Qigong, Immunity, and Influenza

With debate raging over the efficacy and side effects of the H1N1 flu vaccine, which contains mercury (as thimerosal) and may contain other adjuvants, perhaps it is appropriate to consider carefully some natural alternatives to increase one's immune response.

It is well known to practitioners of T'ai Chi and Tantric Qigong that these arts demonstrably improve one's overall health and vitality in a gentle, non-stressful manner. The relevant question here is, does the practice of these ancient Qi generating exercises convey additional immunity to protect oneself specifically from influenza infections?

In one study, conducted by Dr. Yang, et al and published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine (35(4):597-607), researchers found that Qigong and T'ai Chi can definitely enhance immune response. A group of 50 adults was divided into two groups. One practiced qigong, meditation, and T'ai Chi forms, while the control group did no exercise. The Qigong – T'ai Chi group attended three one-hour Qigong and meditation classes each week.

All of the participants in the study got vaccinated for the flu at the beginning of the study and had blood titres performed periodically during the succeeding months. Results showed that the group practicing Qigong and T'ai Chi had significantly higher antibody responses to the influenza virus than the control group. In the Qigong – T'ai Chi group, results showed a 173%, 130% and 109% increase in antibodies to the flu at 3, 6, and 20 weeks while the control group showed only a 10% - 58% increase in influenza immunity.

From the Abstract of the American Journal of Chinese Medicine:
"… This study was intended to examine whether 5 months of moderate Taiji and Qigong (TQ) practice could improve the immune response to influenza vaccine in older adults… Baseline pre-vaccine blood samples were collected. All subjects then received the 2003–2004 influenza vaccine during the first week of the intervention. Post-vaccine blood samples were collected 3, 6 and 20 weeks post-intervention for analysis of anti-influenza hemagglutination inhibition (HI) titers. We found a significant (p < 0.05) increase in the magnitude and duration of the antibody response to influenza vaccine in TQ participants when compared to CON. The vaccination resulted in a 173, 130, and 109% increase in HI titer at 3, 6, and 20 weeks post-vaccine, respectively, in the TQ group compared to 58, 54, and 10% in CON. There was a significant between group difference at 3 and 20 weeks post-vaccine and at 20 weeks the TQ group had significantly higher titers compared to the pre-vaccine time point, whereas the CON group did not. A higher percentage of TQ subjects also responded to the influenza A strains with a protective (> 40HI) antibody response (37% TQ vs. 20% CON for the H1N1 strain and 56% TQ vs. 45% CON for the H3N2 strain…"*

What does this mean?

After 20 weeks, the practitioners of Qigong had an average of over 10 times the immune response to the flu than the control group (who were vaccinated, but did not practice Qigong). Additional immunity specific to Influenza A (H1N1) Swine Flu was detected in the Qigong group.

More ways to reduce the risk of contracting the flu:

--Wash your hands frequently

--Eliminate or reduce white sugar in your diet. Excessive sugar consumption can have a debilitating effect on the immune system. See some other dietary guidelines for increasing immune function: www.inner-tranquility.com/nutrition-to-increase-your-immunity

--Take a high quality source of omega 3 fats which help strengthen cell membranes, improving resistance to infection.

--Optimize your vitamin D levels. An optimal level of vitamin D can help you fight infections of all kinds.

--Get plenty of sleep.

--Manage your stress. When you are stressed your body does not have the reserve of Chi necessary to fight off viral infections. See more about Inner Tranquility and stress management programs here: www.inner-tranquility.com/products-page/audio-programs-for-meditation-re...

*Effects of a Taiji and Qigong intervention on the antibody response to influenza vaccine in older adults. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(4):597-607

© 2009 Keith E. Hall and www.inner-tranquility.com. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rev. Keith Hall has taught Tai Chi, Qigong, Tantra, meditation, and other body / mind modalities for over 30 years & is a senior student of Prof. Yung-ko Chou, with permission to teach. He has studied at East West Schools across the world & with Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, S. Saraswati & others. He practices Bioenergetics, Bagua, Tumo, Vipassana, Zen, Spiritual Bodywork, various Yogas, & other East West disciplines. He has published articles on Tantra & Taoist arts in numerous journals & is the Founder of Jade Garden Tantra, 10 Minutes to a Healthier You! Tantric Qigong, Presencing for Emotional Freedom and Enlightenment, and www.Inner-Tranquility.com