A healthy immune system depends on the Lung. The Lung, in Chinese medicine, is responsible for the opening and closing of the pores. It’s influence on the body is the superficial layer of the skin. When the surface of the skin is weak, invaders are able to penetrate through that first layer of defense and begin to enter the body. In western medical terms, we talk about germs like viruses and bacteria getting into the body and causing illness. In Chinese medical terms, we talk about environmental factors like wind, cold, heat, dryness, and dampness penetrating the surface of the skin and getting lodged in the body thereby causing pain or illness.
Wind is the environmental factor that carries cold, heat, dryness, and dampness into the body. The first place where environmental factors can enter the body is the back of the neck. So, when you go out running on a cold windy day, you might experience a stiff neck afterward. Similarly, if you sleep next to an open window on a cold damp night, you may awake with a painful neck. The wind, carrying with it the cold, in these cases, enters the back of the neck and gets lodged in there. This may cause a stiff neck, or worse, a cold.
When the pores of the skin are left open, invaders can enter. When the pores of the skin close after those invaders have entered the body, they get caught between the skin and muscle layer, which causes muscle aches with fever and chills. The battle between the environmental factor and the Lung’s influence on the skin manifests as temperature fluctuations on the surface of the body. This means the Lung is doing its job as the protector of the immune system. It is trying to kick out that invader from just under the surface of the skin to outside. The Lung does this by opening the pores of the skin and promoting sweating. When the pores open, the sweat carries the invaders out through the skin to be rid of them. That’s why when you get sick with a cold, you begin to feel better after you break a sweat. And that’s why Chinese medical practitioners prescribe herbs that promote sweating to cure a cold and shorten its cycle.
Improve your immunity:
1. Take a warm shower and end it with a minute of cool water to close the pores of the skin before going out into the world.
2. Always wear a scarf to cover the back of your neck when outside in windy weather (even if the wind is hot like in the desert – heat can enter the body and cause problems just as cold can).
3. Cover the surface of your body when exercising in the winter or in the rain. Even if you get warm while exercising, wear a thin layer of clothing to protect your skin from the weather.
4. For more ideas, read Elie’s article called Top 10 Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season.