Oh the irony, both boys slept beautifully last night and I …..was up all night coughing, sneezing and wheezing….euuurrrghhh.
When I first met my husband Matt, his response to coming down with any sort of illness seemed very dramatic. There was a lot of sighing and heavy breathing. He literally dropped everything and recruited ever potion, lotion, naturapath and specialist he could find in Sydney (and often beyond). Although I like to think I’m fairly compassionate, he wasn’t impressed with my level of empathy (I may have used the term “man-flu” a little too liberally). The thing is though that I rarely got ill and if I did catch some sort of bug, it was generally gone before the end of the day and I didn’t really need to do anything. My mum always swears by the fact that she let me do plenty of playing in the mud when I was younger and I ate more than my fair share of mud-pies (and actually the latest buzz is that we get ill because we aren’t exposed to enough bacteria…my mama’s so clever!)
I worked for the same company in Sydney for over 10 years and I remember after several years looking at my sick leave and realising that I’d taken less than a handful of sick days in all of my time there…..until I had children. Now I’m not pointing any fingers but seriously…having kids played havoc with my almost pristine track record! I read an interesting article a while ago about “Post Natal Depletion” – low energy, messed up metabolism, low immunity and prolonged foggy, baby brain – it was a term coined by an Aussie doctor called Dr Oscar Serrallach. I’ll write more about that another time but suffice to say, I definitely am not firing on all cylinders these days and have decided to take a leaf out of Matt’s book and throw everything we’ve got at this Bl@#$Y cold in an effort to get better quickly So, some of these things are fairly standard and some are going to seem a bit whacky but here goes….
My 7 step plan to beat the cold and ‘flu
Ha! I’m really sorry. Don’t you just hate when people tell you all you need is more sleep and you think “yeah right, can someone please tell my baby/child/children that mama needs more rest and really can’t be getting up in the middle of the night”?? I know for me though even when I’m ridiculously tired I can’t seem to switch off before 10 or 10.30. So this week I’m going to switch off my phone and leave it down stairs and I’m going to try to be in my bed by 9pm. If sleep doesn’t come straight away I’ll do one of my guided meditations (I talked about that in my first post) so in the absence of an actual full night’s sleep, at least I can get in a few good hours before the little one decides he wants some company at 3am!
Ok so that’s all pretty standard so here comes the slightly more unusual sleep hack. This one is a bit embarrassing but hey what’s a blog for if not to expose your deepest darkest secrets? So, apparently I have been known to snore occasionally, particularly when stuffed up with cold (or maybe after one too many drinks? never!). The last time I saw my very very glamorous dentist back in Sydney she asked me about my sleep quality and when I told her I woke up feeling very sluggish most mornings she said that I was probably a mouth breather (nothing to do with the 5 wakeups per night but I digress) and suggested that I try taping my mouth shut at night. This all sounded a bit extreme and slightly 50 shades. As I looked at her perfectly arched brows and fabulously silky shiny hair I started to redden slightly until she told me that she did it every night and that it had changed her life. I decided to give it a go. She gave me some tape, I tried it that night and low an behold I woke up feeling so much brighter. Matt did laugh at me but it was worth it for the bounce I had back in my step! Apart from the snoring aspect, apparently mouth breathing has all sorts of negative health implications including sleep apnoea. Breathing through the nose also filters the air and prevent a lot of common colds in the first instance. For more information and to hear from Dr Mark Burhenne who wrote the 8 Hour Sleep Paradox and made mouth-taping “a thing” check out this YouTube Interview
For a while I was so into mouth taping that I would panic slightly if I couldn’t find the roll (both my boys quite like to unpack everything from my bedside table and redistribute around the house) however I haven’t done it for a while as I forgot to replace the roll when it ran out a couple of months ago. This morning though I woke up with an incredibly dry mouth and feeling so awful and I thought right it’s time to hop on Amazon today and buy some tape. You can buy specific mouth tape but actually most brands of Micropore tape (the tape you use for applying bandages to skin) work fine and are very cheap
I have to really work myself up to doing this but it does actually give tremendous relief if your sinuses are full of muck and nose breathing (see above!) has ceased to be an option. If you haven’t come across this before, basically it’s a term given to washing out the sinuses with a saline solution; it’s been around for centuries in the Ayurvedic tradition. It involves pouring a salt water solution into one nostril and letting it wash through the sinuses and exit the nose from your other nostril. Sorry a bit gross – this is probably more than you needed to know about what we do in the privacy of our own home! Anyway, you can actually buy a special Netipot which looks a little bit like an Aladdin’s lamp but i just use a little tea pot and 1 teaspoon of good quality salt (himalayan or pure sea salt) to 2 cups of boiled filtered water. Let it cool right down and then with your head over a sink and tipped to one side, you just pour it in gently and wait for it to come out the other side. Breath through your mouth whilst you’re doing this and repeat on both sides. I debated making a little video to show you but i’m just not game yet so here’s a clip of a far braver person doing their Netipot business. Using a Netipot is also really effective for sinus and allergy symptoms.
