I had both of my children before I was 23.
And I handled their illnesses the only way I knew how: regular well-child checks at the pediatrician, alternating Children's Motrin and Tylenol for fevers, and antibiotics for the occasional ear infection or other mystery illness…
I always relied on someone in the medical field to tell me what was wrong and what to do. I didn't (and still don't!) have a medical degree, so I just assumed I didn't know what to do when sickness struck.
Now fast forward a few years… My approach has radically changed.
Not to mention, I've gained confidence when it comes to making medical decisions for my family. I'm not helpless when we get sick — nor am I pressured to call the doctor, go to an urgent care clinic, or pop prescriptions for coughs, colds, stomach bugs, or rashes.
“Let thy food be thy medicine.”
These words have comforted me more than any doctor's office, ever.
And you know what?
A few basic foods in my pantry have proven to be the most effective and efficient things I've ever done to keep my family well or help our bodies combat sickness.
Just think about it. What happens when you walk down the pharmacy or drugstore aisle to buy over-the-counter medications? How many different types of cough syrup are there?!
There's one for coughing with congestion, one for coughing at nighttime, one for the daytime, one for children, one for adults… It goes on and on! And that's just for coughing!
Then come medicines for stomach ailments. And then, allergy pills, nose sprays, pain relievers, flu fighters, and fever reducers.
It never ends!
The result? A cabinet full of expensive — and harmful — boxes, bottles, and pills.
My children haven't seen a pediatrician in almost 6 years. That's not because they've been in perfect health. We've simply relied on wellness chiropractic care to keep our bodies in a constant state of healing and repair. We also eat the most nourishing, immune-boosting foods possible.
I believe that it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the bodies God gave us. My family does this by boosting our immune systems, trusting the healing mechanisms God put in our bodies (like fever), and finally, giving our bodies the tools they need to heal more quickly.
In His great wisdom, the Lord stocked the earth with wonderful, healing foods. Foods that combat everything from a simple ear infection to strep throat to even cancer!
I like to keep just a few of these natural foods around all the time, so that when illness strikes, I'm not left wondering what to do.
Fighting Illness With Food
First, the basic sickness-fighting foods:
- raw honey
- raw garlic
- fermented cod liver oil/high-vitamin butter oil
- baking soda
- high quality sea salt
- Epsom salt
- probiotics/fermented foods
- homemade stock
- extra virgin coconut oil
- hydrogen peroxide
- dried herbs such as rose petals, peppermint leaves, and echinacea
These foods and remedies haven't failed us — once! In years! They boost the body's natural immunity rather than destroying it, like antibiotics.
Some of them — like baking soda and sea salt — allow the body to enter a detoxifying state of rest when combined. This means that illness passes more quickly out of the body.
Mix these foods up in a few different ways to deter sickness, ease symptoms if sickness sets in, and/or help the body fight off sickness more quickly. They all contain minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants — which make them extremely potent.
And the most amazing thing? These foods are excellent at treating more than one type of illness! Unlike the endless concoctions of over-the-counter meds that are symptom-specific and cannot be used for multiple sicknesses.
For example, 1 teaspoon of raw honey works as a fast, effective cough suppressant — yet it also relieves heartburn and seasonal allergies!
Dried peppermint leaf tea clears sinuses, relieves tummy aches, and keeps morning sickness at bay. Add a little coconut oil and some raw honey to that tea, and you've got a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal drink. It will soothe a sore throat, fight invading bacteria, and boost the immune system.
Now, let's put these foods together in a few different ways so that when cold/flu season comes around this year, you can treat your family at home, naturally!
#1 Homemade Stock
- 8 to 24 ounces homemade chicken or beef stock (broth)
Drink throughout the day to stay hydrated and give your gut the wonderful healing richness of collagen, gelatin, and minerals. When my family members are sick, drinking a mug or two of homemade stock is not an option — it's a requirement.
I prefer them to drink this more than water when fighting illness because I have seen how effective it is. If someone (or you) can't stand the taste of salted stock by itself, I suggest making the ultimate anti-illness meal: Homemade Chicken Soup.
#2 Fermented Cod Liver Oil/High-Vitamin Butter Oil
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per day for children
- 1 to 2 teaspoons per day for adults
If you're not already taking this food daily, you need to order some today. Full of absorbable forms of Vitamins A, D, E, and K, this is unsurpassed immune support. I do not consider our FCLO a supplement. It is a food that we eat everyday. During sickness, we double our dose.
