As a very young mother (both my children were born before I was 23), I handled my children’s sicknesses the only way I knew existed: regular well-child checks at the pediatrician, alternating Children’s Motrin and Tylenol for fevers, antibiotics for the occasional ear infection or other mystery illness, and basically always relying on someone in the medical field to tell me what to do for my children if they were sick. I didn’t have a medical degree, so I just assumed that I wasn’t equipped to know what to do when illness struck.
Fast forward a few years, and my approach has radically changed. As I have learned more about healthy eating, natural hygiene and body care, and eliminating toxins from our home, I have also gained quite a bit more confidence when it comes to making medical decisions for my family. I no longer feel helpless when one of us gets sick, nor do I feel 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.”
I have found more comfort in Hippocrates’ words than I ever found in going to the doctor’s office. Keeping just a few basic foods in my pantry has proven to be the most effective and efficient thing I have ever done to keep my family well or to help our bodies combat sickness on the rare occasions when it happens.
Think about what you do when you make a trip down the aisles of a pharmacy or drug store to buy over-the-counter medications for various ailments. 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!
Medicines for stomach ails are just as numerous; then there’s allergy pills, nose sprays, pain relievers, flu fighters, fever reducers. It really never ends, and you end up with a cabinet full of expensive (and harmful) boxes, bottles, and pills that aren’t doing your body any favors. (Read here how just one Tylenol a month can raise asthma risk in your child by 50%.)
My children have not seen a pediatrician in almost six years, and that’s not because they haven’t been sick. We’ve relied on wellness chiropractic care to keep our bodies in a constant state of healing and repair, as well as eating the most nourishing, immune-boosting foods as possible. I believe it is our responsibility to be good stewards of our bodies, since they belong to God and are temples of Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Boosting our immune systems, trusting the healing mechanisms God put in our bodies (like fever), and giving the body the tools it needs to heal more quickly are all ways I think we can be good stewards.
In His great wisdom, the Lord has already stocked the earth with wonderful, healing foods that are able to combat everything from a simple ear infection to strep throat and even cancer (Gerson Therapy)! I like to keep just a few of these all-natural foods around all the time, so that when illness strikes, I’m not left wondering what to do.
All-Natural Fighter Foods
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
We have been using these foods and remedies for years, without fail! These foods boost the body’s natural immunity, rather than destroying it, like antibiotics. Some of them, like baking soda and sea salt, when combined, allow the body to enter a detoxifying state of rest so that illness passes more quickly out of the body. In some way, they all contain the minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, or other properties that God wisely placed inside of them to make them extremely potent and aid our bodies to combat sickness and get well faster, while at the same time strengthening our immune systems.
These foods can be mixed in a few ways to deter sickness, ease symptoms if sickness sets in, and/or help the body fight off sickness more quickly. The really amazing thing is that most (if not all) of 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 illnesses.
For example, a teaspoon of raw honey by itself works as a fast, effective cough suppressant, but it is also great at relieving heartburn and seasonal allergies. Dried peppermint leaves steeped in hot water to make a tea works wonders for clearing sinuses AND relieving tummy aches AND keeping morning sickness at bay! Add in a little extra virgin coconut oil and some raw honey to that tea, and you’ve got a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal drink that will soothe a sore throat, fight invading bacteria, and boost the immune system.
I LOVE how God gave us all these super foods that don’t come with warning labels or risk factors! I love that I can mix up some of these foods and give them to my children without worrying about side effects or harmful reactions.
Let’s put these foods together in a few different ways so that when cold/flu season comes around this year, you can have the confidence to treat yourself and 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 from this superfood. When my family members are sick, drinking a mug or two of homemade stock is not an option — it’s a requirement. I would 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 as well as Dr. Weston Price’s X-factor, 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 Wardee’s Lacto-Fermenting eCourse and eBook. 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, and 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 from Cara at Health, Home, & Happiness is a favorite at our house. We all love the taste, and one batch will last a really LONG time. I give a 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 a 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.)
#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 one 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 was making its way around our area. It’s best to drink in the evening, and you should 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, make you sweat out toxins, and allow your skin to absorb the minerals in the sea 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; and sound sleep eludes you. I have relied on this Sleepy Tea recipe many a night 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. You may add a bit of water or juice if the garlic is sticking 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.
Okay, 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
We mommas know how hard it is to watch our children fight a sickness and do all we can to give them some relief. It’s absolutely heart-breaking! We also know how hard it is to be sick ourselves and trust Angelina Ballerina on Netflix to take care of the kids while we do our best to rest and recuperate. Sometimes it may seem easier to run to the drugstore and grab one of those over-the-counter medications. (Trust me, I’m tempted too.)
