I’ve been home with a sick kiddo the past few days and I’m hearing from those around me that they’re feeling under the weather as well. Because I find myself repeating myself with advice, here’s my family’s protocol for this time of year. Reminder, this is written by a crunchy mama and a yoga teacher with a little bit of study of the body, but not a doctor. These are basic boosters, not a replacement for practiced medicine. There’s a need in the world for a good Z-pac for a sinus infection (and for everything good and holy, utilize a probiotic when you take it), and a balanced life makes space for all types of treatment.
- Stay home. Seriously. The world will not stop without you at work and your child will still learn how to multiply. An added bonus: the entire class won’t end up with the same gunk. I really feel like we’re fighting stuff off more often than we need to because of circulation. It’s totally inconvenient to stay home and watch The Price is Right, but you or your kiddo will recover more quickly and fully than trying to shoulder through.
- Supplement. What we put into our bodies changes the interior landscape. If it’s true the morning after a trip to BW3’s, it’s true when you’re trying to fight off a bug. My herbalist hippie sister, my Ayurvedic-influenced yoga teachers and the cyber-world of natural remedies agree on a few staples:
- Echinacea. Most popular by the tea form, get as much in you as you can. My sister makes a tincture of this, preserving it for the winter and making it possible to take it by the teaspoonful instead of by the gallon, but you have to have this soaking for 6-8 in advance. (Talk to Angie if you want to put in an order or ask about dosing.)
- Elderberry. This can also be made into a tincture, but I (and my children) prefer the syrup form. It includes lots of other natural immune boosters and the honey used to preserve it is soothing on the throat. I use the recipe by Wellness Mama. I stumbled upon a store bought version at Kroger yesterday, so it’s available to those who don’t want another DIY project.
- Fresh ginger root. This is a naturally anti-everything (virus, bacteria, fungus… this is why you traditionally finish your sushi with ginger: it kills anything still alive that could make you sick). We’ve regularly added about an inch of ginger root, sliced open, to a teapot full of simmering water so it infuses into whatever tea we drink. (Note, this is not tasty for some teas, but it’s trial, error and preference). But a simple “tea” of infused fresh ginger, lemon, and honey make the kiddos pretty happy. Note: if you bring the water to a boil with the ginger, the water is more “spicy” and the heat of the ginger is really alive. But if you only take it to a simmer, it’s less assulting to the tastebuds. I actually prefer the boiled ginger, I think it’s more effective, but that’s probably psychosomatic.
- Eat wise. Listen to what your body is naturally craving, and find the best form of it. Often, when I’m under the weather I crave french fries (which might be a conditioned response, as my mother is the same way!) – but after an unscientific FB poll, it seems likely that my body is craving salt, which makes total sense, especially after a stomach bug that tends toward dehydration. The key here is to listen to your body like you would a child: it knows what it needs, but perhaps it’s not craving the best form of that need. Around here, we eliminate foods that cause inflammation, and specifically to our bodies, these are foods with white flour and sugar. We push the soups made with a homemade bone broth (let’s be honest, that boxed kind is mostly water and salt – not exactly helpful), and for upset tummies in the morning, a banana or a cooked apple tends to go over well. Some traditional sick-foods have pure roots; the red jello your mother forced upon you, before Kraft made a business of it, came from the practice of including gelatinous bone broth. I know, cherry sounds like it tastes better, but it really doesn’t serve to do anything but add sugar and little bit of water into the system.
In the recovery stage, I prefer kitchari, understood in Ayurvedic wisdom to be the easiest thing to digest and full of medicinal qualities. I like Dr. Claudia Welch’s recipe. And water, water, water. Tea, tea, tea. (Decaf, herbal, with a spot of honey for those sore throats.)
- Sleep. When my children ridicule me, they say, with scrunched faces and high-pitched mocking voices, When does a body heal itself? While you’re sleeping, because I’m reminding them all. the. time. I say it because it’s true! When awake, body has to engage in so many other activities – moving the eyes to focus on TV, walking to the bathroom, talking (or, whining, in my household’s experience). Even your brain has to work harder to process things. Imagine your brain as the commander of a small army, and staying awake and doing things is like asking that commander to also move around the furniture while plotting the next siege. Totally unnecessary. Give your entire being a chance to recoup and focus on the task at hand: getting you back to 100%.
- Heat it up. Real quick: a fever can be your friend. It’s your body’s natural way of killing off what isn’t supposed to be there. Kind of like the reason we cook our meat to certain temperatures. So a low grade fever is actually telling you of the status of your immune system. (Sometimes things get dicey and we need to help the body bring that down with meds, and that point of discomfort is between you and your medical professional.) Alls I’m sayin’ is, don’t make the fever the bad guy. Instead, learn from what your body is doing. I find a good hot bath (with some epsom salts) at the early stages helps my body naturally get out some of these toxins in the form of a good sweat.
Some people, when they’re not quite to the place of illness, like to run or have a good, hard workout for the same reason. If you’re not feeling up to a jog, don’t rule out movement all together. Your body’s system for removing pathogens is the lymphatic system. It’s like your personal sewer system. Here’s the thing: the lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own flusher. This gunk gets transported out only through secondary pumps, the heart and the lungs. So when you feel those early signs of your immune system going on alert, get the heart pumping – even if it’s a brisk walk or a simple yoga flow – and get the breath moving. Put some emphasis on moving at your lymph nodes (at the neck, under the arms, in the hips. Twists are excellent.)
So there you go. There are million other natural remedies to fighting off the pathogens we encounter, and probably a thousand reasons why any one of these might or might not be helpful to you. There are homeopathic remedies, essential oils, and varied other things to add to the mix, but these are my non-brand specific ways of naturally trying to restore and maintain our health.