Hi friends! I’ve received some messages lately inquiring about my tips and tricks for wellness during cold and flu season, so I thought I’d put it all together in one post. This lovely time of year, when so many of us struggle with colds and flu, bronchitis, sinus issues, ear pain… here’s a little bit about what I do when I feel something yucky coming on. I have a distant history of chronic sinus infections. Back in the day, before I cleaned up my diet, when I was pregnant with my first child, I had such a struggle with allergies and colds that would turn into sinus infections. I really didn’t understand back then the connection between diet and how we feel, and specifically in this case, congestion and vulnerability to infections of the upper respiratory tract. I would go to the doctor and they would put me on course after course of antibiotics, which as you know from reading my previous posts, is a tremendous part of what led my immune system to just crumble and become vulnerable to autoimmunity and other disease. Given that I have done so much healing and recovery from autoimmunity and regained much of the integrity of my gut (the seat of the immune system) after the constant assault from antibiotics, if I ever feel something coming on, I MUST try my darndest to keep it from turning into a big deal- as antibiotics are not an option for me, and need to be saved for emergency purposes if they are ever needed. Same goes for my kids, we cannot use antibiotics for them for small things, I need to save their use for an emergency.
One of my lovely mixing bowl salads. I eat BIG salads.
First of all, a huge part of what I did as I began my healing journey was change my diet. I really specifically wanted to attack the sinus and congestion piece, because it was just so painful and so constant about 12-14 years ago in my life. At that point in my life, I didn’t know about the immune systems’ relationship to the gut, but I DID know that if I ate a lot of fruit and a lot of vegetables, well, that certainly would not hurt me! I also ate a good deal of sugar at that point in my life, and was still on cow’s milk. So, I started eating a gigantic bowl of organic berries mixed with kiwi fruit, with the skin on (zinc), twice a day. Like, I probably ate 3 to 4 cups of berries/kiwi a day. This was a turning point. Even without the other changes that I would end up making several years after this, my immune system was already so much happier. This was a testament to just how decimated my system was..it was responding rapidly to me actually beginning to give it what it needed. My allergy symptoms diminished greatly, and I was able to stop the loop of constant antibiotics and G.I. destruction. I increased my consumption of salads and lightly steamed vegetables, organic when possible. I reduced my intake of dairy, as I met with more and more folks who taught me how I was NOT a baby cow, and shouldn’t be drinking cow’s milk! (I had a raging Starbucks habit, as I was a barista when I was in college- a story for another day). I always recommend to people that if they are not ready to make any other changes to their diet, at least add in a whole bunch of natural antioxidants, macro and micro nutrients and fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables…. and good things will start to happen-it’s step one in the journey. As you add in the good stuff, you’ll have less room for the bad. And before you know it, as your gut bugs begin to change and you starve out the bad ones, you’ll stop having so many cravings. For me, that was so eye-opening and so incredibly telling, just how much better I began to feel. And, it set a “snowball down the mountain” scenario in motion for me… if these changes are making me feel this much better, what if I make even bigger changes? How will I feel then?
The makings of a green smoothie with spinach, kiwi, cuke, clementine, collagen protein, celery, maca, chaga and blueberry powder, and coconut fat with coconut water
These days, even though my diet is clean, organic and paleo, and I avoid processed food and alcohol and all refined sugar (I do use raw honey and some maple), I invariably get a cold/ sinus issue about once a year, and I always know when it’s coming on because I start to get a little bit dizzy. The particular sinuses that my congestion likes to hang out in happen to be very closely related to my ears, deep in my skull, hence the dizziness. I will drain backwards down my throat with a post nasal drip long before I will drain out of my nose, being able to productively blow my nose. It is incredibly annoying, and means that my throat feels raw and if I’m not really careful to kick this out as quickly as it came, it will turn into an annoying cough that seems to take forever to leave, and keeps both me and my darling husband awake at night.
vitamin supplements (AKA Fresh organic berries) and green tea
So! The very first thing that I do is bust out my neti pot. I only use distilled water, and I use 1/2-1 teaspoon of sea salt, a tiny pinch of baking soda and one drop of teatree oil. Only one drop, because if you use more than that, it burns in a way that really brings tears to your eyes. I reserve the use of teatree oil for times like this, because I don’t want to build up a tolerance or a sensitivity to it. It’s incredibly powerful, and I always want it to remain my ally. Directions on how to use a neti pot are here. The neti pot is soothing, immediately relieving when you just cannot breathe, and can be done several times a day.
The very next thing I do ASAP for myself or my kids, is hightail it to the chiropractor and get an adjustment (or ten)! This stimilates the immune system to fight and heal, and I just DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH WORDS for how important, impactful, and downright amazing chiropractic care has been to my family over the course of the past six years (I only regret not starting sooner!) But, I will write a separate post someday on my love of chiropractic, as it compeletly warrants it. Not all chiropractors are created equal, so if yours isn’t helping or making a difference in your health, please find a new one. Ear ache? Sore throat? Knee out of whack? Headache? Anxious? Fever? These are just a few of the things that a chiropractor has helped us with, to tremendous effect.
The next thing I do, is I up my supplementation of vitamin C to between 6000 and 10,000 mg per day. I usually take 2 to 3000 mg. I also begin taking vitamin D, 10,000 international units a day. I generally don’t supplement with that anymore, because of get a good deal of sunshine year-round, and having healed so much in general that I don’t really need it unless I’m falling ill. The kids will get close to the same amount.
