Wednesday, February 2, 2011

in sickness and in health...

being that this is the season for all things germ-infested, i thought it fitting to put down some of my time-honored principles for staying healthy and remedies for getting well. you must note up front that this is one of my MANY soapboxes, and will have to forgive me if i belabor the point. at the heart of it all are two things:

1. i believe God made our bodies in an amazing way.
2. i believe He gave us things to eat that help those bodies function properly.

adversely, when we are not consuming things to aid our health or ARE consuming things that are not healthy, our bodies can become impaired and subsequently unable to fight infection or disease.

my knowledge on this subject has been gleaned over many years. through conversations, numerous books, web searches, and at-the-end-of-my-wits efforts to gain or maintain health in myself and my family. we have dealt with everything from strep throat and croup to chronic constipation, ear infections, ringworm, yeast imbalances, and fungi. the more i learn, the more convinced i am in the path we are taking. that confidence is reassured by times that we stray, eat unhealthy for a time, and end up sick.

in general, we are an incredibly healthy bunch. each year there are a few runny noses and coughs passed around our house, but rarely any major sickness. nathan usually ends up with one or two fevers, but this is mostly because of his love of all things carbohydrate rich and the fact that some of his good food is occasionally left on his plate (or more typically, bowl).

i must acknowledge that for all my efforts, if it weren't for the grace of God we could be an unhealthy mess. i am grateful that He has put people and resources in my path to learn the things that i know and do the things that i do. enough's a run down of what i do.
  • we eat an all natural, mostly organic diet. as many organics as i can justify and afford. if there is an ingredient in a packaged/canned food item that i have chosen to avoid or cannot pronounce, i will probably pass. when we first started down this road that meant giving up things that i grew up eating...things that were my comforts: jif peanut butter, cream of mushroom soup, velveeta, soda, etc, etc. in our house there is no high fructose corn syrup, no MSG (or the other names for msg, found here:, no hydrogenated oils, no soy products, no known genetically modified foods, no meat treated with hormones or antibiotics, as well as no dairy products from cows treated with rBgh or rBst. we consume a LOT of onions and garlic. i make a LOT of soup, year-round. we go through a LOT of good-quality, plain yogurt (nancy's, if you're lucky enough to be near eugene, oregon). our bread is all either sprouted grain (from nature bake or dave's killer bread -- at the company store it is CHEAP from the freezer!) or homemade. we are also fortunate to live near bob's red mill and all of their great products.
  • we limit intake of white flour and sugar...most of the time. admittedly, we like our desserts. too much, on occasion. however, if i ever see signs of sickness, those are the first things to least for the sicko.
  • we take high-quality supplements. organic fruits and vegetables have a much higher nutrient content than conventionally raised produce, where the soil is depleted and replenished with only three major nutrients. there are times when i choose conventionally raised produce...because i have no organic option, because the organic option is out of financial reach, or because i'm supporting a local farmer. when i do this, i am usually careful to be aware of their pesticide/spraying practices. there are a lot of small time farms that are cultivating their crops in an organic way but cannot afford to be officially certified...these are the guys i want to find. back to supplements...we supplement because, despite my best efforts, we still need to. try sometime to add up all nutritional content in all of your food and see if you can hit all the marks. it's very hard. so, we supplement. to prevent deficiency which leads to sickness or disease. i trust and my "arsenal" is filled with their products.
  • environmental toxins are almost completely absent from our home. we use almost no commercial cleaners...seventh generation dish soap and an all-natural orange cleaning spray that is almost gone and that will be replaced with something i mix. i make laundry soap (recipe in a future post, i promise). there is a bottle of bleach in my laundry room for dire needs, but mostly i use white vinegar or lemon juice for normal whitening purposes. cleaning is done with vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, borax, and essential oils. we scent our home with vanilla coffee beans and frequent baking. :) homemade sugar scrub is used instead of soap and lotion (with the exception of my safeguard-loving husband). we have a natural shampoo, but i am committed to trying out apple cider vinegar rinses for hair. skin is your body's largest organ and it readily absorbs chemicals...especially in and just after a shower. i have yet to give up antiperspirant/deodorant, though i have tried a number of natural deodorants that i have not liked. antibacterial soaps do to your skin what antibiotics do internally...they kill the bad germs along with the natural, good flora your body has to keep itself healthy. we are exposed to germs all the time and, as long as we are being kind to our bodies, our immune systems are strong enough to fight it all off.
  • we live cold...and hot. our thermostat hangs out around 63. overnight it is allowed to dip to 55. germs don't seem to thrive in our home and i think the temperature has something to do with that. the "hot" part comes in if ever a fever strikes. i do NOT give medicine to break a fever. it is there for a reason and i do my best to make children comfortable while the fever is doing its job. wet washcloths are a great help, as is "sweating" -- the practice of wetting a pair of cotton socks, putting them on your feet, and putting a dry pair of wool socks on top. go to bed and wake up in the morning with the socks dry and many toxins pulled out through your feet. i don't understand all of how it works, but since i learned about sweating from my friend beth i have done this on numerous occasions with the same, satisfactory (sometimes incredible) results every time.
  • rest is very important! my kids get a good amount of sleep. my 4.5 and almost 6 year old still take naps nearly every day. we have had a long-standing tradition of "everyone naps on sunday afternoon." in the more recent past we have had to belay these naps for errand running and evening commitments, but this habit WILL be back in our house. we ALL need it.
with all that said, right now there is a cough going through my kids. the biggest reason for this is our current diet. andy is remodeling our kitchen, so i have not made granola since before christmas, nor have i been making eggs or oatmeal (our other breakfast staples). after a few weeks of eating boxed cereal for breakfast and not having the ability to cook normally, no one has kicked this cough as quickly as they normally would. on top of that, my blender is also broken, so our get-well-soon smoothies have not been around to aid the immune system. lunch and dinner have been likewise impaired, and we have ended up with a lot of easy meals that haven't helped keep us well. anytime we are sick, i can trace it back to our diet. all the kids took turns getting sick in iowa, in big part because we eat so differently while there. no offense to the family, we love you and will visit again, but it happens every time we go.

