This year the CDC has reported that the flu shot is only 10% effective. That is lower than usual but the flu shot never protects more than 50% of those taking it. Some people think that the reason that we get sick more in the winter and why the flu season is in the winter, is that we are all inside more in the winter, sharing our germs to a greater degree. Some people think that dropping vitamin D levels make us more susceptible in the winter (vitamin D is created by our skin when we are in bright sunshine). I tend to think that the latter explanation is more accurate but no one is sure. I like the way that Chinese medicine thinks of the immune system. Chinese medicine is all about Qi (sometimes spelled Chi or Ki) that keeps us healthy. There are many types of Qi and the type that makes up our immune system is called Wei Qi. Wei Qi circulates in particular all around the outside layer of our body, keeping the bad things (like the flu virus) out and keeping us healthy. So if our body's overall energy or Qi is low our Wei Qi will be low and we will be more prone to getting sick from some outside bug. This is why when we get tired, worn-down, we are much more likely to get sick. This is why there can be a sick person on a plane and most people will not get sick, only a few with compromised immune systems will get the bug. So how do we keep our Wei Qi strong so we can resist getting sick? The best way to do this is to get plenty of sleep and rest. Also, since Qi is created by our digestion, be sure that you are eating well. Being in the cold for long periods can drain our Qi because more Qi will be used attempting to keep us warm (this might also be a factor in why we get sick more in the winter). Stress will also decrease our Qi. This also makes sense because we tend to get sick more when we are stressed. To me, this is a good easy way to think about our immune system and gives us simple yet effective ways to boost it so that we do not get sick as often. Of course our immune system also keeps us from getting cancer or other chronic illnesses. So this is all very important to our health.
Monte Jackson, owner Acupuncture Center of Richmond