Winter inversions used to be a rare thing in the Treasure Valley. My memory of childhood winters had the sky excruciatingly blue and bright unless storm clouds were moving in. Now due to increased population and pollution the inversion and haze over valley is much more frequent and lasts longer and aggravates many health conditions. Some days the sun burns through it by mid afternoon. At other times we are locked in for days. Hack…hack… Let’s see if we can’t bring some understanding to what is happening to our systems when we are locked in under an inversion.

What is an inversion?

In meteorology terms an inversion is when the weather flips. Instead of the air cooling as we rise in elevation, the cold air in lower altitude becomes trapped under warmer air.  This trapping can lead to haze, smog, freezing rains, heavy frost, interesting sunrise and sunset colors and cold, cold conditions. As an Asian medicine (Chinese medicine) practitioner I start trying to prepare and educate clients in how to deal with the impact from these weather conditions as soon as autumn starts to give way to winter.

What is happening according to Asian Medicine?

Weather conditions have long been noted as a cause of disharmony in the body. As a part of the 8 Principles these are exterior invasion that affect particular organ systems. In the case of an inversion extreme cold and toxin air conditions attack the Lungs.  Our precious Lungs rule the sinuses (the gateway to the Lungs), the throat (the doorway of the Lungs) and our Wei Qi. That’s your immune system. When I teach to children, I liken the immune system to a force field. It moves mostly in the exterior of the body during the day, in the skin and cutaneous regions protecting us from exterior harm. The Lungs also have to heat or cool and moisten or dry and remove toxins from all the air we breath. They have a lot of work to do in the winter. When they becomes weak, we are vulnerable to invasion. Those who already suffer from chronic conditions will have weaker immune systems and are therefore more vulnerable.

Who is vulnerable during inversions?

Those with weak immune systems–Maybe you were born with a weak system and need to work on maintaining it. Perhaps you had a bad bought of pneumonia or bronchitis and haven’t rebuilt. Either way, if your immune system has been down due to chronic and frequent illness you will have more of a challenge staying well during an inversion. Some western pathologies–just helping with terminology. Asthma, bronchitis, allergies, colds, any breathing disorder, the flu, food sensitivities and allergies (it’s the digestive vitality that provides the basis for making your Wei Qi).

Those with POS or Bi Syndrome–Painful obstruction syndromes (POS) or Bi syndromes are patterns including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, MS and post viral syndromes and any arthritic conditions. These patterns are constantly wearing the immune system down usually have element of damp and wind to them, meaning they are worse when the weather pressure changes.

Those with windy conditions–Besides the above mentioned conditions windy conditions look can include epilepsy, twitches, tremors, stiff neck and shoulders, colds and allergies.

Those with damp–Phlegm, sinus congestion, any damp and gooey condition will be worse during an inversion.  This can be localized just in the head and sinuses may experience headaches and sinus pressure or a runny nose. Or damp can be systemic throughout the body like the POS syndromes.

Those who have cold patterns–If you are frequently cold, lack heat, Yang deficiency or collapse have a slow metabolism.  Cold itself slows down the Qi and creates obstruction.

Those with skin conditions–The Lungs rule over the body skin, so anyone with skin patterns like eczema or psoriasis may notice symptoms becoming worse during inversions.

What you can do–

  • Know yourself–the first rule of preventative weather is to know what you are prone to.  If you are prone to colds and flus, start preventative herbs like elderberry.  If wind bothers you, wear scarves, etc.  If you have phlegm, start to drain it out of the system before the weather becomes too bad. 
  • Act immediately. Don’t wait for your system to get overrun.  I start using Immustim as soon as I feel I’m fighting. I watch the weather. Now, it might seem as if I’m a little obsessive, but this is my job. To help clients and alumni learn how to prepare. I knew this inversion was coming in and yes, I’ve already had a number of clients with coughs and sinus headaches. 
  • Dress for the weather and keep warm. If you have a weak system, do not tax your system further by making it try to keep you warm when you can bundle up. Don’t go outside with wet hair….please….
  • Eat properly. Choose soups and foods that are easy to digest, and drain phlegm like onions.
  • Avoid dairy and greasy foods.
  • Stay indoors. Especially the elderly, infants and those with weak immune systems.
  • Boost your immune system during times of stress or during the ‘season’
  • Use natural antiviral and immune enhancing teas, oils and herbs regularly
  • Clean your sinuses & throat daily–see clearing congestion.
  • Clear up a cough right away. Countering coughs.
  • Stock your cupboards with foods, herbs and appropriate formulas that may be recommended for you.
  • Rest properly.
  • Get in for treatment. I have some clients that I see rarely during the summer, but winter is their challenging season so a treatment or two more keeps them on top of their patterns.
  • Don’t contribute to the problem. If we have an inversion please be aware. Turn off your car engine and avoid burning. Thank you!

Here’s to a healthier winter.