You may or may not have heard all the fuss about fermented foods. And you may or may not have starting fermenting at your house. But either way, it’s something which you may want to follow.
Why? Because unlike many of the health fads, fermenting is…well, not a fad. It’s been around from the beginning of time, not just to break down waste into compost, but to break down FOOD into more absorbable, nutritious, and tasty eats. In every culture, you have mums intentionally fermenting foods and feeding it to young and old alike. Some may not call it fermenting, or may not know a thing about lactic acid or good bacteria, but they are doing it none-the-less: kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, salami, pickles, kombucha, yogurt, cheese, wine, tamari, miso, tempeh, natto, sourdough.
So you probably HAVE heard of probiotics. Good bacteria, normally found in the gut of every living mammal, which keep the immune system healthy but not over-reacting, stabilize mood, keep us regular, create vitamins like folate and B12, speak to the brain in many chemical ways to keep us thinking clearly, and detoxify a lot of nasty stuff, including some of the pesticides and chemicals and heavy metals we eat (oops). This is not an exhaustive list. There’s a TON of research done on these good little microbes. Like, upwards of 29,000 studies come up on PubMed just by searching “lactobacillus.”
We know that:
We have more bacteria in our guts than cells in our bodies (10 to 1, in fact).
But, we continue to get doses of the healthy bacteria at each feeding of breastmilk (yay for Mom again, and yay for the back-up plan!).
You can buy probiotics in many different combinations of strains, quantities, and delivery methods. Which I have done regularly for over a decade, and I’m grateful for the availability of these specific strains (because sometimes, it’s good to troubleshoot with specifics). But, I’ve found the most help over the years by the foods that are packed with good bacteria, so I’m cranking up my ferments. Raw milk kefir is an every-week staple here, but this week I’m excited to try a watermelon juice, a Daikon radish ferment, and a Jun variety of kombucha.
I’m following a fermenting expert I’m lucky enough to know as a friend: Jane Casey of Jane Casey’s Kitchen. She’s amazing, fun, and has an amazing true story of twin sons who were profoundly autistic, but now aren’t. At all. Because of ferments.
I’m learning a ton (like: using ingestable essential oils to promote fermentation…wha??). Best tip of the week: use folded fresh grape leaves to keep the veggies all submerged (this is like the main rule of fermenting veggies: keep them under the brine so they don’t mold). I will keep you posted, because we have a special project coming for these classes, live and local.
Do you ferment? What’s on your counter now?
And for those who want to geek out with me, here are a few interesting studies on the benefits of probiotics which I stumbled across on PubMed. Not that the other 29,000 aren’t interesting too…
This study links good gut bacteria (L. Reuteri in this case), with immune regulation and folate metabolism. So all you MTHFR people (I’m one too) can go crazy about that. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27353144
This study notes the protective effect of friendly bacteria against bladder infections in pre-and-post-menopausal women (different strains are more effective for pre- or post- menopausal). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27092529
Probiotics in critically ill children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27081478
This study showed that stressed mice had changes to their gut microflora, specifically reduced L. Reuteri. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25028050
Even after a great birth, there’s body-trauma to deal with. And even with a healthy, peaceful baby, there’s a little first-week drama to face. Here are a few things I found to help with both.
Bruising on upper chest (stripe from armpit to armpit where I leaned into the side of the tub): lavender essential oil applied directly to the skin. I did not dilute, and was not concerned about the proximity to breasts/nursing since this is indicated for mastitis as well.
Bruising on sacrum: PanAway* essential oil blend, applied neat. I felt that this not only helped with bruising of the bones, but that the absorbed oil helped to mend the pelvic floor muscles faster than in previous births.
Sore Upper Arms: PanAway* applied neat on location.
After Birth Pain: Cramp Bark tincture (alcohol) every few hours in first day, decreasing until 3rd day. I also used more of my Labor/Birth essential oil blend as a foot rub and low belly rub. I did not need to take Advil or any other synthetic pain killer.
Neck Misalignment/muscle discomfort from turning my head tubside during labor: Valor essential oil blend, on location.
General Exhaustion (birth is a marathon, afterall!): Frankincense oil on wrists, and inhaled. NingxiaRed wolfberry juice with essential oils (Young Living) and Chinese herbal tea (blended by my doctor) really helped me feel revived.
Water retention; drinking lots of water with lemon essential oil to help flush out excess fluid.
Tissue Soothing/Regeneration; Gentle Baby essential oil blend in peri bottle with water: 1 drop per peri bottle at each potty use.