- Chicken Stock / bone broth
Sometimes known as Jewish penicillin, bone broth or stock (the terms are often used interchangeably but there is a slight difference) is a bit trendy right now – in Sydney they even have “pop up” bone broth bars! Again kudos to my mum – she always made a stock with the bones left over from Sunday roast and I used to love the potato and veg soup she made with it. According to Sally Fallon (who wrote Nourishing Traditions – a wonderful wholefoods book), “it is long been regarded as a valued remedy for the flu. …modern research has confirmed that broth helps prevent and mitigate infectious disddeases”. It is also said that it plays an important part in healing the gut because the long slow cooking releases all the minerals in the bones, carteledge and added vegetables. Dr Natasha Campell-McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome is at the forefront of researching the relationship between gut health and our overall physical and mental health. Her protocol, the GAPS diet is something she developed to support and treat people with learning disabilities (like Autism spectrum – her son was several autistic) but she discovered that this protocol also had a huge impact on all sorts of health conditions. The beginning of the protocol recommends just taking bone broth (for as long as it takes to clear initial symptoms….sometimes up to months. It’s a pretty intense regime but something I’d like to to try at some stage. For now though, I’m just going to drink lots of homemade soup this week from the enormous stockpot I made after our chicken dinner on Sunday.
To make my stock / broth (i’m still a bit confused!) I usually just chuck in all the bones, some odds and sods of veggies (I keep a bag of veggie cut offs through the week – ends of onions, heads of carrots and celery etc), some herbs, salt, pepper and some cider vinegar; bring to the boil, skim off any scum and then I simmer on a low heat for several hours (This time, I stuck it in the bottom aga oven overnight …that’s about 100 degrees) – the longer the better. It’s delicious on its own or as a soup base
- Cutting out dairy
I’m drinking way more coffee than I should at the moment and I love it with loads of milk. When I’m feeling like this though and absolutely full of mucus (sorry!), I know that I need to cut back on cows milk. I haven’t quite got the hang of coffee without cows milk so for now I’ve decided to switch my beverage of choice to either tea or Tumeric Chai (see next point) made on almond milk. I tried to buy almond milk in the shop a couple of months ago whilst doing a cleanse and I was pretty surprised at how many additives there are in pre-prepared almond milk. I knew you could make it at home but hadn’t tried it before and I can now safely say that it’s super easy – I definitely will make it myself from now on. Ideally, you just need to soak a couple of handfuls of almonds the night before in a litre of salted filtered water (this neutralisesof phytic acid which inhibits absorption of nutrients ) Rinse them the next day, discard the soaking water and then whizz up with with another litre of filtered water in a blender (I do mine in the Thermomix….of course!). Then you just need to strain. I’ve bought a nutmilk bag which makes it much more smooth although you can just use a piece of muslin or cheesecloth or even a fine sieve. Actually a lot of people don’t bother with the straining part, particularly if it’s just going in a smoothie or on cereal but I do quite like it strained.
