From 2009-2012 guess how many colds I got? ZERO! My response to this was to (of course) congratulate myself on reaching the pinnacle of health. Finally, all the years of acupuncture, food therapy and holistic living equated to the near perfect health status I deserved. Mission accomplished (picture me on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a jump suit if you must).
Yes, I had achieved total health bliss... Or, maybe for some reason, my immune system was kicking butt the whole time I was pregnant and or breastfeeding my children (which also happened to be from 2009-2013). Or, maybe I just lucked out… hindsights 20/20. Turns out I shouldn't have been quite so self congratulatory.
Sufficed to say, in 2013 when I was clobbered by the worst head/chest plague of my entire life I was eating a bit of humble pie. I coughed so hard I developed stabbing cough headaches (yup… it's a thing and it sucks). I hacked day and night like a lifelong chain smoker. When I exhaled it was like a death rattle. I felt tired… I was cranky… and it lasted TWO months. Seriously… TWO MONTHS!
I thought it was a once in a lifetime super nasty bug that took me down despite my being super healthy (denial, you glorious thing)… until the next year I got clobbered yet again… TWICE! Chest X-rays, two rounds of antibiotics, steroid inhalers, roughly 80 natural remedies, vaporizers (hot and cold), acupuncture, you name it. I was fighting hard… and again, chain smoker cough, anxiety inducing brain aneurisms… I mean cough headaches… fun. (Did I mention I pee in my pants when I cough). Yup, so that's a bonus.
It was at this point that my awesome husband reminds me of something he's heard me say about 100 times.
In Chinese medicine, when a person has a weakness as a child and they seem to outgrow it, it will eventually come back. The reason it seems to go away is that the taxation of being a child is over (growing, learning, developing) and so the weakness isn't so obvious. It looks like it is gone. But, when a person ages enough the weakness (which was always there) eventually comes back into the picture.
What he actually said was, "But you were sick with colds a lot as a kid right?"
To which I said… "and your point?"
To which he replied, "And you had exercise induced asthma growing up right??"
At which point I defensively said, "what are you getting at?"
Which resulted in him saying, "well, I've heard you tell other people…"
I'll admit I was proud that he listened and knew how it worked. If I hadn't had the lungs of an 80 year old, I might have even been turned on. But mostly it still annoyed me, because this is not supposed to apply to me at 37 years old… it was supposed to apply to me at 73 years old. Seriously. Not. Cool.
He's right of course, I had the respiratory weakness as a kid. I "grew out of it," but it was always there, lurking. After having two children (via miraculous near death bleed out experiences no less) and breastfeeding for 4 years (not to mention not sleeping through a single night for 4 years straight). My weakness was back in plain sight.
So, what's a girl (trapped in the body of an 80 year old) to do?!
I practiced what I preach. In Chinese medicine, the time to work on weaknesses that show up in the winter months, is in the summer. Or, to put it in a more "Chinesey" way (trust me on that verbiage, I'm a TCM practitioner). Winter Disease, Summer Treatment.
Because in the summer, when you are NOT battling a virus that will make you want to die is the right time to actually succeed at getting a leg up on your weakness and actually boosting your good stuff (again, I'm trained, trust me on the lingo here… "good stuff.")
So, fast forward to the summer of 2015. I'd recovered, I was feeling good. I took herbs, just one or two doses of teapills (no nasty liquids needed) for 3 months. And I prayed it was helping, because quite honestly, I couldn't tell.
Fast forward to now - mid December 2015. Each of my two children has had no less than 3 rounds of colds and coughs (mild for them, but worrisome for their 80 year old lunged mother). Of these colds, my husband (who never gets sick… for real) got ONE of them. (okay, maybe he gets sick once a decade). I have not gotten sick yet!! Can I get a Hell Yeah!?
I'd like to say the herbs are the only thing I did, but I'm also throwing in a few other choice preventative techniques while my children contaminate me (with their love/snot). Namely:
1) Washing my hands frequently and thoroughly. I've always done this though, but I continue to, and think it is worth mentioning for those who don't give it as much thought.
2) I neti pot RELIGIOUSLY. By this, I mean I neti pot and pray that I don't get the crap that is circulating my house. But really. I neti pot EVERY DAY… at least once, TWICE if I feel like I'm on the verge of getting ill (or 5 times a day when staying at a person's house with pneumonia… oh, did I mention this? Yup, In addition to my sick children I threw in a bonus test and stayed for 5 days in a house with someone who - at that time - was in the initial (most contagious) days of a terrible cough that has since been diagnosed as pneumonia… I Neti potted with NO shame… I nearly broke down in tears on day five because I was sure I was getting it… but I didn't!).
This is how I neti…
Regular Neti… warm water and 1/4 teaspoon salt water.
Hard core Neti version 1.0… well… I was using Citrusidal GSE, but then I JUST found out that the efficacy (antimicrobial) properties, might actually be from contamination of preservatives in it, or the chemical processing it undergoes. So, I'm rethinking this one now.
Hard core Neti version 2.0… I used to use this product with my neti water/salt. I think I might experiment with going back to it instead of GSE. See… I'm still learning (geez, when will it end!?)
I use the regular neti when I feel like the terrorist/germ threat level is at a blue or green level.
I use the Hard Core Neti when it is yellow or above. I don't exaggerate when I use the word terror. (okay, maybe I do a tiny bit).
I also get enough sleep! Especially if I'm feeling on the verge. I go to bed on time and take a nap if I can (think 80 year old lungs -nana needs her afternoon siesta).
I eat well. I've got a LOT of posts about this… not too many carbs, lots of veggies, lots of fat. See the low carb high fat tab on the blog for much more on this subject.
And I drink enough fluids. 1/2 your weight in ounces. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim for around 75 ounces of water per day.
I think the hand washing and Neti, sleep and fluids are probably enough, but for good measure (because I'm terrified). I also:
Take mediherb (by Standard Process) Echinacea I'll have to do another post on this, as it too, has some nay sayers, but in this case the nay sayers are 1) because some of the brands tested didn't actually contain any echinacea (seriously!?) or 2) because some studies (on a variety of different compounds, found in different parts of the plant) have been ineffective (while others have shown promise). In this case, I feel like taking it can't hurt and Standard Process seems to do the best job I've found making sure the actual plant (and right parts of it) are in the supplement).
And, I try to add humidity to the air. Lots of plants, leave the fan off in the bathroom when I shower, a diffuser running, etc.
That's it. So… Who Knows. Will I have a two month cough my lungs out session this winter yet? I'll keep you posted! But for the time being I'm going to keep doing my Neti and other prevention and I'm glad I took the herbs over the summer.
Oh, and why am I not giving you the name of the herbs I took?! Because in TCM, there isn't ever a one size fits all approach to herbs (that's reductionistic even if it is natural). The particular lung boosting herbs I took were for my old lady lungs, but also for the rest of what I have (I tend to be hot, have constipation, and if anything get irritable - a person who is always cold, has lose stools, or is more anxious would need totally different lung boosting herbs). So, if you want to chat more, let me know! Or see your friendly (and well trained!) TCM herbalist next summer.