#3 Probiotics/Fermented Foods
Eating a variety of naturally fermented foods — such as lacto-fermented pickles, mayo, beet kvass, kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir — will ensure that you are constantly populating your gut with beneficial bacteria to keep harmful bacteria at bay.
If you don't know how to ferment your foods at home, get started with our Lacto-Fermentation eCourse. Additionally, keep a high quality probiotic around for times of traveling, busyness, and illness. I recommend BioKult and InnerEco Coconut Water Kefir Probiotics.
#4 Honey-Cinnamon Virus Kicker
Mix together and give as needed as soon as cold or flu symptoms appear. You can double or triple this recipe and keep it covered on your counter for easy dosing when illness affects multiple family members.
This works as an effective throat-coat for coughing. The enzymes and anti-bacterial qualities of both the honey and cinnamon work well for knocking out viruses of all sorts. (Honey is not officially recommended for children under 1 year, but here's info to help you come to your own conclusion.)
#5 Homemade Elderberry Syrup
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon per day per person during cold/flu season
This recipe is a favorite at our house. We all love the taste, and 1 batch will last a really LONG time. I give 1 teaspoon a day to everyone in the family when we start hearing about colds or the flu going around.
If one of us does get sick, I bump it up to 1 tablespoon or more, as needed. This is a great cough syrup, but more than anything it's a fantastic immune booster, full of the healing properties of raw honey, cinnamon, ginger, and elderberries. (Again, honey is not recommended for children under 1 year.)
Check out this Elderberry Tincture as well.
#6 Hydrogen Peroxide
- 2 to 4 drops hydrogen peroxide
- 2 to 4 drops garlic oil or juice (optional)
For ear infections, nothing works better than a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear. For a really stubborn ear infection, alternate hydrogen peroxide with garlic oil or freshly juiced garlic in the ears.
#7 Flu Tea
Mix herbs and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Add 1 teaspoon to super hot, but not boiling, filtered water and allow to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. You can add raw honey for taste and additional benefits.
Our naturopath gave us this recipe when a strange virus made its way around our area. It's best to drink in the evening — and be prepared to go straight to bed after drinking it! Keep yourself as warm as possible, even if being under the covers makes you uncomfortable.
The idea is that you will begin sweating and the toxins that have caused you to become sick will begin to leave your body. This tea makes you very tired, but often you will wake up feeling good as new!
#8 Salt and Soda Bath
Run a bath as hot as you can stand it and mix in salt and soda. Immerse yourself or your child in the bath, covering as much of your body as possible. Stay at least 15 to 20 minutes.
The mineral-rich sea salt and baking soda work together with the hot water to open the pores all over your body. This ensures that you sweat out toxins and that your skin absorbs the minerals in the salt! Add a few drops of calming lavender essential oil to your bath, if you like.
You will feel like you've been run over with a truck after you take this bath, but it will allow you to sleep deeply and overcome illness much more quickly.
#9 Sleepy Tea
Sometimes it's difficult to sleep when you're sick. You might be coughing, aching, making frequent trips to the bathroom, or running a fever. Sound sleep simply eludes you.
I rely on this Sleepy Tea recipe when a child or I am having trouble sleeping. The peppermint leaves provide relief for an upset stomach or stuffy nose, while the rose petals pack a powerful punch of Vitamin C. Add some raw honey for sweetness and additional illness-fighting benefits.
#10 Raw Garlic and Lemon “Antibiotic”
- 1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
- 1 lemon, juiced
Combine the garlic and lemon in a small glass. Add a bit of water or juice if the garlic sticks to the bottom of the glass. Shoot it down quickly, and chase it down with a bit of water or juice. Repeat 2 to 4 times daily for 7 to 10 days, just as you would an antibiotic.
Garlic and lemon are my Big Guns. When all else fails, this is what I bust out because IT WORKS! Our chiropractor told us about this years ago, and it is potent. We have even beaten strep with this remedy! Consider it your antibiotic and take it as such. It is easy to feel gagged the first couple of times you do this, but it does get easier. I suggest mixing it with more juice for children, unless you want them puking it up all over the floor. 😉
Let It Run Its Course
If it's hard to fight through an illness ourselves, it's even harder to watch our children fight a sickness. It's absolutely heart-breaking!
