." This makes sense when you consider that a healthy body temperature is close to 100 degrees, and our digestive system "soupifies" food to extract nutrients.  

When we eat foods that are more similar in temperature and consistency to 100 degree soup, it's easier to absorb nutrients and puts less stress on our digestive system. Eating cooked food, soups and broths, while cutting down on cold or raw foods, supports smooth digestion and our immune system.

Eat cooked foods

Eat fermented foods
Fermented foods are a foundation of Asian cooking for good reason. Miso soup and kimchi are a staple of Japanese and Korean meals because they aid in digestion. Studies now confirm that fermented foods contain probiotics that help boost immunity and fight off viral infections. Try weaving a few of the following fermented foods into your meal plan: kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles and tempeh.

Eat fermented foods

Limit dairy, sugar and simple carbs
TCM teaches that foods that are too sweet or sweet foods eaten in excess can weaken digestive function and hinder the immune system. Limiting simple carbs, dairy and sugar is a good rule to follow particularly in the winter months when we tend to eat more of these foods and they are readily available during the holidays.

Limit dairy, sugar and simple carbs

Cook with garlic, ginger, onions and other healing herbs and foods
One main aspect of TCM is the concept of Food as Medicine. Foods, herbs and medications are seen as a way of offsetting imbalance in the body. The healing and immune-boosting properties of garlic, ginger and onions are well-documented. Your family not only benefits from eating them, but also through the release of their anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties into the air when you cook with them at home. Try incorporating these healing herbs and foods into your meals: lemon, honey, cardamom, turmeric, parsley, mint, basil and scallions.

Cook with garlic

Manage stress and learn to relax
Many aspects of daily life bring with them some form of stress, and it's not all bad. But allowing stress to consume our thoughts can throw our bodies out of balance, weaken digestion and decrease immunity.

There are many stress reduction and management techniques you can try on your own or as a family: unplugging from the internet, breathing, focusing on things you love, cultivating gratitude and staying present in the moment. Acupuncture can also relieve stress. Learning to relax takes practice, but it is one thing that never lets you down. And it's a skill you can use wherever you go.

manage stress

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