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Germ Theory: 101

Why do some people always catch a cold, and others don’t?
Viruses, germs, and bacteria are everywhere. They are in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink, but not all of them are bad or harmful.

Think of the immune system as your body’s security detail.  The cells, tissues, and organs that comprise it help repel foreign invaders like harmful bacteria, parasites and other microbes that can cause infections.  Disorders of the immune system range from everyday annoyances, like mild seasonal allergies, to serious illnesses like leukemia.  Stress, lack of sleep, poor diet and other common conditions can contribute to a weakened immune system, which can cause a person to be more vulnerable to infections.

When a particular organ system is already weak and unable to resist “outside” invasion, it’s more susceptible to attack by germs, such as viruses and bacteria.   Illness can only result if the body provides a hospitable environment.

The meridian channels act similar to highways to allow for the flow of life energy, called qi (“chee”), throughout the entire body.  The function of one’s lungs and the strength of the immune system depend upon the quality and quantity of one’s constitution, as well as a balance between one’s nutritive and defensive qi, called wei qi (“way chee”).  According to Chinese medical theory, it is this defensive qi that acts as a protective barrier to help keep illness at bay.  When one’s wei qi is weakened, they become more vulnerable to “attack” from an exterior pathogen resulting in disease.

Thus, the best way of staying healthy and protecting oneself from disease is simply not to only practice proper hand washing and disinfection procedures (although this is still extremely important!), but also to support the immune system so we are not vulnerable to infection.  Bacteria and viruses have more difficulties “setting up camp” in a strong and healthy body.

Germs gather and thrive in the weakened parts of a person’s body as this is where they are more vulnerable.  When there is an imbalance or stagnation of qi, the normal functions of one’s body will ultimately be affected. This can compromise the normal immune system response to germs and lead to illness.

The onset of disease requires both a pathogen and a host.  When germs are strong, but the environment of the host (you) is stronger, the disease can be resisted.  If the host is weak, however, then your environment can become a hospitable refuge for viruses, germs, bacteria, and other microbes to set up shop.

Good news!  Herbal medicine, acupressure and mindfulness techniques can help to treat a wide range of health conditions by helping to support the immune system.  This helps to balance the body’s response to foreign invaders, hopefully thereby preventing illness and disease.  Acupuncture can strengthen a weakened immune system by increasing red and white cell counts, T-cell count and enhancing humoral and cellular immunity.  Herbal medicine and acupuncture can regulate immune function and treat the underlying cause of the disease by reducing symptoms, speeding up the healing of infection, and normalizing the body’s immune response.

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