- Tumeric Chai Latte
I first tasted this in my beautiful friend Jessie’s house in Sydney. I was feeling rotten and she invited me over so she could mother me (miss you Jessie!). I watched in wonder as she slowly cooked up a pot of milk with fresh Tumeric, fresh Ginger and a load of Chai spices – cloves, cinnamon, pepper, star anise and cardamom. The whole house smelled incredible and when she handed me the mixture (sweetened with lashings of local honey!) it was like drinking a delicious tonic, I could feel it working its magic immediately! Although the whole drink is nutritious, it’s the Tumeric that’s the powerhouse cold-buster in this one. Tumeric is quite a trendy superfood right now and is credited with greatly reducing inflammation and pain in general. In fact, some have suggested that “Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence” – check out this link for a full run down on benefits.
I made a slightly different nut milk so that it would froth better – to the almonds I added sunflower seeds, coconut oil, salt and honey. It makes a delicious and very froth-able milk. I got the recipe from Jo Whitten’s Quirky Cooking cookbook and again I made this in my Thermomix. Here’s a link to the recipe on Jo’s blog.
Matt, my husband is the king of supplements so I asked for his advice on this bit:
“Vitamin C and also vitamins B6 and D3 play a key role in allowing our own immunity to function optimally and fight off infections. Of all the minerals, zinc is my preferred Autumn/Winter tonic as it has been shown to actively disrupt viral infections, irrespective of the yearly strain mutation.
In addition there are herbal, or food supplements that help with immunity support and actively combatting an infection, be it bacterial or viral; the added benefit of some of these, particularly the mushroom based ones, are that they can be given to children without the impact on the kidneys or liver to process them (we give a mushroom complex to JJ). Obviously consult a doctor or naturopath before medicating yourself and particularly your children. My favourites are: the mushrooms reishi and chaga; ginger, garlic, and oregano – which can be taken as oils or for the first two swallowed raw in small chunks and astragalus.
I was a bit miffed with Matt at one stage as he literally seemed to spend every waking hour over a 3 month period researching saunas and talking to sauna devotees across the world. I was pregnant with Fintan at the time and thought we had far more pressing things to be researching as well as much more important things to be spending our money on! However, I’m always happy to admit when I was wrong. I wasn’t able to use it until after I stopped breastfeeding recently* but now that I have started…..Im converted! I understand now why he put so much effort in – it’s a big purchase, there’s a lot of inferior products out there and there was some fairly complicated logistics getting it to Sydney (it was shipped from New Zealand) and having done some research now myself I can see that the benefits are far reaching. Again I turned to Matt for this next bit as he’s way more knowledgeable (given his three months intensive study!): “As well as being incredibly relaxing and excellent for aching muscles and joints, one of the benefits is its capacity to stimulate the immune system with evidence showing increase in white blood cell count generally, as well as an increase in the immunity profile of the individual white blood cells. This results in a 30% reduction in people getting sick if they are regular sauna users. Furthermore, there is a suggestion that the high heat can actively fight off the infections, akin to the body’s response with a fever to ‘burn off’ an infection”
So there you have it, my 7 point action plan to getting myself de-snotted and fully cold-free by the end of the week. In the meantime, I’m to going to just think this all over with my unofficial 8th step….a Hot Irish Whisky in the bath :o) I’m open to any other suggestions so if you fancy leaving me a comment, hit me with your failsafe cold remedy – as you can see i’ll give anything a go!
* the reason I wasn’t using the sauna whilst breastfeeding was because of the powerful detox effects of a sauna. Apparently any toxins released can end up in your milk. Lots of debate around this but worth mentioning in case you’re thinking of using a sauna and still feeding bubba.