Why don’t you want to get sick? What is wrong with being sick? Oh, you feel awful. You can’t get anything done. You are missing days of work and/ or time with your kids. That is hard. But its temporary, right? This doctor says “suck it up!”. Lets talk about what it means to be sick.
Colds and flus are commonplace. And being sick with any variety of a cold or flu virus can be miserable. Nowadays we are advised to get a flu shot in efforts to stay “healthy”. But is avoiding a cold or flu actually keeping you well? Have you ever heard someone comment “I can’t believe that so-and-so has cancer! S/he never got sick!” Have you ever wondered why?
People’s immune systems at every stage of life need exercise. An infant’s developing immune system needs to be exposed to germs in order to learn appropriate responses to viruses and bacteria. Studies are now showing that children raised in very clean environments actually suffer more from asthma, allergies and eczema. (Study #2, Article). Farm kids tend to be the healthiest kids around. Why? Because they play in the dirt, they hang out near animals and they train their immune systems to respond appropriately to the world around them. I won’t spend time discussing the complexities of the immune system, Th1 and Th2 responses here (you can come to my childhood immunization lectures for that!). But I do want to address some basic issues.
As the title of this post states: I WANT my patients to get sick. I want you, my patient, to come into my office at least twice a year and tell me about that miserable cold you had or that flu that went through your house. I want to know that your immune system has a) been exposed to pathogens and b) responded appropriately. The best thing that can happen to one of my patients who “never gets sick” is to come down with a walloping fever and really be laid up for a few days. When this happens I know we have “woken up” the immune system. I want you to REST when you get sick and not try to keep up with the rest of your life. I want you to honor your body’s cues and take care of yourself.
Here are a few of my suggestions for cold and flu season:
-By all means, keep washing your hands. But PLEASE avoid that antibacterial soap and the waterless hand sanitizer (not only is it a chemical but it is also contributing to antibiotic resistance). Use a good old fashioned bar of soap.
-Get plenty of sleep.
-Keep your head, neck and feet warm all fall and winter long.
-Take a probiotic from a reputable company.
-Reconsider that flu shot. We don’t know the long term effects of the flu shot, or any immunization for that matter. This year’s flu shot may or may not be matched to the actual active strain this year. Flu shots often contain mercury. And last, if you don’t get the flu every once in a while, when a really nasty flu goes around your body will not have had appropriate exercise to fight it off effectively.
-Allow, and even encourage that fever. Be very conservative with fever reducers. Learn to moderate a fever naturally rather than suppressing the body’s innate mechanisms to fight germs the way it knows how. If you have a small child and want support in this please see a naturopathic doctor before allowing a fever to get too high. But remember, an effective fever is higher than 99F/37C. A fever of 99F/ 37C or below actually creates a wonderful environment for the bugs to hang out without being killed off. Fever reducing drugs (ie Tylenol) will bring the fever to right around 99F/ 37C. Hmmm, where does that land us?
-Consume clear fluids if/ when you get that fever. (Brothy soups, miso soup, water, tea. Avoid juice).
-Lastly, LET YOURSELF GET SICK!! (The government doesn’t want you to because that might affect the GDP. That is part of why public health agencies push vaccinations….. but that is a story for another day!)
As a professional, I do want to be sure you also know to consult a physician who is comfortable with being sick and who is not afraid of fevers and other means by which the body communicates with us. So please do establish a relationship with someone who can support you in all aspects of wellness, which includes the phases of acute illness. This includes Chinese Medicine practitioners, some osteopaths, some MD’s, chiropractors, and lastly but not least: NATUROPATHIC PHYSICIANS!