Grief, Sadness and the Immune System

When we suffer a loss, our immune systems suffer along with us.  Read on for the Chinese perspective on grief.

I’m sad this week because I lost a dear, dear friend.  He was my 10-year-old, all-black, German Shepherd dog named Raven and our whole family is grieving the loss.  In Chinese medicine, it is believed that excessive sadness, or any excessive emotion (even joy) can stop the free-flow of energy through the body. Grief and sadness are emotions that are associated with the Lungs and Defensive Qi (immunity), so it is not uncommon for me to see a patient with bronchitis or even pneumonia who has just suffered a loss (death, divorce, unemployment, etc.). Research has shown that grief can change the response of your immune system–in a British study, participants who received a flu shot while grieving the loss of a loved one showed a weaker antibody response to the vaccine than people who were not grieving.

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At this difficult emotional time, knowing that my energy is not flowing well and that my immune reactions are weaker, I plan to take extra-good care of myself: get body work (massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc.) to restore the free-flow of energy, eat whole foods that are rich in the vitamins and minerals my body needs to function properly, supplement with herbs like Astragalus (Huang Qi) and Atractylodes (Bai Zhu) to boost and support normal immune function and express my sadness when it arises so that eventually I can let it go, leaving room to remember all the wonderful times I had with my dog.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy and getting sick while you are grieving can only make things worse. Ease the journey by giving yourself a little extra TLC–you’ll be glad you did!

For more information on mental health and Chinese Medicine, click here.  For help coping with grief, visit one of these sites: or

To make an appointment with Julie Permut, LAc, click here.


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