Last week I promised to begin to share some of my favorite habits for keeping myself healthy during the cold and flu season. As mentioned last time, these healthy habits are too great in number for me to dish out all at once. So I'm beginning with three for this week, and more will come.
We all know that we could be doing more to keep ourselves healthy, but that it takes time and willingness to put the effort in to do so. I hope that by sharing a greater number of habits, some of which may be new to you, the number of habits you are likely to adopt will increase.
The key is in finding what resonates with you and what seems likely to fit into your daily life without counter-intuitively casing more stress. So, read on, and look forward to more next week.
I thought I'd start with one of my weirder habits to get your attention.
If you've never heard of oil-pulling, you can read more about it in a very thorough article on oral health written by Jason here. In brief, oil-pulling consists of swishing oil around in your mouth for 15 minutes or so, then spitting it out.
Exciting, I know.
Why would you want to do this?
Our mouths- teeth, gums, tongue, hard and soft palate, and the back of the throat- are a ripe environment for bacterial growth. Gross to think about, but it's true.
Brushing is very important, flossing too, but NOTHING has ever made my mouth feel more clean than oil-pulling. I'm not going to drag you into the details of what oil pulling does for your body. I encourage you to learn more, and if you want to, please read Jason's older article linked above. Oral health affects every corner of our body and is directly tied to numerous chronic diseases.
Specific to our topic, though, a cleaner oral environment means less likelihood of an upper respiratory infection taking hold there. How many of you first notice a head cold as a sore throat? Or swollen, irritated tonsils?
Well, knock on a tree, I have never gotten a sore throat or caught a head cold when I have been consistently oil-pulling. That alone is enough reason for me to continue doing it, but the systemic benefits are overwhelming.
Really, consider swishing some oil around your mouth every morning. The benefits FAR outweigh the effort. A good how-to for oil pulling can be found here.
I have a hard time empathizing with people who don't love sleep. I've met a few people who consider it an inconvenience and even resent that they need it. I LOVE sleep and it's one of my favorite things to do. Sleep is what I find most healing for my body.
If you suffer from insomnia, please forgive me for bragging about the benefits of sleep. And please, if you haven't already, give acupuncture and Chinese herbs a try to help alleviate your sleeplessness.
If you don't have time or the right environment to get enough sleep, then I am so very sorry. I hope you can find as much time as possible for rest, and that you are able to give it as high a priority as possible.
If ever I feel I am coming down with something, and I'm in the position to stop what I'm doing and take a nap (which I admit, is rare), my body will almost always be able to ward off the illness.
Many people put others first, obligate themselves to too many tasks, and then -surprise- they fall ill. Restful times- nightly 8 hours, naps, and quiet time spent doing absolutely nothing- are one of the best preventative medicines against contagious illness.
If it's a possibility for you, make your rest a priority and don't sacrifice it unless necessary.
Summertime in our Northern hemisphere is accompanied by pleasant weather. We spend more time outdoors; we let more fresh air in our households.
As autumn cools, our windows remain closed. As the rain and cold settle in, we avoid being outdoors more than usual. This is comfortable, but it's not a healthy trend.
We get SO MUCH MORE oxygen when we breathe outdoor air than when we breathe indoor air. It's really very simple.
In addition to less oxygen, our indoor air is also generally quite polluted with dust mites, skin cells, fabric fragments, and chemicals from plastics, cleaning products, perfumes, dyes, etc etc etc. And airborne pathogens.
We need oxygen to live. It's not such a great leap to conclude that optimal bodily function requires optimal oxygenation of our tissues. And if we're spending more of our time indoors (or nearly all of our time indoors), we're getting significantly less oxygen than we should.
Remedy this as well as you can:
1) Open your windows, even a little, whenever you can. Jason and I sleep with our bedroom windows just barely cracked open. And as I lay in bed, I can distinctly smell the fresh air seeping in through that crack. Overnight, there is a significant cumulative effect on the body from getting that much more oxygen and less pollution through our air.
2) Open windows and doors when you clean your house. Even in the winter. A weekly housecleaning session with air exchange re-oxygenates your home's air, reduces the air pollution, and helps to prevent any cleaning chemicals from polluting the air (if you use nasty chemicals to clean, that is). Put on a coat, bundle up the kids, turn off the heat, and just know that you will re-heat the house when you finish. Our ancestors lived in animal furs huddled around fires; I think we can handle a couple of hours of cold.
3) Get outside when you can! Oh, it's rainy...it's cold...but it's fresh! Take a lunch break walk or commit to a walk every weekend even if it's dreary out. Shed the fear of being uncomfortable and embrace the invigoration of a cold weather stroll. You need not be out for long to get the blood flowing and the clean air in your lungs, and it goes a long way to combat the effects of months indoors.
If there is one broad, underlying principle I adhere to as a foundation for health, it's being in closer proximity to and in better harmony with nature. In an urban environment, this is admittedly more difficult than it is here in Southern Oregon. But even in a city, the outdoor air is often more fresh than indoors.
Open a window, or get outside, and breathe the air you were meant to breathe.
The blog has been quiet for a while, as has Radiant Family.
For those reading who may not know us personally, Jason (the co-creator of Radiant Family) and I were married in late August. Hooray! And since then we've been vibrating along the thread of new-marriedness, honeymooning, and now getting settled back into the office. Like it was for many others, the end of summer and start of Fall was a whirlwind of activity.
And now the calm months of transition into cooler climate, shorter days and indoor hibernation are on their way.
I love autumn, especially in beautiful Oregon. This will be the first time in a few years that I have been living in Oregon through Autumn and am looking forward to feeling the seasons do their shift.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I am accustomed to feeling the seasons change. As a student and busy do-too-much-er in the past, I've felt that shift in my sore throat and stuffy sinuses. As a healthcare practitioner, I've seen it come into the office as seasonal allergies, asthma, cold and flu, bronchitis and even pneumonia.
The seasonal illness part of Fall has never been a friend of mine. In years past, I was down with a cold as often as twice a month. And at a 10-12 day sickness spell, that meant months passed with rarely a well day.
That has changed in the past handful of years. I still get a cold, but possibly only one or two a year. And never for more than two or three days, as I promptly turn to the magic of Chinese herbs if I do fall ill.
If any of you that frequent our clinic for other reasons do come down with a contagious illness, please PLEASE come get some herbs from me as soon as possible. I hear of many people struggling to shake off a cold, flu or respiratory infection for weeks and wish everyone knew how helpful a few doses of herbal medicine could be!
But prevention is the best medicine.
Through study and self-experimentation, I've found a number of interesting habits over the years that have helped to keep myself healthy and prevent illness effectively. Such a large number of habits, in fact, that it's too much for one article.
So for the next few weeks, I'll touch on these habits a few at a time. I hope they can help you enjoy the beauty of the autumn and winter months, and prevent the lengthy illnesses that so many of us easily succumb to this time of year.
Until next time, enjoy this beautiful October!