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When Illness Looms


So you’ve been hewing to a more healthy diet, but somehow The Crud slipped through and BOOM, you have a cold or the flu. What to do? When I began to feel a cold coming on last month, I was puzzled and confused. It had been years since I’d felt that slightly achy, tickly, froggy-feeling and I honestly couldn’t remember How To Cold. I knew there were a bunch of things I could do, but What Exactly, How Much, and When? So just in case The Crud ever slips past my defenses again, here are some things for me to remember. I hope it may help you, as well.

There are several stages to consider: The first is to prepare your defenses. The best offense is a good defense and all. Make sure your immune system has everything it needs to function well on a daily basis so that if/when something big comes along…you won’t even know it because your in-house military will take care of the invader. In short, and in no particular order, this means:

  • Sleep

  • Exercise—but not overdoing it

  • Hydration

  • Clean foods 80-90% of the time

  • Stress management

But sometimes, even the best laid plans are thwarted and whether or not we figure out the trigger for getting sick, here are some things we can do at the first sign of a cold or the flu:

  • Start taking zinc, or increase the amount you are already taking. 50-100 mg daily—or to bowel tolerance (makes your stool loose). If you have access to zinc acetate lozenges these are best, according to Chris Masterjohn, PhD. Zinc gluconate lozenges can also be effective, but not as much as the acetate type. Lozenges are best because melting in the mouth allows the zinc molecules into the nasal passages, as well as their being absorbed through the mouth, so they can get to work shortening, or subverting, a respiratory illness.

  • If it feels like a whopper of a cold or potentially the dreaded flu, dose up on the homeopathic Oscillococcinum. I just learned about another homeopathic which may very well be called for here as well: Influenzium. Anything to avoid the flu…and the flu shot.

  • And, perhaps hardest of all, remove “white” foods from the diet. I know, in the past, the very things I wanted as I was getting sick were the things most likely to speed me along the illness trajectory: sweet comfort foods. Ditch them in favor of “clean” eating with lots of veggies and broths and you’ll keep your immune system from getting bogged down dealing with sugars—which it views as attackers. Remember that most of your immune system, which you rely on to stay healthy, resides alongside your digestive system, which has to deal with whatever you send its way. If you send it basic, easy-to-digest, food, it will be able to support the immune system instead of the other way around.

Boosting an immune system that is under attack

A cold or flu is now actively brewing in your body. Instead of grabbing for one of the “magical" remedies advertised with tiny green monsters, take a look at these herbal options:

  • Nettles*, dried, cut and sifted as a brewed “tisane” for hydration, trace nutrients, detoxifying. It sounds like a seriously good herb to have on hand and I’m planning to get some myself! (a mix of raspberry leaf, alfalfa, peppermint is especially effective, according to Wellness Mama)

  • Yarrow* is for flu and fevers; to prevent or reduce the severity

  • Elderberry syrup: powerful anti-flu and pro-immunity berry which you can find in stores now or make your own—I used this recipe. Make sure to use only RAW honey (and not with small baby children).

  • Ginger is the best thing for so many illnesses: upset tum, nausea, respiratory issues. I chunk it and brew it like tea or grate it from frozen—I always keep some in my freezer—and add it to other teas (herbal preparations are actually properly called “tisanes” if you want to be accurate).

  • Chamomile* likewise, is good for tummy trouble, but also helps reduce inflammation/fever.

  • Peppermint* anti-microbial, anti-viral, and reduces fevers.

  • Catnip* (And we thought it was just for cats!) settles the tum and is useful for treating the flu.

  • Echinacea*: in a tisane, yes, but also as a supplement at 100 mg 2-3 times per day (do not use it for more than two weeks at a time or the body gets used to it). A super immune booster.

  • Oregano Oil: a very powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial, the recommendation is 500 mg twice a day. It can also kill yeast overgrowth and is part of an anti-parasite protocol; it is that strong.

*Making a tisane: Generally speaking I use a teaspoon of herb per cup of boiled, filtered water. Prepare as you would any "tea". An alternate way to do this is to put the herbs you have access to in a pot with several cups full of water and bring it to a boil. Strain as you pour into a cup and sip throughout the day. It will get stronger as the day progresses, so you may be able to add more water. It won't necessarily taste nice--but I think that can add to the healing experience. I wouldn't usually drink the concoction, perhaps, so it must be doing me good is how my brain works. I call that the psychology of healing!

Essential oils can be applied to the soles of the feet, as well as the neck. Dilute Oregano Oil, Thyme, Peppermint, Frankincense, Peppermint, Clove with a food-safe oil and rub into the skin. They are all powerful against respiratory illnesses and have different micro-nutrients to boost the immune system.

Face Steaming: I used this a lot when my children were younger and had coughs, but writing about it now makes me want to do it for myself--just because it sound soothing and so relaxing. Mix herbs or essential oils of choice in heatproof bowl, about 2 teaspoons or a few drops of oil total, add 1-2 cups of boiling water, cover and let it steep while you find a towel and arrange a seat next to it. Tent the cloth over your head and the bowl and breathe in the vapors for about 15 minutes or until it begins to cool. I have been known to reheat the mixture as it is so effective. Aromatic choices: thyme, rosemary, oregano, eucalyptus, peppermint.

Use what you have. Then stock up now for later that which calls to you from this list. And make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D.

Vitamin D3:

I take Biotics Research drops (which are tiny, white, and tasteless) to keep my levels at 80 ng/dl or above. Each of the drops has 2000 mg. Vitamin D is crucial to our continued health and critical to our healing. Dr. Axe recommends 5000 mg twice per day when we are actively ill.

Lastly, a word about garlic. Eat it. Mince it and drink it in a small amount of water. Make a glorious concoction with lemon, ginger, hot water, garlic, cayenne pepper, and a bit of raw honey. Again, use what you have and then plan ahead for Just In Case.

The more liquids we take in, the sooner our bodies will kick out invaders. These soothing foods/supplements/herbs will ease a cough, a sore throat, an upset stomach. They may not work as fast as something from the drug store, but they are actively helping your body heal and grow stronger, instead of just covering up symptoms.

There are times when we must call on the chemical remedies, and for them I am grateful—I could not have made it through a wedding gig I was playing years ago without the assistance of an OTC cough medicine, but in the main, if we can actively heal our bodies, we will be healthier long-term and our immune systems will be able to handle whatever our environment throws at it. And we won’t get that cough which hammers us day and night.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with any of these suggestions. I apologize that I haven’t addressed everything here—the list of cough ideas alone is spectacular, but would also add spectacularly to the length of this blog, which I just need to put to bed!


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DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Helen Gardiner-Parks is not a licensed medical professional, dietitian, or nutritionist.  Seek the advice of a physician or qualified health provider with questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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