Fall and Winter Wellness

Tis the season for pathogens to fly about and lodge into our ears, noses, throats, and lungs.  However, illness is not inevitable and if illness strikes we have tools to put up an efficient fight.

A strong body, especially if it is supported by good rest, nutrition, and maybe a little extra herbal care (this time of year) will not succumb to a mild or moderate pathogen.  However, a strong pathogen or a weaker body, or an ignored body because we are too busy to rest, eat, or notice that tickle in our throat before we are struck down for days, weeks, even months does happen.  It can happen to you; it happened to me.

Following are some tips and tools to protect you from the nasty bugs and keep you healthy and strong.
Some of this is the information we all know, but don’t always apply:

  • Get enough sleep and down time. If you have a problem with insomnia, review the information shared in my last blog article:  http://www.newmoonacupuncture.com/insomnia-aids/
  • Eat well.  This is soup, stew, and roasted vegetables season, use garlic and onions with reckless abandon make your crock pot your friend.  Remember refined sugar weakens your immune system and it takes 24 hours for it to rebound.
  • Drink plenty of clean water; half your weight in ounces.
  • Supplementing with vitamin D3 can be important.  I have chewable orange-flavored fish oil that also has vitamin D in it that some of my kids eat like candy.
  • Stay warm and protect your head, neck and waist from cold air.  Wear scarves, turtlenecks, and coats and shirts that keep your middle covered and warm.  Rice-filled socks can be heated in the microwave and thrown around your shoulders before going out into the cold, or throw them on your belly or by your feet when you go to sleep.
  • Preventative herbal care:  Elderberry syrup can help keep your immune system strong. Immuplex is a great whole food multivitamin with extra immune boosting properties. There are some great East Asian Herbal formulas that a licensed practitioner can prescribe.
  • Moxibustion on Stomach 36 is an ancient preventative therapy to keep your immune system strong and pathogens at bay.  This blog article and the link details using moxa on Stomach 36 and we are happy to sell sticks of moxa to anyone:  http://www.newmoonacupuncture.com/conditions/immune-support.

If you feel a tickle in your throat, heaviness in your chest or sinuses, or are just tired and achy, take action (and inaction).

  • If you start feeling run down, clear your schedule and rest.  Your body needs energy to fight pathogens.
  • Eat well and cut out pathogenic white foods:  Dairy, white potatoes, and refined grains and sugars.  Increase healing white foods:  Onion, garlic, radish, turnips, pears and apples.
  • Keep drinking plenty of water and warm fluids (not coffee or black tea).  Drink water every time you cough to keep your lungs well-hydrated.  If your throat is raw, add some olive oil to the water.
  • Herbs:  Increase dosing of Elderberry syrup to 3 times a day.  The Chinese formula Yin Qiao or Gan Mao Ling are great to stop a pathogen at the first sign.  I keep these in stock during cold and flu season.  If the pathogen settles, there are other great formulas that can support a quick recovery.  Cupping, gua sha, and acupuncture are always helpful.
  • A few drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=M0t1K_-YA30&NR=1.
  • Easy to make cough remedies:  4 T. honey, 4 T. lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar) and if desired 1 tsp whiskey or rum.  Warm it on the stove so everything mixes well and take a tablespoon 3 to 6 times a day.  (To make this stronger add 4 T. raw onion juice.)  Another homemade remedy is:  1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 2 T. honey (or to taste), 2 T. water, and 1 T. apple cider vinegar.  Take 3 teaspoons when needed.
  • Inhaling the scent of peppermint essential oil (from the bottle, on a cloth or diffuser) can help reduce spasmodic coughing and asthma attacks.
  • Wet sock treatment:  Our in-house naturopathic physician, Dr. Laura Flanagan, recommended this to me and I believe it helped me turn the corner from succumbing to illness to entering recovery.  This website has good directions: http://www.vsnaturopathy.com/Wet-socks.html.

