People who catch colds easily and who find it difficult to battle said colds, people who often say that “they need their sleep” preferring 9-10 hours of sleep per night and often more on the weekends, and people who time and time again find inflammation manifesting as either chronic sinusitis, enlarged tonsils, swollen lymph nodes and/or recurring respiratory conditions such as strep throat or bronchitis, tend to seek Traditional Chinese Medicine for immune support.
In Western medicine, these symptoms are often recognized as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The Ancient Chinese, on the other hand, discussed a pattern called Lurking Pathogen in the Nei Jing. The name, Lurking Pathogen, principally comes from the Inner Classic (Nei Jing), where it says “if there is damage by cold in the winter, there will be a warm pathogen disease in the spring”, and “if there is sufficient essence, there will be no warm disease in the spring.”
Most people are able to clear the pathogen on their own but for others, it isn’t fully expressed and pops up later in life. It’s as if an imprint of the virus lurks in the body and when people are under stress or run down, it pops up and resurfaces. It’s also taxing on the body to have low-lying inflammation and phlegm, which is a major component of a Lingering Pathogenic Factor. These require constant energy to keep it at bay.
A typical history includes the revelation of past experience with a viral or bacterial illness such as Mononucleosis, Lyme’s Disease, Meningitis, Coxsackie virus. The list does not end there these are just the most frequent in my clinical experience.
The typical response to a pathogen
Typically when the body is hit with a pathogen it responds with fever, shivering, sweating, and phlegm. As the pathogen meets the exterior of the body the Wei Qi or Defensive Qi puts up a fight. The battle between Evil Qi and Right Qi is observed between fever and chills. The body’s temperature elevates to make the host un-hospitable to the infection. Often people feel as if the higher the fever is, the more intensely your body is fighting the pathogen.
Because the pathogen invades the skin at the surface of the body, Qi and Fluids are impeded and phlegm is produced. People, for the most part, tend to fully clear the pathogen in time. In many cases, it can take up to a week or so, others a month and some just never fully expel the pathogen. Children are extremely susceptible to Lingering Pathogenic Factors because their immune systems are developing and they are more fragile.
There are also other reasons that can contribute to a lingering pathogen not being completely expressed and expelled.
- Genetic disposition
- Overuse or improper use of antibiotics
- Cold, phlegm producing foods
- Concurring illnesses
- Emotional strains
- Developmental milestones
Allopathic medicine can treat the disease; Traditional Chinese medicine treats the individual. By strengthening the individual and not suppressing the body’s own, innate knowledge, the body has the ability to clear the pathogen without the side effects of antibiotics.
Understanding the Pattern: The body is a relative balance of:
- Yin / Yang
- Interior/ Exterior
- Deficiency/ Excess
Fatigue, lowered immunity and phlegm are usually an example of excess yin, with cold in the interior creating phlegm. A red tongue indicates the presence of heat within the body, often a remnant of the virus or toxin.
Symptoms of Fatigue (Qi deficiency) include:
- Extreme fatigue in the morning
- Recurring illness, lowered immunity
- Pale, heavy menstruation
- Bruising easily
- Depressed / Moody
- Runny nose or Blocked nose
Treatment includes clearing a heat toxin. First, you need to identify where the phlegm (LPF) is remaining. It can be in the tonsils, ears, lungs, intestines, or bladder. We typically see LPF after chronic urinary tract infections.
Often systemic treatment is geared towards initially strengthening the body followed by clearing phlegm.
1) Dietary Suggestions:
Eliminate Reduce Phlegm Inducing Foods:
- Dairy (yogurt is often okay)
- Fructose (Juice, bananas, oranges, smoothies)
- Refined Sugars
- Peanut butter can encourage phlegm too
- Organic meats
- Organic vegetables and fruits that reduce phlegm like onions, garlic, lemons,
- Nourish the lungs with white vegetables and fruit: Cauliflower, lotus root, daikon, pears
- Probiotics to help repair the gut lining and reduce phlegm
- Quercitin and Bromelain to help reduce inflammation and phlegm.
- Tumeric: Natural antinflammatory
- Raw Honey: antiviral, antibacterial
- Bee Propolis: anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Coconut oil: anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, good for a mouth wash. Can dissolve a spoonful in water in the morning or swish it around your mouth for 1 minute and spit out.
- Gargle with saltwater
- Olive leaf spray for swollen tonsils
- Vitamin D for immune support
- Nurture your downtime. Make sure to get proper rest.
- Avoid overuse of digital devices.
- Do moderate exercise. If you feel exhausted after your workout try more restorative exercises like walking in the park, Hatha yoga
Acupuncture & Herbs:
Acupuncture is a great way to support the immune system to clear the trapped pathogen.
The treatment is two-fold:
1) Strengthening the immune system
2) Clearing the pathogen
Similarly, an herbal regimen is helpful to help support the immune system whilst clearing heat. An herbalist will constantly update a hand-tailored formula that will evolve as the pathogen is clearing and the body is being restored to balance.