This is the season of the metal element in Chinese Medicine. It’s a time when nature pulls back its energy into the earth and roots of the trees and plants to prepare for winter. I’ve spoken about the importance of getting more sleep, eating local, seasonal, cooked food and keeping warm to stay healthy during fall. Today I want to address a chronic cold condition.
Chinese Medicine considers cold to be a cause of disease. It is one of the six “Pernicious Influences “along with heat, dryness, damp, wind and summer heat. Where western medicine considers viruses and bacteria as causes of illness; “the Chinese observed that our body mirrors certain climatic conditions” (1) when we are ill. Cold weather causes contraction and slowing down of activity in nature and creates the same symptoms in the human body.
A chronic cold condition is different from what we call the “common cold”. The common cold is an external disturbance which makes you uncomfortable for a week or so and then passes.
A chronic cold condition is internal cold which makes you feel chilled to your core and can’t be corrected by warmer clothing. Our bodies have heat at our core which keeps our digestion and metabolism running smoothly. When you are chilled to your core, you may have digestive problems, water retention, and feel sluggish and tired a good deal of the time.
This condition is created by an energy imbalance, usually yang depletion, and takes considerably more time to heal than the common cold. It takes a combination of acupuncture, food therapy, herbs and keeping the body warm. A chronic cold condition is created over time, so the correction will also take time.
The third way that cold can manifest in the body is called a cold strike. This occurs when the body is exposed to cold and damp over an extended period (i.e. camping out in cold, rainy conditions). It can create muscle cramps and pain and joint pain. Treatment involves acupuncture and heat.
If your body is always cold, ways to help are:
- Add warming herbs such as ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, mustard and cinnamon to your diet.
- Keep your core warm, use a heating pad or hot water bottle to warm your abdomen below the navel or use on the small of your back.
- Apply heat to joints that ache more with the cold weather.
- Dress for the weather, keep the entire torso and head and ears covered during cold, damp weather.
- Seek help from an acupuncturist if all else fails.