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, and Pepto Bismol. Most of what we get from the doctor or pharmacy doesn’t really HEAL sickness; it just covers up symptoms and provides temporary relief. I know, relief is what we want for ourselves and our kids when sickness gets in the way of life. 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 two weeks. I have given him many of the remedies I wrote about above. Initially, he was over his fever, lethargy, and weakness in about 48 hours — not too bad considering the fact that walking pneumonia is rumored to be going around right now. For his cough, I’ve simply had to let it run its course. He’s not running fever anymore. He’s sleeping fine and running around and playing during the day, but he’s still coughing. I’m standing back and allowing his body to do what it needs to do, offering some raw honey and elderberry syrup here and there when needed.
On the flip side, two years ago I got a horrible urinary tract/kidney infection. I fought that thing for two weeks, doing everything I knew to do. Just when I thought I was over it, I would start peeing blood again and running a fever. After almost fainting at church one Sunday, I told my husband that I had to see a doctor. Because it was a Sunday, our only option was the emergency room. Following a CT Scan and blood work, the doctor found a large stone in my left kidney and my white cell count was very high. I was in so much pain that my drug-free childbirth with Kid #1 seemed like a cake walk. Reluctantly, I accepted the antibiotics given to me, knowing that the effects of an untreated UTI can be detrimental.
I give you those two examples to show that, while I much prefer to treat illnesses at home naturally with food, rest, and prayer, I also know there is a time when you’ve done all you can and you really do need a medical professional. Thankfully, I had been eating a whole foods diet prior to that infection, and I knew to alternate high-powered probiotics with the antibiotics so that my gut flora wouldn’t be completely obliterated. And following the infection, I consumed massive amounts of kombucha, lacto-fermented pickles, and other fermented foods. One round of antibiotics in the time span of 6 to 7 years isn’t going to cause major damage in an otherwise healthy body.
What About Fever?
I want to mention a quick word about fevers. Fevers are a huge component to my “medicine cabinet”. I can only do so much with herbal teas, raw honey, and homemade stock. At some point, I trust that my child’s body (or my own) knows how to do most of the work. Certain viruses and bacteria survive at 98.6 Fahrenheit. When the body is attacked by one of these invaders, it heats up to a temperature that will kill the virus or bacteria. That’s all a fever is! It is the ultimate sign of a healthy, thriving immune system. Forcing the fever to come down by artificial means of medication isn’t doing your body or your child’s body any favors. You are actually weakening the immune system.
Fevers are good. Fevers are necessary. Fevers don’t mean something is wrong; they mean something is RIGHT! Yes, having a fever is a miserable feeling, and it’s even worse to watch your child suffer with one. But hold off on the Tylenol and Motrin! Allow their bodies to do what God created them to do.
And here’s where I say to trust your instincts. Some mothers may not be comfortable allowing a fever to get higher than 101 or so. Personally a temperature of 104 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit doesn’t worry me, provided my child is still coherent, drinking and urinating, and breathing normally. Neither of my children have ever run fever over 103 Fahrenheit. If your gut ever tells you something is seriously wrong, listen to it. Most of the time, however, you’ll be able to tell that, although your child is distressed because of a fever, they are really alright and you will do what you can to make them comfortable until their body resolves the problem.
If you are still unsure about fevers or still find yourself reaching for the Tylenol when the thermometer hits 99 degrees Fahrenheit, this post from Heather, the Mommypotamus, is reassuring and full of great information.
What About Homeopathics and Essential Oils?
If you are knowledgeable in the use of homeopathics and essential oils, by all means, use them! I do keep Arnica Montana around for my son’s occasional nighttime leg cramps, but I am not comfortable enough in my very limited knowledge of homeopathics to have the confidence to treat all illnesses with them.
I have a drawer full of essential oils, which I use in our homemade cleaning products. I keep this homemade chest rub made up year round for times of coughs or stuffiness. I want to learn more about the use of essential oils for treating sickness, but my current arsenal of healing foods is serving us well for now. One word of advice: choose high-quality essential oils, no matter what you plan to use them for, and 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 kids being sick because they’re extra cuddly and want to snuggle. I’ll take that any time I can get it! Also, you can 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 don’t 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? Have you ever treated illnesses with food? Do you think you would be willing to try a food-based approach to treating illness?
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