There is a lot we still don't know about COVID-19, but by observing how it expresses in the human body, we can understand its basic elemental make-up. By tending to our own biology, we can maintain an internal environment that is inhospitable to these elements.
We know that COVID-19 is:
1. Damp- In most cases, it causes profuse production of phlegm. In Chinese medicine, this is classified as dampness.
2. Stagnant- The phlegm does not move easily- it is thick and sticky. This means more toxicity as the body is increasingly unable to rid itself of the build-up.
3. Cold- This is up for debate. Most cold and flu pathogens elicit both hot and cold symptoms in the body, such as fever and chills. However, it is widely accepted in Chinese medicine that fire/heat is one of the primary tools used by the immune system to fight illness. Thereby, methods that gently support fire functions in the body are considered protective for the immune system. Also, in our bioregion we are in a cold, damp time of year, so addressing cold and damp in our own bodies is an appropriate action at this time of year.
What does Chinese medicine suggest for preventing damp, stagnant, cold pathogens from causing illness?
- Reduce intake of damp-forming foods
- Dairy, especially pasteurized dairy, is damp. If dairy is a particularly nourishing food for you, goat and sheep dairy are healthier options, or high quality raw milk.
- Sugar is cold and damp. We also know from modern research that it suppresses the immune system.
- Foods cold in temperature create constriction in the GI tract and lead to stagnation and dampness.
- Raw foods are harder for your digestion to break down, meaning less absorption and a higher likelihood of undigested byproducts. The exceptions to this are:
- Fruit- Ayurveda says that fruit has been cooked by the sun.
- Seasonal spring greens (see below)
- Eat warming, light foods
- Some good culinary spices to use are rosemary, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, ginger, dried shallot.
- Pungent warming foods like garlic, horseradish, radish, daikon, onion, and cabbage can be taken regularly, in moderate amounts.
- Foods warm in temperature, like soups, stews, dals, cereals, and other one-pot meals, are "pre-digested," making them easier to assimilate. Think of the cooking pot as an external stomach that uses the application of heat and water, just like our stomachs do, to break foods down.
- This time of year there are excellent seasonal greens that have warming, enlivening qualities and are therefore fine to eat raw, like arugula and mizuna. Mustard greens, leeks, and green onions are also wonderful seasonal foods that are warming, light, and help awaken digestion from a winter of eating heavier, starchier foods.
- Stay active
- Gentle exercise helps circulation and brings the core temperature up. A good rule of thumb is to break a sweat at least once daily, but avoid excessive sweating. Our bodies work hard to create our fluids, and losing too much sweat is a waste of that energy.
- Walking, qigong, yoga, dance, and light weight training are healthy forms of moderate exercise.
- Don’t bottle in emotions. Express yourself!
- Get creative - sing, dance, make art. Suppressing our natural expressions causes stagnation in our channels that can become chronic over time.
- We're all having lots of feels lately as we navigate the intensity of our circumstance. Give yourself an outlet to express these emotions- crying, screaming, vigorous movement.
- If you have a spiritual or faith-based practice, now's the time to lean into it. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, confused, and hopeless. If you have practices, texts, or teachers that help you connect to your wholeness and rightness, use them. Listen to your heart and to your wisdom.