Do you remember that movie, The Horse Whisperer? Ever since that movie came out there have been all sorts of people claiming to be some sort of "whisperer": Dog Whisperer, Ghost Whisperer, even a Chicken Whisperer. I've often joked that I feel like some sort of "Body Whisperer". I spend a lot of time trying to understand how complex bodily processes work so I can explain it to my clients in simple terms anyone can understand. My husband has been encouraging me for awhile to write a book of my explanations. Because when you understand what the body is trying to do... it takes a lot of the frustration out of common symptoms.
Let's start with something simple.
We all have to deal with getting sick at least once or twice a year. The symptoms are familiar: runny nose, sneezing, coughing, low energy, mucus production, congestion, sore throat, and maybe if you're unlucky enough some body aches, fever, vomiting or diarrhea. Nobody likes being sick and most people would do anything to get rid of these symptoms as fast as possible. Many pharmaceutical medications have been created just to make our life more bearable when we are sick by reducing these symptoms. But let's listen to the body and try to understand what is happening during illness.
Your body is bombarded with germs on a regular basis. Germs are scavengers. They prefer to feed off of diseased or weak cells because they can get through the cell's defenses and because that is their job: to break down diseased or dead cells. This isn't some sort of heroic good vs. evil story. Germs were created as equally as humans. They feed, live, reproduce and die just like we do. One theory is that the human body will even allow certain germs to enter just so they can feed off of less than healthy cells. A sort of survival of the fittest I guess.
So the germs get into weakened cells and start reproducing and spreading. More and more cells are being used as little germ factories instead of doing their regular jobs. Eventually all of this comes under the radar of the immune system. How strong and healthy your immune system is determines how long it takes for them to find the invaders. And when they do find them they use all kinds of different methods to evict them. Like flooding mucus to the area to trap the germs in a sticky, slimy mess. The mucus is either swallowed so the germs are destroyed by the acid in the stomach or it is coughed up and blown through the nose into a tissue. The excess mucus, coughing and runny nose are not caused by the germs themselves but by the body in the attempt to remove them.
Other germ eviction methods include a fever (certain germs die at higher temps) vomiting, diarrhea and sweating (physical eviction). Sometimes their is a localized skin reaction so the skin becomes red and itchy. When you scratch the germs are physically removed or damaged by the action. Body aches and pain are the result of chemicals produced as immune cells damage, kill, and even eat the germs and any cells they were infecting.
Sometimes when people are sick they decide to boost their immune system through herbs and nutritional supplements only to find that their symptoms get worse. Thanks for boosting the immune system! Now it can clean harder and faster! Or maybe you take the conventional medical approach and use an over-the-counter drug to stop the cough, sneeze, runny nose, vomiting, fever, etc. Now you've weakened the immune system. You may feel temporarily better but the germs can continue to multiply causing even more damage.
A better plan would be 1) Eat healthy and stay physically active so the cells are not weakened and prone to invasion to begin with and 2) Take immune boosting herbs before you even develop symptoms so germs can be eradicated before they multiply and get out of control. Some good herbs might be echinacea, astragalus, reishi, garlic, etc.
The wrong response would be to sterilize everything and try to eradicate every possible pathogenic germ. You can't do it. It isn't possible and you may actually make things worse.
If I were to sterilize a countertop with bleach it won't stay sterilized for long. Bacteria from the air settles on the counter and start to multiply. But the types of bacteria that can live on a sterilized field tend to be stronger, more resistant forms than what was living their before. The same is true with using antibiotics. Kill off the resident bacteria and you will encourage the stronger, more resistant and pathogenic strains instead.
In cheese houses in Europe they use whey to wash the walls and floors rather than an antibacterial agent. Whey is the waste product of the cheesemaking process and contains trillions of probiotic bacteria. By doing this the cheesemakers encourage the kind of bacteria that makes the best cheese while crowding out any others that might ruin the cheese. I've often said someone should come up with a probiotic cleaner as opposed to antibacterial soaps. But then again, your whole house may end up smelling like cheese!
So listen to your body! If you do get sick, make sure you get plenty of rest. Eat light with lots of easy to digest foods, soups, liquids, and herbal tea to keep up the strength of the immune system. Don't try to overdo it physically because the body needs to expend that energy to fight a battle not run around doing errands. Let your body clean out knowing that when it's done you will be all the healthier for it!
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.