Several years ago I wrote a blog post called “What's in My Medicine Cabinet”. I thought it timely to update that blog post after my son and I recently recovered from the influenza virus that's doing the rounds of Sydney and beyond. This years' strain is a particularly nasty one and most wholefood heavyweights like myself that usually don't succumb to anything have fallen victim. Poor Will had to take a week off school- his very first school sick days ever! And Mother Nature forced me to be bed ridden for 2 whole weeks to recover and re-couperate. It's been 19 years since I had the influenza and boy was it a shock to my (usually resilient) system. There’s also the 100 day cough and a myriad of other particularly ferocious variations that have left a trail of devastation in their wake. It seems like every second person I talk to has a story of almost being left for dead.
It's not uncommon for most people to be down and out for 10-14 days with influenza. Antibiotics don't help at all with viruses - only with bacterial infections (and their deleterious effects on gut flora means that they are a last port of call for me if all else fails). Pharmaceuticals typically have negative side effects and are full of questionable ingredients. So it then becomes a waiting game (time) combined with the administration of natural remedies that support the body through the illness and provide some symptom relief.
While I was ill, I was very frequently asked “So what are you taking?” And indeed this is a question that many mothers frequently ask me when they or they children fall ill. So I set out below what I was dispensing to my little man and myself to bring us back to vibrant health speedily (with the usual caveat of course that I am not a medical doctor and I simple share what I know works from my own personal experience):
1. Herbal tonics
My trusted naturopath Anthia Koullouros of Ovvio Organics once gave me the best advice- if you don't get over something within 3 days then reach out and get herbal support. It's not a sign of weakness. Don't be stoic and try to plough through it. When your immune system is compromised so profoundly, herbal tonics can provide tremendous support and speed up recovery.
2. Herbal teas
Herbal teas like Marshmellow Root and Rise & Shine from Ovvio Organics can soothe a sore throat and keep you hydrated. Even if you don't feel like eating it's important to keep fluids up!
3. Bone broth
A good home-made bone broth from pastured animal bones helps to detoxify and is easily digested to provide instant energy. Even if you don't feel like eating, a cup of bone broth with flavour bombs of fresh lemon juice, grated ginger and minced garlic, always goes down well. You might have heard of the Chinese proverb that “a good chicken broth brings back the dead”. Well there is science to back up this ancient wisdom. Chicken soup has been shown, in an in vitro study, to inhibit the neutrophil migration that triggers the onset of common cold symptoms. I was consuming 2-3 cups per day either alone or as a base to a soup or slow cooked casserole.
4. Organic Chicken Livers
Livers are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet bar none- especially high in iron and vitamins A, D and K2. These are important nutrients for healing and recovering from illness. Chicken liver pâté smeared on veggie sticks, quality sprouted or sourdough bread, cucumber rounds or sliced apple rounds is a very palatable way of consuming livers. Me, I'm happy to consume them pan-fried in butter with some herbs and spices and a splash of balsamic vinegar (much like a minute steak). My kids love them diced up with chopped livers and bacon as the filling to a san choy bow. Or rolled in rashes of bacon with a sliver of date secured with a toothpick and oven baked with a drizzle of NuiLife BBQ sauce. Sneaky bolognese or sneaky shepherds pie are other ways to sneaky in livers along with the minced meat. I give out full recipes and loads more ideas in my organ meat workshops (stay tuned and check out the Workshops page of my website for upcoming dates). We typically consume livers once a week but increase to at least 2-3 times a week in times of illness.
5. Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is also high in vitamins A, D and K2 as well as omega 3. My kids and I consume 1 teaspoon most days all year round but it becomes even more important when we are ill. I sell the Green Pastures brand at Broth Bar & Larder as my research shows that it's one of the best on the market. The source and processing of cod liver oil is especially important as the heat sensitive omega 3 oils need to be very carefully extracted to avoid rancidity through heat processing. There are several options with the Green Pastures brand – if you don’t have any intolerances to dairy the one with high vitamin butter oil is best as the saturated fats help with the assimilation of omega 3s. The gel is also better value than the capsules (if you can stomach the taste). Best to put on the tip of your tongue (as opposed to mixing into anything!) and immediately chase with a smoothie or some water.
6. Raw Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is detoxifying and full of probiotics that can exert their ninja moves on the nasty pathogens in our system. Drinking kraut juice is another potent option, albeit a tad harder to get into your kids ;-)
7. Beet Kvass
Beet kvass is an age-old fermented beverage made from beetroots. It is probiotic-rich, detoxifying and blood building. And another great source of fluids. A little goes a long way.
8. Olive leaf extract
Olive leaf extract is touted for its immune building benefits. Oleuropein is the active chemical component/ingredient found in olive leaves. It is a naturally occurring antioxidant and has powerful antibacterial properties.
Like everything, not all olive leaf extracts are created equal. My research, and conversations with the owners of leading companies, shows that the one made by Vabori is the highest quality in the Aussie market. I picked this bottle up from The Health Emporium in Bondi but see list of stockists on the Vabori website or purchase direct from their online store.
