We all know the basics.

Drink plenty of water. Get plenty of sleep. Stay warm. Mom ingrained these lessons well.

Still, there’s more to do to keep those bugs at bay.

First, did you know that your stomach is one of the most powerful weapons you have against cold and flu?

Think about it: your stomach is a big sack of acid ready to break down anything that falls into it, including pathogens.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) describes the stomach as a furnace that transforms the good and burns up the bad. Further, TCM asserts that digestive upset is often due to too little fire, or stomach acid, instead of too much.

Yet, we often pop an antacid at the first sign of discomfort and “put out the fire.” Doing this too frequently can disarm one of your greatest weapons against cold and flu. A simple at-home test can tell you whether you’ve got too much or too little acid.

Next time you feel digestive discomfort like heartburn, take a small spoonful of a high quality apple cider vinegar, like Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. If it quells the pain, you’re experiencing hypochloridia, a fancy name for not enough stomach acid.

Hypochloridia is easily remedied with apple cider vinegar or other supplementation. Our neighbors at Northlake Health Food have some good options.

Second, avoid mucus-producing foods like dairy. We can devour a cheese plate as quickly as the next guy or gal, but at the peak of winter, go light on the Limburger. And this goes for everybody.

People with full-blown dairy allergies know how milk can affect them, but those without a severe allergy might not notice the more subtle mucus-producing effects. This low-grade mucus isn’t a big problem normally, but when coupled with poor digestion and an abundance of winter viruses, it can stack the cards against your immune system.

If you’re worried about keeping up your calcium during your dairy hiatus, try increasing your intake of leafy greens, an underappreciated source of calcium.

Finally, if your defenses are down and you show signs of a cold, use the home remedy we recommend to all of our patients. It’s easy, and it’s cheap.

Boil one inch of sliced ginger root, 1-2 inches of the white part of a scallion, diced, and a dash of brown sugar for 10 minutes in a mug’s worth of water. Drink. Take a hot bath or shower, then dry quickly, and immediately wrap up in a blanket. Get a moderate sweat going for 10 minutes. Dry off and put on some cozy clothes. Stay warm!

In our family, this little recipe knocks out our symptoms a majority of the time. Other times, we have to supplement with some Chinese herbs we have stocked just in case. (Lake Highlands Acupuncture has a full herbal pharmacy, so you can stock up for your family, too.)

A cornerstone of TCM is being attuned to nature. It’s winter—a time for hibernation and rest. You may notice your pets sleeping more these days. Sometimes getting sick is the body’s way of saying, “Hey, let’s take it easy.”

So listen to your body (and your dog). Take it easy! Your body will insist you do one way or another.

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Gunner Broywell heeds advice from Lake Highlands Acupuncture and takes it easy during these winter months.