Better Off Well


Immunity-Building: Offense vs. Defense

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If you've seen headlines lately, you know that a particular strand of the enterovirus is sending thousands of kids across the country into hospitals with severe asthma attacks. Kids already living with respiratory issues are more susceptible. Fortunately, there have been no deaths reported and it seems the body has been good about defeating the virus over a period of time. Still, it is scary to see your child struggling for breath. The reports often cite the advice that little can be done except to wash hands and disinfect the home.I disagree. As a mom and a researcher, I believe a lot more can be done to help our children's bodies build their defense systems. This is the time to get proactive so that if our children do encounter the enterovirus, their bodies will be better equipped to handle it and eradicate it much sooner. This is where we focus on coaching our offense.

This is what I am doing...

1) Disinfect. Now that little ones may be bringing home little pathogenic gifts from their friends at school, it's time to be the Clean Vigilante, paying special attention to things like door knobs, handles, telephones, tables, sinks, and bathrooms. But there is NO anti-bacterial soap here. You can read my post here to see why we never do the anti-bacterial stuff. I clean with vinegar and if extra power is required, I spray with hydrogen peroxide after. (Keep hydrogen peroxide stored in dark spray bottles as it breaks down easily in light.) You can read more about the power of vinegar here. Oh, and be sure your cutting boards are wood, not plastic. You can read more about that here.

2) We wash hands. With soap. For the entire ABC song. Or maybe Row, Row, Row Your Boat. NOT with the anti-bacterial stuff. Read why here.

3) We avoid phthalates in plastics, many of which have been found to induce respiratory problems. Also called "plasticizers" they are what help to make plastic more flexible and harder to break. As much as possible, we avoid storing food in plastic, wearing plastic (think rain coats), or cooking in plastic (i.e. ready-to-microwave veggies in plastic bags).

4) We avoid fragrance. Also a source of phthalates are products with chemical scents. One important baby step for us was to buy fragrance-free products, until we could start replacing, one by one, the products we use with better, more natural alternatives. Scented laundry detergent was the first to go since we were being exposed to those chemicals ALL day through our clothes, sheets, and towels.

5) We eat real food. Some nights our real food comes from a box in the form of beans and there are times my son gets Annie's mac n cheese (though not sure about that now since they they've been bought out by General Mills...). We are not purists, but at least 80% of the time we eat to fuel our bodies, which means colorful foods with disease-preventing compounds and prebiotics that feed our good bacteria. Chili, lentil soup, and Moroccan stew are all favorites. Steaming veggies in a pot and popping popcorn on top of the stove are pretty easy, too.

6) We avoid refined sugar. Ideally, we wouldn't eat any sugar because our bodies have no nutritional need for sugar and get glucose stores from the fruits and veggies we eat. But again, not purists here. What we do is use dates, bananas, honey, and maple syrup when we do make sweets. Sugar feeds pathogens, so especially good to limit at this time of year.

7) We clean the air. Until temps dip down into single digits, don't be surprised to find me slipping open a window now and then- if only a crack and if only for a few minutes to circulate the air and release stale carbon dioxide. I keep indoor plants, known to have healing benefits, not only for bringing nature indoors but for their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. I also have a diffuser that I LOVE and run often once windows are closed and sniffles begin. I fill with eucalyptus and tea tree oils, both known for their anti-bacterial properties, and I let 'er run. Some people are sensitive to these oils, so use with caution at first. If you don't have a diffuser, you can do the same by simmering on the stove.

8) We stay active. Icicles may form on drippy noses, but that doesn't keep us inside. Snow shoeing, sledding, and winter hiking are all favorites of ours. Exercise produces hormones that help to fight disease and boost the immune system. When we get back, decadent hot cocoa is that much sweeter.

9) We get quiet. Or at least I do. While it's not yet the habit I want it to be, I am working to get meditation a regular part of my routine. When I do make it a part of my day, I feel so much more focused, sleep better, and stay healthier.

10) And speaking of's a part of our day that is so undervalued yet holds so much importance to a body. If I can just get this ONE. MORE. THING. done, I will sleep better. Only we usually don't because there will always be just one more thing. Human Growth Hormone is produced only during our sleep and is what helps to keep our bodies energized and performing well during the day. Cell reparation happens during snooze time, too. Meditation helps me to sleep better, as does having a night time routine that includes reading from an old-fashioned page-turner kind of book. Eating foods that contain magnesium, like black beans and dark chocolate, help too.

11) We laugh. This is something you'll never hear prescribed from a western physician but laughter truly IS the best medicine. Get together with friends you enjoy, watch funny movies, see a comedy show, tell jokes, play games.

12) We do the D. In the northeast, especially, we do not get enough sun exposure over the winter months so our bodies can't produce this vital hormone that seems to be related to almost every function in the body. When it's time for coats; it's time for the D here.

13) We burn beeswax. NO more chemically-scented candles for us. I now only burn coconut wax candles from Ava Anderson (which smell AMAZING) or beeswax candles that I find in local health stores. I can't afford to put a candle in every corner of my home like I used to when I bought the cheapies, but I can breathe easier knowing I'm not polluting my home, so it's more than worth it. There are no guarantees we won't get sick this winter, but since we've added these practices to our lifestyle, it's made a big difference. When little guy comes home with the sniffles, they last only a few days and have so far not progressed to anything worse. Same for me.