Why Is My Immune System on the Fritz?

Causes of Imbalances in the Body

When we think about staying well, the first system that comes to mind is the immune system. But what exactly is that? Looking at it from a Western medicine perspective, it is a complex series of cellular events that eliminates “bad cells” from our system. How can we optimize that function?

From a Chinese medicine perspective, immunity involves a number of factors: the food we eat, the air we breathe, the amount of rest and exercise we get, and our inherited capacity to fight disease. I will address each of these briefly so that you can make a plan that will help you to improve your immunity .


Food is the most important substance for us to stay healthy. It is a concentration of sunlight and earth qi (vital force), which provides our bodies with much of the energy needed to function. The fresher, the less processed, and the closer the food is in substance to what we have been eating for thousands of years, the more our bodies can use it. So, the less packaging, the better. A way to know that you are eating well is that you are energized from your food after a meal.


Breathing provides about a third of the vital force necessary to maintain good immunity. Clean air and periods of slightly labored breathing (as with moderate exercise) facilitate the circulation of air energy under our skin. This helps to distribute our protective force (wei qi), which allows us to fight off germs that we may be exposed to.

Rest and Exercise

Movement interspersed with rest allows for good blood circulation and the chance for the blood to deliver nourishment and remove threats. Intermittent periods of rest and motion throughout the day assures optimal circulation.

Inherited Capacity to Fight Disease

Here we learn what tends to “get us sick” and how we can prevent that from happening. Some people know it’s a dietary thing. Others know it’s when they overexert, and others know its when they underexert. Paying attention to our strengths and weaknesses can help to prevent disease.

folks on railroad trackModeration

In Chinese medicine, going to extremes of any sort is seen as demanding excess life force. Becoming “uptight” or over-focused uses up resources and ultimately taxes ones immune system. Relaxing and “going with the flow” allows the life force to circulate as freely as possible.

So, when you contemplate these factors in your life, what would you like to change? One step at a time is fine. Every little bit helps. Acupuncture and herbs can support you in your journey and make the change seem more natural and effortless.