9. Homeopathic tissue salts
These are my first port of call before I start on the herbal tonic. Kali Mur Glandular Tonic is designed for mucous congestion, coughs, glandular swelling, tonsilitis and sore throats. It basically mops up excess fluids. Ferr Phos First Aid works well at the very first onset of respiratory ailments and is designed to reduce inflammation. It's my go-to natural Panadol. Remember that healthy swaps is the name of the game. They are very affordable and sold at most health food stores. I tell my mama bear clients to always keep a stash in their house when sniffles or illness strikes.
10. Coconut oil
I recommend oil pulling to speed up detoxification as well as using it in cooking. Even though I much prefer the taste of butter, when ill I turn more to coconut oil for its anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory effects. i.e. it kills bad bugs!
11. Therapeutic grade YL Essential oils
The latest research shows that essential oils:
are highly oxygenating - they carry the highest level of oxygenating molecules of any substance known to mankind
are detoxifying - they push toxins out of our cells
are mineralising - their very function is to carry nutrients into cells.
contain negative ions and ozone- an environment where pathonogenic bacteria can't survive.
There are over 150 hospitals in U.K. alone using and prescribing essential oils for treatment!!
Young Living's R.C. (Respiratory Care), Thieves blends and Lemon are my 3 go-to oils for colds and flus.
Thieves is an antibacterial blend of Clove, Lemon, Eucalyptus and Rosemary. Compounds called phenylpropanoids are found abundantly in Clove (90%). These compounds can create conditions where unfriendly viruses and bacteria cannot live.
Another important function performed by phenylpropanoids is that they clean the receptor sites on our cells. Without clean receptor sites, cells cannot communicate, and the body malfunctions, resulting in sickness. Thieves is highly effective in supporting the immune system and overall good health.
How I've been using Thieves:
diffusing throughout the home to kill airborne pathogens (not a hardship as it smells like hot cross buns!)
inhaling straight from the bottle
applying a drop neat on the bottom of our feet for an internal boost.
R.C. is a blend of 3 different types of eucalyptus oils (Eucalyptus Globulus, Eucalyptus Radiata, Eucalyptus Citriodora,) with Myrtle, Spruce, Peppermint, Pine, Lavender, Marjoram, Cypress. It smells like a pristine pine forest and opens the airways to reduce congestion.
How I've been using RC:
diffusing throughout the home
inhaling straight from the bottle
steam inhalation (add a few drops to a bowl of boiling water with a couple drops of peppermint oil and put a towel over your head. Breathe deeply and be sure to keep your eyes closed. Put sunglasses on little ones as these oils are so potent they can create a burning sensation!)
1-2 drops as a chest rub diluted in olive oil (a natural Vicks!)
applying a drop neat on the bottom of our feet for an internal boost.
Lemon essential oil (made from the lemon rind) is anti viral. I've been adding a drop to water in a glass or jug (never from a water bottle that contains any plastic).
I've been using other essential oils like frankincense and a blend called Purification as well.
I will say upfront that like everything not all essential oils are created equal. This was a big surprise to me. The benefits that I allude to above may not apply to other essential oil companies. There are spin off companies and many copied oils now flood the market. In fact Thieves and R.C. are the 2 most copied essential oils on the market but no one can come close to the founder of Young Living, Gary Young's master oil blending techniques, his use of the most advanced equipment in the world and the arsenal of world class scientists that he employs. Moreover my research and independent research shows that Young Living Essential Oils are the most pure and potent on the market as well as being TGA food grade as well as therapeutic. Not all essential oils are therapeutic even if they're certified organic. This is the only oils company that I trust and exclusively because of their transparency and because of their robust scientific analysis that measures purity and potency for each and every single batch of oils produced. They are the world's leading and largest oils company for good reason as well as one of the oldest (over 25 years). This is the oils company that most practitioners and professionals use. Do your research thoroughly and I'm happy to share with you my 12 questions that I ask when choosing an essential oils company. My research shows that Young Living is the only oils company that can tick all those boxes. I have a similar list of questions when buying everything from meat, milk, salt, produce and everything in between. I always seek out the best quality and am not influenced by trends or wealth creation. I'm driven by one thing - the highest quality- and I just love sharing what I know and what works best.
A word of warning- unlike other brands these oils are so potent that a little goes a very very long way. Treat them like a powerful medicinal tonic as that's what they are.
For information on how to purchase Young Living Essential Oils click here. Once you read that document feel free to call me on0407 871 884 to discuss any questions. I'm more than happy to help and am directly contactable to answer your questions.
12. Vitamin C rich foods
Vitamin C is important for healing and immunity. I used to take the Loving Earth Gubinge vitamin C powder but in recently years I simply use generous amounts of lemon juice in my bone broth and on my food, especially cooked leafy greens (being Greek after all), and I also ingest a drop of the Young Living food grade lemon essential oil in a glass or jug of water as mentioned above.
