Living Close to Nature


Monica Rakowski

Nature’s way to beat flu season

The flu strikes hardest in February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of us know people who have been hit hard with colds and viruses this winter.

This year, flu shots have only been about 23 percent effective. The CDC has stated that this year's influenza vaccines are less effective than usual. The viruses used to make them aren't a good match for the viruses now spreading across the country.

Flu strains have mutated too quickly and are genetically different from the flu viruses used in this year’s vaccine. Nature is kind of smart like that.

Just as chemical pesticides have created super bugs that attack our gardens, vaccines and antibiotics have created super bugs that attack our bodies.

The good news is that where Western medicine stumbles, holistic methods usually succeed. Just as organic gardening is making a comeback, it’s time holistic health practices do too.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, food plays a vital role in our health. TCM teaches us to eat according to the seasons. Seasonal, local food from nature is best.

It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that counts. Paul Grobins, the acupuncturist at True North Sports Acupuncture in Gig Harbor, says that TCM has three main rules for eating.

First, eat on schedule. Eating at the same time every day reduces stress on the body and regulates cravings.

Second, stop eating before you’re full. Overeating creates a traffic jam in your digestive tract, says Grobins, slowing down digestion.

Your digestion will make or break your health. Good digestion passes toxins quickly through your body and makes it easier to absorb vitamins and minerals. Poor digestion does the opposite.

Furthermore, our Western culture eats the wrong portion sizes at the wrong times of day.

Breakfast should be small to break our fast (get it?). Lunch should be large to supply us with energy for the day. Dinner should be medium-sized so we can digest it before we go to sleep. This way, our bodies can use their energy to repair and restore instead of digest food.

Third, a cold body should eat warming foods and a warm body should eat cooling foods. Our bodies are always seeking balance and homeostasis. As Grobins puts it, “We wear parkas in the winter and flip-flops in the summer for a reason.”

The seasons directly affect this principle. In the winter, our bodies are a cooler temperature and digestion takes more energy than normal to “cook”the food in our stomach. Cooked food takes less energy to digest than raw food, which puts less stress on the body.

“Warming”foods, such as soups, root vegetables and pungent spices, dissolve mucus and easily digest in winter’s cold, damp environment.

Vaccination or not, it is wise to boost our immune systems for added protection this month. TCM offers us holistic, common-sense tools for our healthcare toolbox this flu season.

As Ben Franklin once said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Monica owns KP Indoor Garden Store in Key Center. She can be reached at