Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The body requires a balanced intake of nutrients as well as adequate rest for health and healing. After an extremely busy weekend, when my diet was negligent and sleep was in short supply, it was no surprise when I found myself sniffling and sneezing late Saturday afternoon. I had not given my body enough of what it needed to effectively stay in balance and defend itself from the daily onslaught of germs, and so it was time for me to slow down and fight back. As the weather travels its autumnal path, and holiday schedules make it harder for us to take good care of ourselves, sometimes we just can’t help but catch that cold or flu that is making its rounds. When that happens, I have a tested regimen and immune support arsenal that I use to combat those germs and recover quickly.

FORTIFY THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: As soon as you start to feel those early symptoms that indicate you are battling some kind of virus, your first priority should be to support your immune system, so that it can effectively defend your body and quickly get you over the cold or flu. There are a number of simple ways to do this.
  • The lymphatic system is responsible for cleaning the toxins out of your body. When you are battling a virus or infection, the lymphatic system is taxed. Swollen lymph nodes are sometimes an indicator of this. Manual lymph drainage massage is an excellent way to support the lymphatic system, although it may not always be available as a treatment option.
  • An Ayurvedic recommendation would also be to start your day with a glass of warm, lemon water or herbal (caffeine free) tea to stimulate lymphatic flow, as well as taking ashwaganda to improve the function of the immune system.
  • Raw garlic and ginger, which you can easily find at your grocery store, also help to support the immune system in fighting infection.
  •  A combination of zinc, vitamin C and Echinacea have also been found helpful in boosting immune function.
  • Reishi, a medicinal mushroom, is one of my favorite immune supporters. It also has a number of other health benefits when taken regularly (especially in the areas of respiratory and cardiovascular support).
  • When running the heater in your home, consider using a vaporizer at night, to keep moisture in the air. Dry nasal passages are more vulnerable to infection.
SYMPTOMATIC RELIEF: Although there are many over the counter medications available to treat symptoms, I avoid most of them. Many of their side-effects can cause other imbalances in the body and may actually lengthen the amount of time it takes your body to get well again. Drugs formulated to decrease mucus often also dry out the sinus cavities, which makes those areas more vulnerable to infection. That can also cause the body to produce more mucus to combat the dryness. Natural methods to treat symptoms may require more frequent dosing for a more gradual relief, but they also more effectively help your body with healing and regaining balance.

·         It can be helpful to decrease sugar intake and avoid dairy when dealing with a cold, as the former can subtly decrease immune function, and the latter can – when mucus is already present – increase mucus thickness and production.  
·         For colds or coughs, turmeric is helpful in drying up and decreasing mucus production. It can be taken in capsule form, used as a spice in food, and even made into a paste with honey and ginger (which is easier for children to take, and my kids do not mind the taste). Honey can also help with excessive mucus production, and local and/or raw honey has additional health benefits.
·         For colds, Traditional Medicinals’s Gypsy Cold Care tea contains herbs that help with sinus congestion (elder flower, yarrow, hyssop, eucalyptus, licorice root, peppermint, etc.). To be most effective, sip tea throughout the day, or try to have 3 cups a day.
·         For coughs, herbal teas or natural honey based cough syrups with Slippery Elm, Cherry Bark and marshmallow root can sooth the throat and help break up chest congestion.
·         Eucalyptus and Peppermint essential oils mixed in a carrier oil to be rubbed on the chest or steam diffused in boiling water will also give temporary sinus and chest congestion relief.
·         When a stronger expectorant is needed, Naturade Herbal Expectorant with guaifenesin is very effective.
·         There are also a number of homeopathic tablets that can be safely taken in combination with any of the previous suggestions, although homeopathics should be taken separate from food and drink.
·         If there is fluid buildup in the ear, or ear infection tendencies with a cold, ear oils (I suggest Wally’s Ear Oil) containing mullein and garlic oils will help soothe and combat potential infection.

As I finish typing, a zinc lozenge sits in my mouth and a cup of herbal tea is on hand. I can honestly say that after only three days of supporting my immune system and treating my symptoms naturally, I feel almost completely recovered. All I need is another restorative night of sleep, and I will be back in balance and good as new...


Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's my first full spring and summer in my new house, and my vegetable garden is green and healthy, with the first buds appearing! I feel something akin parental pride as I watch it flourish and grow. I spent 8-10 hours laboring to bring that plot of healthy, grass and weed free soil into the world, and I vigilantly protect the plants from the encroaching weeds and pests.

As I stood up from weeding my vegetable garden the other day, I felt a little dizzy and dehydrated and was aware of some protesting joints. I was so focused on the task, that I had not realized how long I had been in the heat, kneeling and crawling around in the dirt. Every day I remind people to pay attention to their bodies, to be sure to hydrate and stretch to keep their muscles oxygenated and keep the toxins from building up. As I walked stiffly away from my garden, headed inside to drink a few glasses of water, I realized that I needed to take my own advice.

In the warm summer months, as we spend more and more time outdoors, we travel to vacation destinations, and our schedules are thrown into limbo, it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves. Though it may not be as convenient to maintain our wellness rituals during this time, massage therapy can play a big role thriving through the summer. This time of year, there are massage benefits that are particularly helpful, such as:

  • stress and anxiety relief - especially for parents with kids at home all day, 
  • releasing sore neck, back and shoulder muscles after long car trips or cramped airline flights,
  • strengthening the immune system, by aiding in detoxifying the body - especially after an afternoon of indulging in beverages and junk food on the lake or on the patio at your favorite bar,
  • reducing swelling and water retention - especially in pregnant women or those spending all day on their feet in the heat,
  • promoting clear thinking, good sleeping patterns and daytime alertness
  • improved circulation - especially for those working at a desk all day, in an air conditioned office
  • improved joint mobility and muscle function - especially for those musicians on tour all summer

In addition to these and many other potential benefits, my clients in the coming months will likely also end up with a few cucumbers and tomatoes from my garden to take home and put into a healthy salad. I look forward to the all the ways I can help make the summer a time of relaxation and wellness, for those around me and for myself.