I always love Apple cider vinegar year-round every day, but if I feel a cold coming on, I’m sure to drink it three times a day, 2 teaspoons in a little bit of water each time. It thins the mucus and helps break down biofilm within the body (so your immune system can get at viruses and bacteria), and just really helps you feel better faster. Some folks put it in their net pot, I cannot speak to this myself, but I bet severe burning is a sensation included with such an experience. I like how it helps the gut, so I attack things from the gut level with the ACV.
One thing I also love to do (that is incredibly effective) is I cut and smash a clove of garlic, and I leave it set about 10 minutes in order for all of the good compound within called allicin to be released. Allicin is a vital phytochemical that is produced when raw garlic cloves are crushed or chopped. Then, I put it on a spoon and I add a little bit of raw honey and I eat it really fast and chase it was just a little bit of water. I’ll try to do this 2 to 3 times a day, this is like a natural antibiotic to your body, but it’s also incredibly antiviral and warming. This works to cut the overall time you are sick, and if you start it early enough, it can keep the germs from really taking hold, and you can be on your way.
I also keep this homeopathic remedy on hand in case we ever have anything coming on that feels like it might be flu, with a fever and body aches. Last year when my son had a nasty bug coming on, his fever shot up very quickly when he started to get sick, and we took this as directed on the package, and he was better in three days- and he tends to be one who will burn a fever for a good week. The other kids at school who had this bug were sick for weeks on end! So, that was pretty great that it shortened duration and severity so much.
My approach for ear pain is three fold: chiropractic as I mentioned above, peroxide, or olive oil and garlic. You can buy olive oil and garlic drops (often with Mullein leaf included as well) or you can make it on the stove. I take a little bit of organic olive oil, add a crushed clove of garlic, heat on the stove for a minute, stirring constantly, and then let cool. Taking care not to get any of the garlic chunks on the spoon, I put a few drops of the slightly cooled garlic-infused oil into the sore ear. Rest on the opposite side for 10-20 minutes, then let the oil drain out into a cotton ball or similar. I repeat this a couple of times a day. I’ve also had excellent luck with peroxide if I start to have sore or itchy ears, or if I feel sinus or nasal congestion, I can attack it this way, as our ENT system is obviously all conected within the head and neck. I will fill the ear with a few drops of peroxide and lay down, again with the full ear up, for about ten minutes. I then let it drain into a cotton ball. It feels SO good and pops and crackles when it is draining out. Eveytime I have done this at the beginning of a cold, it has stopped it straight away. Peroxide in the ear may just be one of my favorite and most effective tricks.
Sipping on bone broth throughout the day can be very healing and nourishing when you are not feeling your best. Hot tea, particularly ginger, lemon, and anything I might have around containing good healing herbs is of great comfort. Mountain Rose herbs makes an incredible organic tea called Fifth Chakra Tea that contains Echinacea root, organic orange peel, organic cinnamon bark, organic ginger root, organic fennel seed, and organic cloves. It is so soothing to a dry and scratchy throat. I always use a bit of organic raw honey in my tea. In the evening, I stir in a scoop of Vital Proteins collagen- it helps you sleep because of the awesome amino acid profile.
There are so many great options for real bone broth right now, when you can’t make it yourself
I also likely make a smoothie containing as much fruit as I can throw into it as well as some greens. I’ll put in some of my Vital Proteins collagen peptides which I have every day anyways, and some Maine Chaga and wild blueberry powder that is such a boost to the immune system. This is basically my daily smoothie, and likely a part of why I rarely fall ill anymore. I make sure there is good fat added to the smoothie as well, either nut butter, coconut oil, Bulletproof’s Brain Octane, avocado or coconut butter.
I will drink freshly made green juice if I can make some or have any on hand, and it’s okay if there is some fruit in it as well, but I like it to be mostly green because I don’t like my green juices to be overly sweet. This is just such a nice complement to boosting the immune system, and gives the digestion a little bit of a break as well. Bathe your cells in nutrients as often as possible!
Keeping olive leaf extract around for an immune system boost is also something I try to do. This is particularly effective for my children, so if they show a sign of anything, I start them on it right away and it generally will not take hold. Olive leaf extract is just awesome for many things. Click right here to read about all the great things it does and can be used for.
My acupressure mat is wonderful for a nap any day, but I will make the extra effort to spend some time on here when I’m feeling run down, or like I might be fighting something. I cannot even descibe how incredibly relaxing it is. It forces my tense and sore body into submission and relaxation, and I ALWAYS have to set a timer before I lay on it, because it ALWAYS puts me to sleep. Seriously, it’s the best $30 you’ll spend on Amazon. Here’s a link to mine…also, full disclosure, we have three! I bought an extra one for my kids and hubby to use, and then Amazon lost it, so they sent me another one, and then the lost one showed up, and they told me to keep it. We are now extremely prepared when it comes to relaxation!
Just a reminder, this is just what we do for our family when we are getting sick, and should not be substituted for a doctor’s advice. We make extra sure to avoid dairy, sugar, gluten and processed foods when we are coming down with something. A poor, inflammatory diet at the time of any illness, is a recipe for disaster. And, of course, the most important thing of all when we are sick is rest! I try to sleep as much a humanly possible when fighting a bug. Which can be extremely challenging, as a mom of two sweet kiddos and two cat-shaped roosters that insist on busting into our bedroom and waking us up at 5 o’clock every morning, demanding to be fed.
Here’s to a healthy and tremendously happy 2017!
Be well and thrive!
The Mint Pixie