13. Epsom salt baths
When cold or flu has gotten into your bones, nothing beats the feeling of sinking into a hot bath. Not only does it feel good, but Epsom salts add minerals (especially magnesium) which relieve achy muscles. My osteo-skeletal system is my weak link so when the virus hit, my muscles and joints became sore and achy. I'll also add 5 drops of Young Living lavender essential oil (to calm the nervous system) and 1 drop of Young Living Frankincense essential oil (which is highly oxygenating).
Nothing beats sunshine for vitamin D (and don't forget the importance of cholesterol rich foods for converting that sunshine into vitamin D in the first place!). As I'm typing this I'm lying on my trampoline in sports bra and undies trying to lap up as much warmth as possible. I forgot how deliciously hypnotising the sun is when it releases those feel good hormones in your body. I'm going to make a concerted effort to get 20 minutes of sunshine in the midday sun per day. Eat your lunch outdoors then close your eyes and breathe. This could be the way to team meditation into your day too. Stress management + sunshine in one fell swoop.
15. Rest rest rest!
Rest and sleep should be placed número uno for illness recovery. Rest affords the body the opportunity to heal and recover. When resting you are conserving energy that your body needs to fight off the virus. You will win the war faster the more you rest. Unfortunately for me, I suck at this. The hardest thing for me to do in the world is to do nothing, especially when I know that there are so many things that I want to do or need to be done. I learnt from post war migrant parents who grew up in poverty that you need to work hard and be busy getting stuff done ALL. THE. TIME. Even with the influenza virus scouring through my bones I found it difficult to rest up as much as I should. Doing work from your phone doesn't count as rest (learnt that one the hard way too and it set me back a couple days in my recovery). Resting up with the demands of being a mum (especially a single mum running a business) is bloody hard at the best of times! After all there are school pick ups and drop offs, packing of school lunches, making dinners, laundering of uniforms, packing and unpacking dishwashers to name a few "non negotiable" demands on our day. Call on friends if need be and just do the bare minimum to spend as much time resting to conserve energy!
If nothing else this virus was a timely reminder that scheduling time for rest into my each and every day is not a luxury but a down right necessity. We need to meditate or just chill out doing nothing to calm our nervous system from the constant bombardments of modern life, so that when life does throw us a curve ball in the name of an illness, we have the resilience to dodge it.
16. Nutrient-dense wholefoods
It goes without saying when you are ill we should continue to eat a solid nutrient-dense traditional wholefoods diet (to the extent that you can stomach solid food at all) rich in pastured meats (bone in with the fat is the best as well as the tastiest!), wild seafood, organ meats, fermentred foods, pastured eggs, fresh fruit and veggies, activated nuts, and unirradiated herbs and spices. If grains and legumes are consumed please make sure they are properly prepared through soaking, sprouting and fermenting (eg sourdough as opposed to yeasted bread) to reduce phytates and other anti-nutrients naturally found in them. Avoiding all processed foods (refined sugar, refined gluten, industrial seed oils, artificial ingredients) becomes even more paramount when the body is fighting a virus - the last thing it wants to do is expend energy on detoxifying processed foods as well. If mucous is present I tend to avoid dairy until the illness passes.
It is not uncommon to not feel hungry at all when you have influenza or other illness. Your body is wanting to conserve energy for healing instead of digesting. If you don't feel like eating, pay heed to that but it's really important to keep up fluids and when you do eat make sure it's nutrient-dense to get the most bang for your buck. Make sure your water is pure or filtered (I recommend a reserve osmosis water filter from The Water Shop- mention my name for 30% discount) and be sure to add some unrefined salt to your water (for the reasons set out here).
Eating a solid nutrient dense wholefoods diet with plenty of salted water all year round provides such a strong foundation of health that if and when your system succumbs to a virus or infection you are able to recover from it far more quickly. Instead of being out of action for 2 weeks you might instead bounce back after a few days. For more information on what we as a species are designed to eat and not eat, meal planning, where to buy wholefoods from most affordably, how to prepare food to maximise nutrient density and reduce anti-nutrients, and how to transition from a conventional diet to a nutrient dense wholefoods diet joyously and painlessly, consider a one on one health coaching session with me in person or over the phone.
THE COMMON THREAD...
What all the above things have in common is this: they all come from nature. Herbal tonics, olive leaf extract and essential oils come from plants, wholefoods come from nature, sunshine is nature's medicinal blanket and rest is something engrained in the very fabric of our DNA but we often forget to schedule it in, amidst the busy-ness of modern life. Don't underestimate the healing properties of Mother Nature. She has our best interests at heart. If we use her bounties mindfully and in the right doses, her medicine can be just as potent and healing as any pharmaceuticals without any harmful side effects.
For all those who like me succumbed to the flu this year- I wish you a speedy recovery and I hope that some of the above natural remedies are helpful to you. Now I'd like to hear from you. What's in your "medicine cabinet" that I haven't already mentioned? I'd love to know!
In my next post I will be writing all about why getting ill can sometimes be the best thing that ever happens to you and can be game-changing experience.