to fight sickness, my arsenal includes:   (* denotes products i buy from
  • tummy tune-up*...probiotic. for the kids i break open a capsule and stir the contents into unsweetened applesauce, usually with added cinnamon, an antibiotic spice.
  • cod liver oil*...immune booster. good omega-3s to aid your body in healing itself.
  • vitamin C...500mg chewable tablets. my kids think these are a treat, so it's the one "good" part about being sick. we also take these a few times a week even when well.
  • onions and broths and soups, in salads, in everything i can put it in. sometimes onion is even grated and made into a poultice (or compress) and placed on the chest (to pull a cough or infection out of the lungs) or around the upper neck (when strep visits).
  • apple cider vinegar...mostly used topically, though it can be ingested. we have used this for hives, ringworm and shingles. yes, shingles. it made the virus come to the surface and scab within two days instead of 7-10 days.
  • berry well*...elderberry syrup with raw honey, ACV, propolis, and other great stuff. keeps almost all my colds at bay.
  • coconut, unrefined coconut oil. yes, this is potentially my favorite, though it recently has lost a little bit of ground to tea tree oil. antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial. we take this orally at the first sign of sickness. i use it on my face as an overnight moisturizer to help combat wrinkles. it was the combination of ACV, tea tree oil, and coconut oil that cured jeremiah's ringworm in well under a week -- when my dad's wrestlers were on a prescription for two weeks to get rid of theirs.
  • tea tree oil*...has helped me combat yeast problems, athlete's foot, skin irritations, and bug bites, as well as clean/disinfect the house.
  • eucalyptus oil*...especially when battling upper respiratory bugs. put a few drops (4-6) in just boiled water (with a towel over your head and your eyes shut tight) and breath in the steam. you will probably cough the first few deep breaths, but keep going. this oil is strong and kills the germs in your lungs. i also put a few drops on eucalyptus oil on a folded bandana (tied loosely around the neck) before bedtime and put a bowl of warm water with a few drops of eucalyptus oil wherever a coughing/sick person is sleeping. also good for killing dust mites and bed bugs when added to the wash or sprayed on/under matteress. this is great when used in conjunction with the next thing...
  • winter breeze vapor rub*...this is like vick's vaporub, but in a natural non-petroleum based form. we apply this to the tonsil area, upper chest, and even the feet (under the wet socks, if we're also sweating).
  • drinking tea...when we are sick or others around us are sick, this is what i turn to to keep germs from adhering to mucus that builds up in the esophagus. it's a good wintertime habit to develop. when we're sick i use traditional medicinals teas, but love the one with licorice root (my mom would hate this one!). i also make "cough-ee" a tea pot, juice a lemon adding half the zest, put a few cinnamon sticks, a few slices of fresh ginger or a few sprinkles of dried, ground ginger, drizzle in a few tablespoons of raw honey, adding in about 1/4 C chamomile flowers/leaves. pour boiling water over everything and let steep for 5-10 minutes before serving. should make 4-5 C of tea.
  • the aforementioned sweating...with the sock combination on the feet and washcloths on forehead and back/stomach/side torso (whatever is up). pulls out the toxins. really.
i hope your education will not stop here...if you go looking you can find a lot more. some resources i have appreciated and trust are:
  • nourishing traditions, by sally fallon  (i use this more as a reference guide than a cookbook)
  • the naturally clean home, by karyn seigel-maier
  • herbal antibiotics, by stephen harrod buhner
  • the how to herb book, by velma j. keith and monteen gordon
  • articles from the beeyoutiful catalog
  • searching threads on
  • reading product information at

well, to save this from being longer than it needs to be i will stop for now. if i left something out, ask a question. if you think i'm crazy, well, you can say that too. hears to a good night and good health. take care of're the only one you've got. :)


  1. Two things that our family loves: elderberry extract and oil of oregano. Elderberry extract is great during flu season, as it supposedly coats the virus. Oil of oregano is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal, etc. We LOVE it! Another thing I recently learned helps combat tummy bugs: real, 100% lemon juice. My daughter picked up a tummy bug somewhere this fall and the rest of us got on probiotics, oil of oregano and lemon juice (1 Tblsp. three times per day) and no one else got it. We use a lot of the other things you mentioned, and we have found since we have made significant change to our diet and started supplement/homeopathic/herb use, we hardly EVER go to the doctor. I'm talking MAYBE once per year, and that's for the little ones (who usually are walking petri dishes for germs:)). Thanks for sharing this...I can't wait to try some of the things you suggested!

  2. yes! i totally forgot one of my favorite remedies -- elderberry syrup! thanks for the reminder. i just updated the post. :) i have yet to try oil of oregano, but have read a lot about it...will have to add that to my next essential oil purchase. the lemon juice is a good idea, too. makes sense. high in vitamin C to boost the immune system and citric acid to kill the germs. if we are ever not corporately employed, i would probably drop health insurance...the only time we go to the doctor is for yearly check-ups (or every two years, when they finally call and say "we haven't seen you in a while"). i am confident that anything we could get (including cancer) can be healed through nutrition. the only thing i have left to worry about is broken bones... :) thanks for reading!

  3. Do you have any "growing pains" tips? My little man was up for a while hurting. I hate that when I just feel helpless!

  4. i would probably do epsom salt baths and make sure he's getting enough calcium. when all else fails, we rub, rub, rub those growing legs. :)