Growing up my mom always had some great wisdom to share including this gem, “don’t wash your hands, germs are good for your immune system!” I tried to take this to heart but, as I have told you before, I suffered from asthma from a very young age. I was always sick with bronchitis, ear infections and sinus infections. Life during the winter months (who am I kidding, Fall and Spring too because of allergies) was a delicate balancing act for me. I was always worried about catching a cold and more importantly worried it would turn into something worse. I was a ticking time bomb. When I had my daughter and she started daycare the fun really began. I have never had so many sick episodes in my life. My daughter was sick often, however, while she recovered quickly, I did not and I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. My doctor even told me I should take her out of daycare so she would stop bringing home all of the germs!
I felt so helpless. Germs are everywhere. Trying to avoid germs is just plain disheartening and completely impractical. It got to a point where I was afraid to give my daughter a kiss or share my food with her.
I am going to assume many of you have similar experiences but probably the reverse – your kids are the ones who are constantly sick.
Rethinking the root cause of illness and disease
There are basically two camps when it comes to research on how we get sick – 1) The Germ Theory of Disease via Louis Pasteur and 2) The “pleomorphism’ theory via Claude Bernard and Antoine Bechamp. In the simplest of terms, we either get sick from microorganisms we come in contact with or we get sick only when the terrain or internal environment of the body becomes favorable to disease. The former we are all familiar with. But what I could never understand was how some people can get so sick so easily and often and some do not (or do) but recover quickly. The mere presence of germs does not constitute the presence of illness or disease. If there is something more to the story, Bechamp’s theory seems to hit on it. His theory hinges on the health of our microbiome. When our microbiome is disturbed, it can create an environment for opportunist bacterium to cause illness and disease.
There is even a new Germ Theory emerging which postulates that the diseases we view as ‘lifestyle’ diseases are actually also infectious diseases! For example, it used to be conventional wisdom that stomach ulcers were caused by stress and diet. It has been discovered that ulcers are actually caused by h.pylori instead. There is growing evidence of a strain of bacteria present in heart disease patients as well.
The best offense is a good defense
Bechamp’s theory gives me a sense of empowerment. I am now in the driver’s seat and I can do something other than take my daughter out of school (not realistic!) or take tons of meds for my symptoms. I can focus on building up my defenses and the defenses of my family. Here is what we do to avoid getting sick and why I am not afraid of this year’s cold season.
- Get plenty of Vitamins A and D from whole food sources including grass fed butter, milk and eggs, cod liver oil and liver/organ meats. By now with all of the studies being released, we should be acutely aware of the benefits of Vitamin D to our immune systems. However, we should give Vitamin A equal billing. According to the book Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox:
“The skin is one of the first organs to show signs of Vitamin A deficiency. The epithelium is the delicate skin-like tissue that lines the mouth, nose, throat, eyes, stomach, digestive tract, bladder, urinary tract, vagina and almost every bodily organ. These cells act as important barriers to invading microorganisms. Without adequate retinol, the structure and function of these tissues is compromised. Vitamin A has long been known as the anti-infection vitamin because it plays an essential role in protecting the body from infection in many ways including the maintenance of healthy skin and respiratory tract tissue and optimal production of antibodies and white blood cells in response to foreign bacteria and viruses.”
And contrary to popular belief carrots do not give you Vitamin A.
Notice how the sources of Vitamin A are foods we all don’t often eat anymore? Our family eats liver once a week and we take Cod Liver Oil every day. This isn’t your grandmother’s cod liver oil – I take it in capsule form and my daughter drinks the Orange flavor. We also eat a lot of butter and pastured eggs every day.
- Skip grains and sugar (we do eat some rice and corn). Bacteria and viruses thrive on sugar as a source for energy. When exposed to others who are sick or at the onset of any symptoms, we avoid all sugar to prevent onset of illness or for a faster recovery time. This means no juice. I just encourage my daughter to drink water.
- Focus on keeping your ‘microbiome’ healthy by eating fermented foods (What are Fermented Foods?). We try to eat and drink plenty of homemade fermented sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha with *every* meal.
- Find a type of holistic or alternative medicine that works for your beliefs and family. We use acupuncture and Chinese medicine to help in fending off invaders and for alleviating symptoms. I have also successfully used pure calendula oil in my daughter’s ears (it takes out the heat) when she complains of ear pain – within hours the pain is gone and it does not progress to an ear infection.
- Drink bone broths like homemade chicken soup all of the time, not just when you are sick, to get critical nutrients into your system. I get bone broth into my three year old by cooking brown rice and black beans in broth.
Have we seen a difference? Most definitely. Last winter our family was only sick a handful of times. Even more exciting, for the first time, none of us have had to take an antibiotic in over a year! My daughter has not been to the doctor for a sick visit in the past year. She has gotten colds but they are the mildest type of cold, more like a case of the tiny sniffles, and they only last 3 days. So this cold season I am optimistic and certainly not dreading what is to come. I am actually excited to see what this year will bring – maybe we won’t get sick at all! More importantly, I am not afraid to share my ice cream or a snuggle with my daughter, and no longer do I feel like I have to live in a bubble!
photo credit: anne gutermuth, on flickr