Pox Naturally-Another Family’s Experience

Following is another family’s experience with chickenpox. They attended a pox playtime at our house within the first three days of our children’s outbreak. Names have been changed to protect identity.

Nancy D. a mother of 4-year-old Claudia and 11-month-old Cullen (who is still nursing) writes:

“Overall, our chicken pox experience was manageable.  Claudia got the worst of it, with 200 or so spots.  She had about 30 on her scalp!  But, she did not scratch or pick at them.  She had one really rough night, because they were so itchy.  She had four oatmeal baths between 7:00 p.m. Tuesday and 4:00 p.m. Wednesday.  It looks like she will come out scar-free.  Most of her scabs are gone at this point, and she will be re-joining Preschool this afternoon.

Cullen, on the other hand, didn’t have any pox appear until Thursday (four days after Claudia).  His case was very mild, with 50 or 60 spots total.  He seemed completely unaffected by it and didn’t seem to be itching.  His worst day was Sunday, and it really wasn’t too bad.   He was just kind of tired and whiny.  The last of his chicken pox scabbed over yesterday, so he will not be contagious tomorrow.  Yeah!  We are so proud of our kids’ immune systems!  If you ask Claudia, she will tell you a lot about white blood cells.”

Chickenpox Naturally

Chickenpox Naturallypoxy ladies
As the mother of four children under the age of 10, and a busy holistic health care practice, sick children are not a reality I have the time to deal with or desire to promote. Of course, nobody wants to promote illness in their children. Yet, childhood illness has an important place in the development of a healthy immune system.
In fact, avoiding illness or the symptoms of illness, by heavily vaccinating, washing with antibacterial soaps, and regular use of antibiotics, steroids, NSAIDS, acetaminophen, and other pharmaceuticals that mask symptoms may have a problematic affects on our children’s long-term health.
A strong healthy immune system-with good nutrition, adequate rest and activity, good hygiene practices, and lots of love and healthy physical contact- is the best defense against illness.
There is a time and place for pharmaceuticals, including vaccinations. I invite everyone to make informed choices about the substances she or he puts on and into her or his body and her or his children’s bodies. Integrative healthcare is healthy health care.
My life is busy. I certainly don’t have time for my kids to be out of school, and I don’t want to make them miserable intentionally. However, when I heard that one of my friend’s children had chickenpox, we packed all four of our children over and let them play together. They hugged and played alongside each other. They also played bingo, and everyone blew on a shared whistle or harmonica every time they had a match. The older kids knew we were trying to expose them to chickenpox. They saw their friend who was itchy and pock-marked and uncomfortable. They empathized with him and wondered how they would feel when they had chickenpox.
Exactly two weeks after exposure, all three big kids had full-fledged chickenpox outbreaks.
Havivah, my 9-year-old, really wanted to get chickenpox in order to have complete immunity and hopefully less of a chance to developing shingles. Once she got them, she was uncomfortable and whiny for the first three days and then she was fine. Her symptoms started out looking like a stomach bug; she was head-achy and nauseous and did vomit. She had one spot by her eye that I did not suspect to be chickenpox until two days later when the pox popped out all over her body.
My 4- and 5- year-old sons fared well too. They were lethargic and itchy and whiny for the first three days, but we had natural comfort tools that kept it more than bearable for all of us.

Regular soaking baths (oatmeal, raw apple cider vinegar or baking soda), calendula salve, homeopathic remedies, immune supporting herbs, and good nutrition allowed my family to sail through the pox. We had some great family cuddle time and played with lots of friends who hoped to share this very manageable childhood illness.
As with many life challenges there were many tools we used that supported us through this minor illness.
First we trimmed everyone’s nails to limit damage that scratching may cause. Then we sought out tools to limit the itching and discomfort naturally.

I  consulted with my midwife Cathy Weston (www.birthjourneymidwife.com/), our in-house Naturopathic Physician, Laura Flanagan, N.D. (spokanenaturopathic.com), and Monica German, M.D. (www.medicine-naturally.com).

