I may be a little late in the season to be posting about natural remedies, but to be honest, our family has remained fairly healthy thus far. But, as usual, Murphy’s Law comes a-calling, and just when I decide that it’s time to write this post, BAM! the boys and I get hit with the dreaded cold.
Before we get started, I just want to put in a little disclaimer here. We are not doctors, nor do we claim to be. Always check with your doctor before embarking on a new health routine, regimen, or before starting or stopping any medications, conventional or holistic.
How Long Have I Been Using Natural Remedies?
Natural remedies have been in my life for as long as I can remember. My grandfather believed in the health benefits of Chinese medicine, and often used rubs and oils in his reflexology practice. My parents took us to chiropractors when we were young, and often used natural medicine when we fell ill. Unsurprisingly, this line of thinking has followed me throughout my life. And now, I often find myself turning to natural remedies for my family before heading to the doctor.
Going to the Doctor
Now, that being said, I do take my family to the doctor when the situation warrants it. We have and do use antibiotics and modern medicines when necessary. Our children go for a yearly physical for a wellness check and to chart their growth. My mom, who passed away from breast cancer in 2008, hated going to the doctor. Though this may not have been the cause of her early passing, I believe that had she seen a physician when she first felt something was wrong, the outcome may have been different. I don’t want my children to grow up with that same fear. Every year, we make sure to take them to all the recommended doctor, optometrist, and dental appointments.
Cleanliness – Our First Line of Defense
For some reason, Katrina (our eldest)’s immune system is stronger than the rest of ours. She is rarely sick, and if she is, it usually ends up being less severe, and in shorter duration. The boys, on the other hand, can catch a virus at the drop of a hat. We actually stopped taking them grocery shopping at one point because it never failed. Three days after being in a shopping cart, and the sneezing and coughing would begin. Also, we found that once Katrina started preschool, even though she would be immune to a virus, she was constantly bringing them home with her. She wouldn’t get sick, but the boys would.
Now, we’re not of the germ-a-phobia, anti-bacterial mindset, but at this point, we knew we needed to do something to curb the number of viruses the boys were getting. We took to wiping down shopping carts with wet wipes before putting the kids in them (I’m talking about the entire upper basket, not just the handle) as well as having Katrina carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with her to put on before she walks into the house. By doing these two things, as well as practicing good handwashing techniques and general cleanliness, we’ve noticeably cut down the number of illnesses that have hit our family.
Vitamins and Supplements
We live in a part of North America that sees an average of 4.2 hours of sunshine per day during the winter months. As well, Manitoba prairie winters often boast below zero temperatures in the double digits. Combine these two facts, and it isn’t difficult to see why most of us have vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is essential in bone health. And now, studies are showing that vitamin D deficiency can also lead to lower immune system as well as mental health issues such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is brought on by a lack of sunlight.
To help boost our immune systems, we try to eat a healthy, well rounded diet full of fruits and veggies (both raw and cooked). We also take supplements as necessary to fill in the gaps in what we’re missing. The kids and I take a daily multivitamin, and a vitamin D supplement. When we feel the sniffles coming on, we add in vitamin C as required and I will also add echinacea to my natural remedy regimen. Though it won’t cure a cold, it does help to boost the immune system and lessen the symptoms.
Once our garden is in full swing, we will be concentrating on adding nutrients back into the soil. Those nutrients will, in turn, transfer into what we grow, and some of those nutritional gaps will fill in on their own, alleviating the need for some of the supplements. (Click here to read more about our homestead, and our plans for our garden.)
Chiropractic Care and Your Immune System
Regular chiropractic care is absolutely one of our best lines of defense in maintaining healthy immune systems. Our children have attended regular chiro appointments (every four to six weeks) with us since infancy. In fact, Katrina had her first adjustment when she was only four days old!
When our nervous system is misaligned, our immune system doesn’t function as it should. This leaves us prone to viruses and infection. Having regular chiropractic “maintenance” done every four to six weeks gives us a better fighting chance when viruses do come knocking.
(By the way, if you’re in the Calgary area, we highly recommend the staff at Miceli Family Chiropractic. Dr. Jaime and Dr. Jana are fantastic, and really listen to their clients. And the massage staff are wonderful too! To read more about how the nervous system affects the immune system, check out their blog post entitled How to Avoid a Crisis of Illness.)
The Flu Vaccine
Sigh. How to talk about the flu vaccine without getting backlash from one side or another? But I would be remiss in not talking about it in a post about illness prevention. I’ll be completely honest with you, I’m on the fence with this vaccine. Before I really dive into this, however, you should know that how I feel about the flu vaccine has no bearing on how I feel about all other vaccinations. I believe that vaccines are necessary in eradicating diseases that cause serious illness, disability and death. I keep all our children’s shots up to date, and Gaby and I received our boosters for tetanus and rubella when Katrina was a baby.
Where the fence sitting comes in is because there is so much controversy surrounding how effective the flu vaccine really is. Each year, research and studies are done to try and determine which strain of the influenza virus will be dominant. And while this may work for some years, other years, the vaccine has been mismatched to the circulating virus. According to this article from CNN, the vaccines that have circulated over the last few years have been less than 50% effective (as low as only 19% effective in the 2014-2015 flu season).
I have had the flu vaccine in the past, while pregnant, and when my children were infants, as well as when I was an employee in a pharmacy, and worked closely with the elderly population. But to continue to do so on a regular basis, submitting mine and my children’s bodies to the other ingredients that they put into the vaccines to preserve them, all for a small chance that the vaccination may work? I think that I would have a better feeling standing behind it if the efficacy of the vaccine rose to those of other vaccinations, which boast 90% and higher efficacy rates.
But don’t base your decisions on my thoughts. Do your own research, talk to your doctor, and if you have questions, talk to them again. Don’t take this decision lightly. I talked to our family physician on more than one occasion, and she understood where we were coming from. And in the end, do what is right for you and for your family.
To Be Continued…
Preventative measures play a large part on how we keep our family healthy, but what do you do when illness does strike? Check back next week for the conclusion to this two part series on natural and alternative remedies that we use when sickness gets us down.
How about you? How do you help keep your family healthy? What are your thoughts surrounding the flu vaccine? Please leave us a comment below or send us an email on our contact page. We’d love to hear what you think about today’s post.