My 10 year old son came home from school around noon the other day because he was feeling sick. He had a sore throat and fatigue. By the time I got home from work, he was already on the couch wrapped up in a blanket, cartoons on the TV. Kids had been going home sick from school all week, so I assumed he had gotten something from the petri dish of elementary school.
I looked over at the coffee table next to my son and saw he had already started taking the zinc spray, Chinese herbs, homeopathy, and herbal tea. This is our routine of aiding the immune system when it’s fighting something so we can get over it faster.
I felt his head and took his temp, and the thermometer pinged 101.4. He had chills with body aches- “Awesome,” I thought, “his body is kicking into gear to fight this off.” I said to my son, “Your body is amazing, and it’s working hard to fight this so keep taking the herbs and supplements and go to sleep early so you can fever this out. This is how you can help your body so that by tomorrow morning, you’ve let the fever run its course and you’re back to normal.”
I woke up the next morning with my son pulling on my sleeve. He said to me, “Mom, I’m better.” His fever and sore throat were gone and he was his usual energetic self. Even though he was better, I had him take his herbs and supplements and take it easy all day at home with fluids.
This is our home routine at the very first sign of a cold or flu. In most cases, we can shorten the duration by assisting our immune system with the tools we set up for ourselves.
I love the idea of living in a germ-free bubble, but I know I can’t. I just assume that I’m exposed when I’m out and about because that’s the truth. What keeps me from having a panic attack about it is that I know that I can aid my body’s immune system and that I am not helpless. I also believe in the body’s immune system.
Even though I wash my hands frequently, I don’t know when I’m walking through a cloud of someone’s cough as I walk through the city or take the train. The key is to catch a cold or flu at its beginning stages. We need to assist the body when the illness is at surface level and ensure we have an immune system that knocks it out before the cold or flu before it gets deeper and harder to expel. When it gets deeper, it takes longer to heal. By the time you’ve fought it off, the body has to recover from fatigue that can last weeks.
Here are the steps you can take to aiding your immune system so it is primed to fight off a cold or flu at its first appearance:
Mind your Gut:
Your immune system starts in your gut. “A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract,” says Dan Peterson, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Probiotics and good gut bacteria and microbiome set the tone for a good immune system. If you are eating lots of fermented foods, like kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut, you are probably better than most. For those of who are not, taking good probiotics daily is important. Eating as much fresh, non-processed foods also is important. If you have lots of digestive imbalance like chronic diarrhea or constipation, the gut bacteria needs to be balanced over time. If you eat lots of sweet and processed food, you also have to do more work on balancing our gut microbiome. But it can be done. When you are fighting something and have no appetite, listen to it. Divert your body’s qi to fighting the infection rather than having to digest anything heavy.
Recommendation: Stick to probiotics that also have pre-biotics in it, which is a natural fiber that the probiotics can stick to. I like Dr. Ohhira’s, but I shake things up from time to time and take other probiotics.
Chinese Medicine and Fevers
Chinese Medicine has known for thousands of years that when one has a fever in its initial stages wrap up in a blanket, drink hot tea, sleep, sweat it out and let it run its course. When we do, we allow the body’s natural defense to fight off the pathogens. A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, states the same. Janice Sullivan, a professor of pediatric clinical care and pharmacology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine co-authored a report said, “Fever is the body’s normal response to infection — it’s a natural defense mechanism.” She says that a high temperature triggers the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells and inhibits the growth of viruses and bacteria. “If you lower the fever, you may be affecting the body’s ability to respond to that infection.” When a fever doesn’t run its course in a short time, use your instinct to know when to talk to your doctor.
Recommendation: When a fever first hits, wrap up in a blanket, drink hot tea, sleep, sweat it out and let it run its course.
Manage your stress, guard your sleep, and exercise
Chronic stress or “fight or flight” weakens the immune system over time. When one can normally fight things off, during times of prolonged and chronic stress, the body has a harder time fighting pathogens off. Managing your stress can be done through exercise, meditation, bodywork, acupuncture, breath-work, being with friends, alone time, or whatever works for you to move into rest and digest mode. Simply be more aware and give to yourself what your body needs.
Recommendation: self-care is essential to your immune system. Ensure you have enough sleep and exercise and find ways to mitigate the stress of everyday life.
Basic supplements and herbs in my herbal apothecary at home:
· Quantum Zinc Spray – natural antiviral – as prevention and for initial signs of sore throat.
· Quantum Super Lysine – has natural anti-virals and immune boosters including garlic, echinacea, and goldenseal
· Lipospheric Vitamin C – increases resistance to viral and bacterial infections.
· Monolaurin –for infectious bacteria and viruses
· Elderberry- for sinus congestion
· Nasal Spray – by Nutribiotic or Xlear – for nasal irrigation and pathogen clearing
· Vitamin D3 – deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infections. Most people in the northern hemisphere are D3 deficient so get it checked out with your doc or nutritionist
· Umcka Cold and Flu – homeopathics at initial onset of cold/flu
· Cold Quell – Herbal Formula. My whole family knows at the first sign, we take Cold Quell a Chinese herbal formulation for initial signs of cold or flu.
· Note that Traditional Chinese Medicine has volumes of information on the theory and treatment of epidemic diseases via acupuncture and herbal therapy. Both points and herbs shift based on indications of each patient and how deep the pathogen is in the body. I will also customize herbal blends based on what symptoms are presenting, how deep a pathogen goes, and where someone is in their healing cycle. I have a lot more going on in my cabinet, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m stopping here.
Chinese herbal tea to make at home:
Chinese traditionally have this basic remedy for beginning stage colds, flus, and other ailments, especially when chills preside over fever as this is a warming formula. It is also good for people who tend to run cold and have cold hands and feet. You can drink this 3x daily.
· Scallions – 8-10 white parts only
· Ginger – 8-10 thin slices with peel
· Spring Water – 2 cups
· Manuka Honey – 2 tsp (Optional)
· Salt sea or himalayan– 1/8th tsp (optional)
· Cinnamon Stick– (optional)
Put all ingredients into a small ceramic or glass pot and boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and serve hot. This is good when you have chills and not the fever.
Remember that your body is a powerful ally. By taking a long-term approach to caring for yourself and maintaining healthy gut flora, you will ready yourself to take on common colds and the flu. The short-term strategies, when taken at the first signs of illness, can help shorten the duration and prevent the cold from going deeper into your system.
Christie Jordan, LAc – founder of Source Healing