That’s a pretty full on heading isn’t it? But it sums up my experiences this winter (yep, I’m making the call now, its almost September!).
I’ve always had a really rough time in winter. Since I was about 14 I have always gotten multiple colds, and multiple more serious illnesses, like the flu, chest infections, pneumonia and an assortment of other goodies each winter. I would always get properly sick with things too – a cold was not a 24 hour inconvenience, it was 2 days in bed and OTC meds kind of a deal. I remember one from a few years ago: I’d been at work, and decided a afternoon of rest would be helpful, but didn’t get out of the office for another 45 minutes because I had to keep blowing and mopping my nose. It just wouldn’t stop running. I’ve had 2 week long bouts on influenza, and chest infections that restricted my breathing so much I had to go to the ER in the middle of the night. And yes, every year since I was about 16 I’ve been getting the flu vax, and I even got the pneumovax last year as well. All in all, winter hasn’t traditionally been my favourite time of year (despite my love of hot tea).
This year? The only times I’ve been off from work have been because I’ve had bleeding problems (the rest and time by myself portion of this post), not one bout of the flu, a cold or even an mild case of the sniffles have hit me. Not one. What has changed? The biggest factor has to be my food. I always thought I just had a less-than-average immune system. Not so bad I needed a (nother!) rare diagnosis, but enough to be a bother. My GP never made a fuss over it either, apparently my repeated illnesses were in her scope of normal. When I’d go in and see her for a certificate and potentially some medication, she’d always comment that lots of other people had been through the surgery with the exact same thing. But this year, I started eating WHole30ish/paleo/whatever you want to call it. Essentially, at least 50% of each of my meals each day are vegetables. This was definitely not the case before I did the Barrecode 60 Day Challenge. Too many grains and wheat based products, which I now know not only contain little in nutrients, but the gluten protein can actually bind to nutrients you have consumed to prevent them from being utilised by the body. Now every meal is filled with nutrient dense veggies, proteins and fat which quite obviously have been boosting my body’s natural immune response to protect me from all the bugs and lurgies circulating this year.
Food! Wow! I never would have thought it was the superhero I now know it is, but it really is. The whole, real foods these days often acquire a prefix, super, but I think that’s just because compared to pasta or icecream, a bowl of blueberries or brussel sprouts are super. But only comparatively. The basics of it, though, is that if your detoxing organs like your liver and kidneys, along with your immune system are too busy dealing with a lack of sleep, systemic overstimulation from excess caffeine consumption, too much processed sugar, alcohol or tobacco consumption, or are just dealing with products they’re not designed to deal with, like wheat, gluten or dairy (for some people), then they can’t adequately fight off a flu or cold without majorly disturbing your week. Now that I don’t burden my system with those things, I actually have a fighting chance in winter. If I compared last year to this year, it seems miraculous, but thankfully I know its easily achievable for me.
The added benefit for me as a VWD patient is that fully functioning detox organs mean better functioning blood. Your liver removes toxins and waste products from your blood stream, and sends it to the waste disposal department (yep, your bottom). If your liver is unable to perform this function to the best of its ability for whatever reason, then it stands to reason that your blood won’t be in tip-top shape, which would impair its ability it do its jobs, one of which is appropriately coagulating. So not only do I not get colds and flus, but winter, with its over use of air conditioning and drying environments no longer is the season of nose bleeds for me, because my correctly cleansed blood can cope with a bit of dehydration. And, of course, no colds and flus also means no rupturing of blood vessels in my nasal passages or throat from repeated nose blowing and coughing. In the past this has been a seemingly endless cycle – cold, then nose bleed, then more sinus issues leading to a longer infection, then more nose bleeding, leading to influenza sneaking in, to throat bleeds, and on it goes. It can be hard enough eating properly when you’re sick, as I’m sure you all know, and it certainly doesn’t get any easier when your food smells like blood (because its stuck in your nose) or your throat is cracked. This year, thankfully has been nose bleed, throat bleed, and cold and flu free!
So, specifically, what have I done? I mentioned the food changes above, but there’s a few other things I’ve been eating/ingesting too. I’ve been putting some supplements in my green smoothies – so not only does my system get the benefits of all those leafy greens, and the iron and vit K from the spirulina and chlollera, but both supplements (and leafy greens generally) assist in liver and detoxing functions. I’ve also been having a cup of bone broth every day – Sarah Wilson has a great post here on why you should use broth and how to make it. I am yet to master the at-home making process, so I’ve been buying a dehydrated broth from this local company: https://www.facebook.com/BrothofLife. I’ve been making it up like tea, a teaspoon of broth flakes in a cup of boiling water. It even works quite well as an afternoon ‘snack’ due to there being a bit of fat in it which satiates your appetite for a bit.
I have to admit, there is one downside to not getting sick, I didn’t get to whip out my go-to teas for colds & flus – a lovely gentle sinus-relieving option from The Art of Tea, or this kick-arse brew from DavidsTea. What are your favourite ways of staying well in winter?