Friday, February 22, 2013

Be well.

During the latest round of colds that it seemed like everyone except me suffered from, I reflected once again on what a true blessing health is, one that too often goes unappreciated until it's gone. In this area I am particularly fortunate, as I hardly ever get sick. I can't really remember the last time I was well and truly ill...aside from some minor colds that I have given myself once in a while through deliberate abuse (more on that later), I think the last time I was really really sick was nine years ago when my ear drums exploded. 'Swiss cheese' was the description my doctor shouted to me, as I was all but deaf for a while. It was horrid. Ahem. Circumstances beyond my control into which we shall not delve now. But besides being haunted by the ghosts of sickness past, I have remained in the pink.

It is also a feature of the habitually vibrant and vivacious to be heartless, and I have been known to (repeatedly) say such flippant things as: I don't believe in getting sick! My insurance plan is to stay healthy! You can't get sick from your children, their germs are too small and puny! Hah-hah!

Yes, hit me now.


But of course, while I may actually be endowed with a vigorous immune system, it's likelier that I remain well as a result of some beneficial habits I have acquired in my adulthood. And now seems like an opportune time to share them, in case there are those of you out there muscling your way (wo)manfully through your third cold of the season and are filled with drastic and morbid visions of Kleenex and cough syrup. I am sure there is little or nothing here you haven't heard before, but let me add my weight to the efficacy of these methods. Be advised that I am not a medical professional, just a well-meaning citizen, and it is always best to check out anything you read on the internet with an actual healthcare provider.


* Gargle as soon as you get out of bed. Especially before you eat or drink anything. I usually do this with mouth wash, more to dispel the taste of nighttime than anything else, but it has the added benefit of getting nasty bacteria that's waiting to enter your system via your esophagus out of your body. If I feel like getting sick is a looming possibility, then I gargle with warm salt water, occasionally with some added lemon. {Incidentally, it is actually helpful to keep gargling salt water when you are sick, especially with throat ailments, since the hypertonic solution reduces some of the inflammation in your throat, thus also relieving soreness. Thank you high school microbiology.}

* Wash thy hands. Thoroughly. Again and again. Especially when returning home, before eating, and especially before rubbing your eyes. To be safe, never touch your eyes, they are your most permeable gateway to disease, lacking the protective enzymes and bacteria that your mouth has as well as the tricky hairs and membranes of your nose. And invest in some decent lotion, since cracked and bleeding hands are not only unpleasant, but vulnerable. I was always fairly good about hand washing, but extended proximity with Alex (a hand washing zealot, dare we say extremist?) did have an amplifying effect on me.

* Use a Neti Pot. I have done so almost every day since I was in my late teens to no detrimental effect. I  admit that I do so mainly because I hate having boogers (I never realized this until I stopped having them because I was washing my nose out every morning, so it became a bit of a cycle), but it has similar benefits as gargling, and is also wonderful for allergy sufferers. It reduces the duration of the highly irritating 'faucet' portion of the common cold, and is much kinder to your nose than tissues. It has become part of my shower routine, I keep the pot and a pint-sized container in the shower. I put a rounded 1/2 tsp coarse Kosher salt in the container before I get in the shower, fill and shake while in the shower, and Bob's your uncle. If you can never seem to get your salt mixture right, try using equal parts baking soda and salt (1/4 tsp each per side/nostril, 1/2 tsp each if using my method and pre-mixing your solution for both sides). I use the container to mix first because I learned that undissolved salt from trying to imperfectly mix in the Neti pot itself is no picnic.

DEFCON 1 (when you feel yourself starting to get sick):

* Assiduously continue with all above, but even more so.

* Load up on immune system helpers: Vit. C, Vit. D, Zinc, Elderberry, aromatics, echinacea, goldenseal, immuno tinctures, Yin Chiao, mushroom extracts, etc. Whatever floats your boat. My favorite in the past has been chewing on dried Osha root. Ka-pow, it packs a mighty punch and is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, I've noticed many ailments tend to be fainthearted at the outset. They only become bullies when they have their armies of clones assembled.

* Eat no sugar. Heh heh, my old nemesis. The few times I've gotten sick in the past decade or so, it's because I failed right here. When I KNOW BETTER, I still succumb to the come-hither flutter of some morsel's delectable lashes, and then it's bye-bye health. This was almost my downfall last week, as I had a tiny sick person glued to me for several days straight -- usually not a problem (tiny germs, remember?) -- and I bafflingly made not one but TWO batches of cookies. That of course I had to eat by myself because everyone else was sick. Duh. That put me in Defcon 1 territory right quick, but all's well that ends well. Anyway, sugar depresses your body's capacity for immune response, so it gives the germs a free several hours to get up to all the mischief they want without resistance, which is often more than enough time for you to get well and truly sick.

* Eat no dairy. This one is less strict than the above, but you generally want to avoid anything that creates more mucous for your body to deal with. Gross. Interestingly, this includes oranges and orange juice for many people, so don't be tempted by all that juicy Vitamin C, and just get a pack of Emergen-C instead. Bread is often a culprit here, too, so proceed in moderation.

* Take care of yourself. You know, don't go out partying (alcohol has the same deleterious effect as sugar, since it's basically sugar on steroids), ease up on stressful situations if possible, go to bed early, relax with the laundry or dishes or whatnot for a day, the world won't end and it's better than being out of commission for a week.

       >> Amendment to the above: a hot toddy or two (or something similar) is a perfectly acceptable tonic when battling sickness, it's just the excess combined with stressors such as long nights out while inadequately dressed for the inclement weather that you want to avoid.

There. Now pat yourself on the back, marvel at your fortitude, and go about your business. Be sure to look noble and benevolent when the discussion of illness comes up, you wouldn't want to let the side down. I am sure I've left things out, in my former life I was on a track to become a physician and wellness remains a particular area of interest. If you have questions I am always gleeful glad to offer (uncertified, untrained, etc.) opinions and advice where I can.

1 comment:

  1. If you are still not getting sick with TWO adorable lil germ machines running around, my hats off to you lady. I don't get sick often either but I chalk it up mainly to avoiding human contact (and the aforementioned ferocious handwashing.) Though I will add a few things to your list of wonderful feel-good things:

    - Yogurt and apple cider vinegar. Not together, ew. I have both with honey, and the vinegar with lots of hot water (it's kind of like a hot lemonadey drink, not bad really.) Both are mainly good for the digestive system but supposedly have other benefits too. The ACV also apparently treats every disease and skin condition known to man and makes your hair shiny.

    - Sivia got me started taking oil of oregano whenever I start thinking I'm getting sick. Don't know if it works, but I don't usually end up sick and the last time I DID get sick, it was really mild and it may have been the OOO's fault.

    - Nobody gets enough vitamin D or magnesium. You got me hooked on those gummy vitamin D's (I only like vitamins that are candy.) I have the magnesium with honey and hot water too (sometimes with the vinegar but I have a weird suspicion that they might cancel each other out.) Go easy on that stuff though, it's what they use (in large quantity) to prep you for a colonoscopy.

    - Cuppa green tea every morning never hurt nobody

    I had to pretty much stop using my neti pot because I kept getting water in my terribly-feeble ear-tubes and causing more problems than I was solving :-( I miss not having snot, though. (Also I learned that you're supposed to use distilled or boiled water because once every billion times, there will be a brain-eating amoeba in the tap water that will crawl up your nose and murder you. But c'mon, like I'm going to do a whole extra step.)