Both Cathy Weston and Dr. German recommended homeopathic remedies for the symptoms (www.homeopathic.org). These remedies included: Rhus toxicodendron for the itchy lesions, Chamomilla for fussiness, especially if one cheek is redder than the other, Belladonna for fever and irritability.
Dr. Flanagan recommends “Increas(ing) Vitamin A and Elderberry. Vitamin E is good topically to decrease scarring and help skin healing – once they get to the scab stage… Oatmeal baths are a staple too…[Dr. Flanagan] recommends that the oatmeal goes into a old nylon stocking or thin sock. Let the water run over the sock, squeeze it a few times to get the stuff out and then use the sock to rub over your kiddos’ bodies if they feel itchy.”

The following are Dr. German’s recommendations for managing viral infections:

• Increase the dose of Vitamin D3 for the first three days to ‘boost’ the immune system. The daily winter dose is usually 1000-2000 IU per day, but it depends on your child’s age and his or her Vitamin D status.
• Other immune boosters that I like to use are Probiotics, Omega 3’s and Elderberry syrup .
• Other herbs that have been used as immuno-stimulants in adults are olive leaf, Astragalus and Lysine. (Lysine has been shown to help with the herpes virus, which is, as mentioned above, related to the chickenpox virus.)

Adequate water intake is very important. This is in addition to any smoothies or fresh juices that are consumed. The daily target of water intake (in fluid ounces) can be calculated by dividing your child’s weight by two. (For example, the goal for a 30 lb. child would be 15 oz). This amount needs to be increased if fever is present.

Diet considerations:
• A diet rich in whole foods, with plenty of vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors. This “rainbow diet” has been shown to provide the phytonutrients needed to strengthen the immune system.
• Juices rich in vitamin A and C, such as fresh carrot juice or fresh-squeezed lemon juice with water and honey.
• Chicken soup (chicken should be organic or at least antibiotic- and hormone-free).
• Vegetable broth with shiitake mushrooms.
• Smoothies with kale, cabbage, beet, broccoli.
• Acerola cherries.
• Blackberries.
• Elderberries.
• For painful mouth and throat ulcers, a soft diet should be used. Infants should receive fluids by cup, spoon, or syringe rather than bottle because the nipple can cause increased pain.
• Limit sugar and processed foods. No corn syrup. No sodas. Limit dairy, especially if mouth sores are present. Fermented dairy is OK (yogurt or kefir).

Fever Treatment:
• Hydrotherapy and “warming socks”.
• Do not treat a mild fever with medications if it is below 101.5 and your child is feeling relatively OK. Studies have shown that children do better overall when some fever is allowed to continue during this illness. If medication is necessary because your child is bothered by the fever or the fever is high, then use acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol).
• Never use aspirin because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
• Ibuprofen is also not recommended because it might increase the risk of severe streptococcal skin infections.
• How do you know your child is well hydrated when fever is present? He or she should be voiding at least five times per day and the urine should not be too dark in color.

Topical remedies that you can use to soothe the rash:
• Calendula cream.
• Cool/lukewarm baths in which you can add two ounces (60 ml) of baking soda per tub.
• Calamine lotion: Apply lotion to the chickenpox that itch the most or massage them with an ice cube for 10 minutes.
• Other options: tea tree oil, oatmeal baths, aloe vera gel.

Chickenpox is typically a benign, self-limited disease, but serious complications can arise, including shingles and secondary bacterial infections (most often with strep or staph bacteria) like impetigo or cellulitis. The risk of complications is highest in people with compromised immune systems, newborns, and adults. Although rare, serious complications in children include pneumonia, deep tissue infection, joint infections, and encephalitis.

We are grateful that we had tools to weather this childhood illness and now I can count on the immunity my children have against chickenpox.

For more information about immunizations:  www.greatergoodmovie.org, www.drtenpenny.com, http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/vaccines