During an outbreak of a contagious sickness, whether seasonal, epidemic or pandemic, there are some folks who succumb and others who do not.
Is it simply the luck of the draw?
Are we to sit by and just hope for the best?
Most of the current world medicine is focussed, crucially, on slowing the spread of covid-19 and dealing with emergencies and saving lives.
So what can we, as individuals and families, do about improving our chances?
Thankfully Classical Chinese medicine can significantly boost the odds.
The most important factor in building immune resilience is called Wei Qi (pronounced way chee).
What is wei qi?
Wei qi is not a form of martial arts. It is a term that encompasses the immune system as we know it and so much more.
Chinese medicine is based upon a different world view (paradigm) of life and so it has its own language. Whilst there are many crossover of ideas betweens Western and Eastern medicine, it’s not exact like for like. There are definite strengths and limitations to both. So when we first hear terms such as wei qi, like everything new, it may sound unfamiliar. Yet Chinese medicine is about the feel and experience of life processes which is actually rather intuitive. It speaks very directly to an inner knowing that each of us has.
What does wei qi do?
Let’s now look at how wei qi functions to protect us against external pathogens.
What is a pathogen?
It is a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. Seven, including the new coronavirus, have made the jump to humans. Most cause symptoms of the common cold.
The current coronavirus, Covid-19, is closely related to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which swept around the world in 2002-2003, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012-2013. This virus can cause upper respiratory tract respiratory symptoms that are more severe and in some people can be lethal.
We are exposed to pathogens every day, yet our bodies have an incredible capacity for effectively dealing with many kinds of potential threats.
If this is the case then why do we get sick at all?
Is there anything we can do to improve our chances of preventing or overcoming this illness?
The answer is a resounding YES!
It’s all to do with wei qi.
How exactly does wei qi protect you against pathogens?
One of the major roles of wei qi is to defend our body against invasion by external pathogens.
No matter what the external pathogen, the body reacts to preserve life by activating wei-defensive qi (the immune system). Wei Qi also governs the musculature and therefore allows us to react against the threat by moving away or tightening up to prevent the problem going deeper.
There now follows a detailed, yet intuitive, description of the dynamic that occurs when we first encounter a virus. It illustrates the incredibly sophisticated understanding of Chinese medicine for how the body responds to external pathogens. In fact an entire school of Chinese medicine, called the Shang Han Lun (Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders), is devoted to the study and resolution of this process alone.
The two major components behind the production of wei qi are
How does your body respond to pathogens?
Wei qi conducts a highly complex, co-ordinated, whole body response when we first come into contact with a pathogen.
An invasion by an external pathogen, such as a virus, is heralded by Wind and the virus itself is classified as Cold in nature. This is why we feel sensitive to drafts and want to wrap up when we first contract a cold (viral invasion). We often say “I’ve caught a cold” which reflects how we experience and respond to it.
Upon contact with the virus, the body will tighten up a set of acupuncture channels called the Sinews, along the upper back and neck (called TaiYang) and also generates a sneeze reflex. This tightening of the muscles and the extremely forceful sneeze reaction is aimed at pushing the pathogen out of the body.
One of the social norms is to suppress a sneeze. This isn’t helpful. If possible try giving a warning to others before sneezing but don’t suppress it.
The role of Kidney Yang
The power that is summoned up to sneeze comes from a major component of wei qi, called yang Qi, which comes from the Kidneys. This roughly correlates with the adrenal glands, and the hormone it release called, adrenaline. More about this later.
If the power of the sneeze does not effectively get rid of the pathogen, the nose will begin to run as mucus is generated to move the pathogen out. Concurrently wei qi gets the body to produce a sweat to further push out the pathogen.
The fluids that make up mucus and sweat come from the metabolism of the food and drinks in the Stomach. This fluid that is made by the Stomach is another major factor in the creation of wei-defensive qi.
If these initial measures fail then a fever is generated to burn up the pathogen. If the body cannot generate a fever that’s high enough, or if the body cannot generate a fever in the first place, then another set of channels, called the divergent channels take over. These channels attempt to shift the pathogen to the joints where it can sit relatively quietly as the body acquires the resources to push it all the way out at a later time.
All external viral pathogens, including the coronavirus will, elicit this reaction.
Incidentally it is observed that children are far less likely to succumb to the virus. This is because most children are naturally abundant in Kidney Yang Qi compared to adults.
What happens if the pathogen is stronger than your body’s wei qi?
If the strength of a pathogen exceeds the strength of wei qi then it can penetrate deeper into the body. So if wei qi is very weak and the pathogen is particularly strong, a person can go from being apparently well to death in a matter of days. Sadly the overwhelming majority of the reported deaths during this time occur those with underlying sickness and thus poor immunity (wei qi).
So it is crucial to enhance and maintain our wei qi, particularly during these times.
How can you increase and maintain adequate wei qi?
The foundations of Wei Qi are composed of two things
The warming, and moving Qi (Kidney Yang) functions to break up the Cold and to move it out of the body. Part of this response is mediated by Kidney Yang through tightening, of the upper back and neck, giving the propulsive force behind the sneezing reflex.
Concurrently, the body moves some of the fluids, that comes from the Stomach (from the metabolism of food and drink) to use for creating sweat to push the pathogen out. The opening the pores of the skin, regulated by the diffusing capacity of the Lungs, also assists with this.
In our current society there is over taxing of the Kidney Yang and Stomach Fluids. The culture of overstressed, overwork, little sleep, and poor food choices severe challenge these resources. Thus there are many whose wei qi is suboptimal even though they may not be classed as in the vulnerable group.
Now that we understand the importance of Wei Qi in maintaining resilience and immunity, let’s now go on to explore practical ways to enhance it, click here
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