Boosting our Immune System - a Chinese Medicine Perspective

Qi, the Force Behind our Vitality & Immunity

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Qi, Prana, Vital Force, Etheric. These are all words that generally mean the same thing - that special energy that makes us alive, gives us vitality. In this article, we take a dip into how the immune system works, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

There are many different forms of Qi. 'Nei Wei Qi', also called just 'Wei Qi' or 'Defensive Qi' is a major part of what Western medicine calls the immune system. The main function of this 'internal defensive qi' is to protect the body from external pathogens that can cause sickness. When Wei Qi is strong, our bodies can easily fend off sickness and disease. When our Wei Qi is weak, our shields are down, our boundaries are easily crossed, and foreign substances can invade our system.

The Three Functions of Defensive Qi

1. Defense: Nei Wei Qi recognizes, mobilizes, attacks and eliminates xie qi (so called 'perverse' or foreign qi) such as pathogens, microbes, vaccines and toxins. A deficiency in Wei Qi allows infections to take hold in the body.

2. Surveillance: Defensive qi attacks and eliminates cancer cells

3. Tolerance: Wei Qi can recognize and differentiate self from non-self; foreign substances are attacked while the self is preserved. In auto-immune disease, this tolerance is disturbed and Wei Qi will act against itself.

The Six Stages of Sickness

From the acupuncturist's point of view, your body can go through six stages of sickness when you catch a cold. The location and method of needling will change depending on which stage you are in when you see the doctor. Recent studies in science have been able to determine the precise role acupuncture plays in boosting the body's immune system by enhancing the production of natural killer cells and regulating the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting against infections, allergic reactions and auto-immune disorders.

Needling, herbs and and other techniques in Traditional Chinese Medicine can help bolster your Defensive Qi before you get sick. You can begin regular acupuncture visits now as part of your preventative care regime to pre-empt colds and flus as our weather turns, our kids go back to school, and the risk of getting sick increases.

Schedule your session with acupuncturists Jon Conant jonc@rootwholebody.com or Sasha Melendez sasham@rootwholebody.com. Drop in to one of our group sessions for a quick 30 minute tune-up on Sundays and Tuesdays.

For more information, this article from Acupuncture Today provides an in-depth discussion of modern immunology, comparing eastern and western models.