Yet if I've learned anything, it's this: Our bodies are stronger when we allow them to fight illness on their own. Without relying on antibiotics, flu shots, or Pepto Bismol.
Sometimes, you really do just have to trust your capabilities to do what you can for your family at home, pray for God's wisdom and protection, and allow the illness to run its course.
Case in point. My son has been coughing for over 2 weeks. I've given him many of the above remedies. Initially, he got over his fever, lethargy, and weakness in about 48 hours. Not to bad considering that walking pneumonia is going around right now!
For his cough, however, I've simply had to let it run its course. He doesn't have a fever anymore. He sleeps fine, and runs around, and plays during the day. But he's still coughing. I just stand back and allow his body to do what it needs to do — and then offer raw honey and elderberry syrup here and there when needed.
On the flip side, 2 years ago I got a horrible urinary tract/kidney infection. I fought that thing for 2 weeks, doing everything I knew to do. Just when I thought it was over, I would start peeing blood again and running a fever.
Finally, after almost fainting at church on Sunday, I told my husband that I needed a doctor. Because it was Sunday, our only option was the emergency room. After a CT scan and blood work, the doctor found a large stone in my left kidney. Also, my white cell count was very high.
Even my drug-free childbirth with kid #1 seemed like a cakewalk next to all of this pain!
So, reluctantly, I accepted the antibiotics. I knew that the effects of an untreated UTI can be detrimental.
I hope that these 2 examples show you that — while I much prefer to treat illnesses at home naturally with food, rest, and prayer — I also know that there is a time when we need a medical professional.
Thankfully, 1 round of antibiotics in a time span of 6 to 7 years isn't going to cause major damage to an otherwise healthy body. Not if you eat whole foods prior to antibiotics and afterward, and alternate probiotics with the antibiotics.
What About Fever?
Let's discuss fevers. Herbal teas, raw honey, and homemade stock do only so much. At some point, I trust that the human body knows how to do most of the work.
Certain viruses and bacteria survive at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When the body is attacked by one of these invaders, it heats up to a temperature that will kill the virus or bacteria. Hello, fever! It is the ultimate sign of a healthy, thriving immune system.
Fevers are good. They are necessary. Fevers don't mean something is wrong — they mean something is RIGHT!
Yes, a fever is miserable. But hold off on the Tylenol and Motrin! Allow the body to do what God created it to do.
And trust your instincts. Some mothers don't allow a fever to get higher than 101 or so. Personally, if my child is coherent, drinking, urinating, and breathing normally, I'm not worried if they have a temp of 104 or 105.
That said, neither of my children have ever run a fever over 103 degrees.
If your gut ever tells you that something is seriously wrong, listen to it. Most of the time, however, your child is fine. Do what you can to make them comfortable until their body resolves the problem.
Check out this post for more information about fevers and natural remedies to combat them, if necessary.
What About Homeopathics and Essential Oils?
If you are knowledgeable in the use of homeopathics and essential oils, by all means, use them!
Although I am not confident in my limited knowledge of homeopathics to treat all illnesses with them, I do keep Arnica Montana around for my son's occasional nighttime leg cramps.
And I have a drawer full of essential oils! I use them in homemade cleaning products.
I also keep this homemade chest rub made up year round for coughs or congestion.
Word of advice: choose high-quality essential oils, no matter what you plan to use them for. Make sure you know which oils require carriers and which oils are not safe for pregnant women and babies.
To Sum It All Up
Sickness doesn't have to be something you dread. For one thing, I enjoy my sick kids because they're extra cuddly and want to snuggle. 🙂 I'll take that any time I can get it!
Also, have confidence in yourself to treat your family at home, using things you probably have in your pantry already. It saves time, energy, and money — because doctors and prescriptions are EXPENSIVE, sitting in the waiting room is NO FUN, and you don't want to drag your sick self or child out anyway.
The next time someone is your family is feeling under the weather, try some of the Food Fighters I mentioned and see if you notice a difference in recovery time and illness severity. I think God is awesome to give us so many amazing foods that fight sickness, boost immunity, and taste great!
*Disclaimer: I am just a mom who likes to see how far away from normal I can be, and my family happens to be my guinea pigs. I am not a medical professional. You are responsible for your own health and for the use of any remedies, treatments, or medications you use at home.
What do you do for sickness in your home? How do you feel about fighting illness with food? Do you think you would be willing to try a food-based approach to treating illness?
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