Wear Your Red Flannels
Well, it seems like the Arctic has broken it's iron grip on the East coast, at least around Philadelphia. Yesterday we had a few inches of snow, today it rained this morning and now the sun is shining and it's above 40 degrees! "It's a veritable heat wave!" as I heard someone describe it yesterday.
However, this is the PERFECT time of year to learn the lessons of our elders. Do you know what happened to Laura that afternoon, when she was hot and scratchy in her flannels?
"Laura went crossly back to school and sat squirming because she must not scratch. She held the flat geography open before her, but she wasn't studying. She was trying to bear the itching flannels and wanting to get home where she could scratch. The sunshine from the western windows had never crawled so slowly.
Suddenly there was no sunshine. It went out, as if someone had blown out the sun like a lamp. The outdoors was gray, the windowpanes were gray, and at the same moment a wind crashed against the schoolhouse, rattling windows and doors and shaking the walls.
The blizzard was scouring against the walls, and the winds squealed and moaned in the stovepipe."
The forecast is still calling for single digits next week, and we've had significant snow in March (and April) before. Keep your flannels handy! Winter hasn't given up quite yet.
The internets are full of "what to do" about a cold. Here's a snarky little list of "things to avoid" instead!
Every season, I meet people determined to catch a cold and keep it. I see people begging the flu virus to take up residence. I watch people roll out the welcome mat and fluff the pillows for a lingering cough and phlegm.
Here are 5 hard-and-fast rules to getting sick, to help you guarantee many more months of misery!
1. Not feeling well? Indulge yourself.
Who wants to cook when you're under the weather? Don't! Order pizza! Eat ice cream! It's Girl Scout Cookie season!
It’s a well-known fact that dairy increases mucous. And since flour really acts like sugar in your body, you’re getting a one-two punch with pizza- sugar shuts down your immune system for up to 6 hours at a time, so after inhaling all that snot-forming cheese (ooo, get the stuffed crust! Go for broke!) your defense system is helpless to respond, well beyond your next mealtime.
Plus, a sick body needs food that is easy to digest, like soup, so what energy it does have left can be routed to fighting back the invaders. So picking a dinner like pizza, that’s heavy and greasy and gummy, and following it with something totally junky for dessert, makes sure you have absolutely nothing left for the fight.
Bonus: Go ahead and feel virtuous- no matter what veggies you order as toppings, or what useless labels like "natural" you find on the carton, they won’t mitigate the complete lack of any redeeming value here. Organic junk food is still junk! Party on!
2. Start taking Echinacea at the start of the season
Echinacea is an immune stimulant, so constantly stimulating your immune system from the very start of cold and flu season is a great way to wear it out and make sure it can’t handle any illness once you do catch something. Avoid immune builders, too, like vitamin-dense fruits and vegetables, herbs like medicinal mushrooms or adaptogens, and mineral rich bone broths.
Elderberry is another great one to mention here. Since it needs a constant presence in your body to glom onto the mace-shaped flu virus and nullify it, enjoying elderberry syrup in fits and starts assures that the virus will be able to shake the elderberry’s sticky presence, mutate, and resume bashing open your cell walls with its little spikes just for the fun of it.
3. Keep On Truckin’
There’s a war going on inside you. But you have obligations! And deadlines! And commitments! And a life! So keep pushing through, keep working at the same breakneck pace that got you here in the first place.
Stress hormones depress your immune system (seems evolution didn’t rank killing a bacteria very high compared to the tiger that’s trying to kill you now). If you can keep up the stress load, all those illness-causing microbes will be able party like it’s 2099, and probably until then too.
Besides, stress absolutely destroys your supply of B vitamins and other nutrients, which are essential for energy. You’ll be extra good and exhausted during all this, as well. Whatever you do, don’t listen to those strident demands for extra sleep that your whole self is making.
4. Coffee. CoffeeCoffeeCoffee! And wine.
Your immune system has managed to mount some kind of response. It’s battling the bacteria and viruses that are trying to take over. The casualties of this fight are being swept away by your blood stream, filtered into your lymph system, broken down in your liver, strained out by your kidneys. You need help washing away all this debris. Don’t give in!
Coffee is a diuretic, removing water from your system. It also stimulates those poor, overtaxed adrenal glands on your kidneys, taking away some resources from the kidneys themselves. AND it stimulates the digestive system, one of those less-than-necessary functions during an immune response. Triple Whammy!
Don’t forget the alcohol, also a great diuretic. Go ahead, break the seal. Just make sure there’s no good, clean water to chase it. Alcohol also beats up your liver and kidneys MMA- style, so this a super time to go all out on them.
5. Go to the doctor at the first sign of anything
Last but not least, get rid of your symptoms all together, why don’t you? What an inconvenience a runny nose is, that chest congestion rattling around is, your pesky fever is. Go get yourself a prescription.
Fever suppressants, cough suppressants, decongestants (really anti-congestants, since they don’t help your mucous flow but rather just make it stop producing), antihistamines- begone, annoying symptoms.
What happens to the mucous when it doesn’t come out? Who cares?! Antibiotics for a viral infection? Who cares?! Why do you get a fever, really? Who cares?! I don’t care about being sick, so long as I feel perfect now. Those symptoms are the signs of a healthy immune system that is able to fight- shut that DOWN!
Obviously, people, serious conditions need medical care. But so do all your other minor conditions! Go sit in that office, bring your copay and leave your face mask at home. You'll probably pick up a more exotic bug than the one you originally came in for.
Have a merry cold and flu season, my friends!
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
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This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.