Emotional Stability Post Partum: I used Ylang Ylang on wrists and inhaled. At ten days I began ProgessencePlus* serum which contains wild yam extract; 3 drops on forearms 2xday. I also began 1 drop Sclaressence* essential oil blend under tongue 2xday. I continued to take nutritional oils of flax, evening primrose, and fish for their omega 3 fatty acids.
Mastitis/clogged duct/engorgement: lavender and copaiba essential oils rubbed on site. Lavender is very effective alone, but copaiba magnifies it’s potency and is highly anti-inflammatory in its own right.
Belly Button: a drop of myrrh on the navel helped the belly button to heal and dry faster than my other babies. Works as an antiseptic.
Circumcision: a drop of myrrh in a dab of carrier oil at the base of the penis as an antiseptic. For pain, the “morphine bomb” worked wonders: I mixed 1 drop each Copaiba, Idaho Balsam Fir, and Frankincense in the palm of my hand and applied to baby’s feet and spine, and he was sleeping peacefully within 5 minutes (previous frantic pain).
Colic: in week 2 baby had a night of colic after too many feedings. Upon applying 1 drop of DiGize to his bloated belly in a clockwise pattern, he became calm and we all went back to sleep.
*Note: PanAway, ProgessencePlus, and Sclaressence essential oil blends contain a small amount of peppermint oil, which in large amounts some women find to reduce their milk supply. I have not found this to be the case with these blends, perhaps because it is such a small amount, or perhaps because the other oils in the blends support milk supply.
I only use Young Living essential oils for topical and internal use in my family. Please do your research about essential oils; I feel confident that Young Living EOs are the safest and most pure oils on the market, and have personally seen a difference in their potency as well. Please see my Essential Oils page for more information on purchasing a starter kit of Young Living essential oils.
The day I gave birth to my sixth baby began early; I woke around 3am with my water breaking in a slow leak. By morning, I was having a few mild contractions and feeling more water leakage. I applied 2 drops of Nutmeg oil to my palms and rubbed it over my adrenals. Nutmeg is supportive to the adrenals (kidney area); support I needed after the interruptions in sleep the night before. This oil is cautioned for use in pregnancy as it may exhibit estrogenic effects, and I had avoided touching it while pregnant. However, now that labor had begun, the estrogenic support was a boon for encouraging contractions.
As I made breakfast for my family, I poured myself about an ounce of Ningxia Red wolfberry juice. This delicious antioxidant rich juice is enhanced with essential oils and is an amazing energy booster. I had been reserving an unopened bottle of the juice for “Labor Day” so cracking the seal marked my acceptance of labor and the birth date for my child.
Contractions continued to come all morning; the mild contractions of early labor which are only slightly painful and best ignored. I busied myself with tidying my home but began to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and urgent, so I went to my room for a few quiet moments and applied Stress Away liberally to the back of my neck and wrists. A few deep breaths and I was ready to get back into “nesting mode” with my husband and children who were also rallying to tidy our “nest.”
Since I was planning a home birth, my first area of concern for cleaning was my bathroom and bedroom where I would give birth and recover. Bathroom cleaning spray can be made with many different essential oils. Thieves is one of my favorites. Right now my spray bottle holds:
40% white vinegar
5 drops each Melelueca Alternifolia and Peppermint essential oils
By noon I called my midwife to tell her my water had broken but I was still able to walk and talk through contractions. I used these mild contractions as practice for heavier labor by swaying, or bending and holding my knees to focus on relaxing my pelvic floor. I ate a sensible lunch and continued to sip on the Ningxia Red for energy and stable blood sugar as labor increased.
My husband scrubbed the jets of our large bathtub, and then filled it with water. He put about 10 drops of Purification into the water and ran the jets; this anti-fungal oil which includes citrus and lemongrass oils removed the algae scum that grows in jets, without any harsh chemicals. The fragrance filled the bathroom, giving me a sense of clean and calm. When the tub was clean, I ran my diffuser in my bedroom with the oil blend Gentle Baby which helps mothers feel grounded and peaceful. I had been using this floral oil on my belly for several months.
I showered and my contractions increased in severity and timing in the hot water, which is always a sign to me that labor is active. As I dressed, I put several drops of Ylang Ylang, a hormone supporting and balancing oil, on a sanitary pad for topical application. I also used a few drops of this beautiful fragrance on my wrists and neck at the base of my ears. The contractions were now painful in my low back/sacrum area, so I rubbed several drops of PanAway into my sacrum; I was amazed at how this eased my pain. Although I was also feeling quite a bit of pain low in the front with contractions, I did not use PanAway in that location as the icy hotness of the wintergreen and peppermint have been known to turn a baby (away from the heat) and since my baby was already in perfect, head-down position, I did not want to risk a breach.
It was now about 5pm and I took a “Morphine Bomb”: 5 drops each of Idaho Balsam Fir, Frankincense, and Copaiba in a capsule, and rubbed the residual from the dispenser tops onto my wrists and inhaled deeply for a few minutes. There is no morphine in the “Morphine Bomb” -it is a pain and inflammation reliever. It did not take away my pain, but it did take the edge off.
I continued to bend over for contractions and focus on opening up, now moaning away the cramping pain. My parents arrived to help with my children, and my husband put in a call to the midwife to go ahead and come to our house.
The midwife and nurses arrived, and I applied my Birthing Labor Blend on my ankles and inhaled it from my palms, which gave me a sudden overwhelming desire to cry; this passed quickly. I had waited until the midwife arrived to use this blend as it is far more estrogenic than the oils used so far and I was unsure if it would speed my labor along too quickly. It can also be applied low on the abdomen; I did not apply it there but would if I were to do it again.
Here is the Birthing Labor Blend:
9 drops Helichrysum
10 drops Yang Ylang
10 drops Sclaressence
3 drops Fennel 3 drops Peppermint equal amount apricot oil
The midwife did an internal check and said I was at 7cm; a huge relief that I had made it so easily and quickly through active labor and was now ready for transition. In the past, some of my labors have lasted for several days. We filled the bathtub with hot water and I got in, someone cut the lights and gave me a fluffy white towel to lean on facing forward at the side of the tub, my window was open a few inches and I could hear a songbird outside in the gentle spring rain shower as dusk fell. My husband and the nurses took turns applying counter-pressure to my low back and bringing me my glass of Ningxia Red to sip on, which significantly helped to increase my energy.
When I was nearly complete/ready to push, I took a drop each of the Morphine Bomb oils under my tongue (which tasted like eating a Christmas tree) and then chased them with another drink of Ningxia Red. At the time this seemed like the fastest way to absorb the oils systemically, however it did cause a little bit of heart burn, and taking the larger amount in the capsule probably would have been more potent. I also applied several drops of Valor to the back of my neck and inhaled it from my palms, praying that God would give me the mental strength to face crowning. I’m a bit of a coward about birth/crowning, so I needed all the Valor I could get. 🙂
Since the contractions were still manageable and I did not have an urge to push, I continued to labor in the upright position, with knees/pelvis splayed to allow the baby’s crown to descend lower into my pelvis. This wasn’t really a conscious decision, but rather that continuing to labor seemed more desirable in the moment than heavy pushing. Of all my children, only my first baby and this last baby were born with noticeable head molding, and with both of these labors I was able to continue laboring as the baby’s head descended, rather than push them out because labor wasn’t tolerable. The first baby was born with an epidural (the only one I had an epidural for) and the last with oils. Please understand that the oils in no way took away the pain or gave numbness like an epidural, but I was able to labor without experiencing the “I can’t do this anymore!” frantic stage of pain and feeling out of control, and my moaning never got to the point where I “sounded like Chewbacca” according to my husband.
When I was ready to push, I pushed with all my strength through three long contractions, still upright in the warm water, and Torsten was born at 9:28pm. I cried out a prayer of thanks to God for delivering me and the baby, then turned to receive my new son from the midwife. Unique to this birth was the complete lack of bloody show/blood until after the placenta was delivered. Additionally, as I continued to use oils through my post-partum week, I had no blood clots at all in my flow.
Immediately following birth, while still in the tub, I began to shake and have some leg cramps. My midwife gave me some homeopathic CalPhos minerals; after I moved into my bed I took a dropper of Cramp Bark tincture in alcohol to relieve uterine cramping. I took this every few hours for the first day or so and never needed any synthetic pain reliever. The one last oil I used that day was Nutmeg, again applied over my adrenals and inhaled from my palms.
There is nothing which can describe the peaceful contented feeling of being tucked into your own bed with your sweet little newborn by your side! I’m so grateful for the chance to have such a peaceful, safe, and satisfying birth with the excellent support of my caregivers, loved ones, and essential oils.
Ten days ago I gave birth to my sixth child. At 9lbs 8oz, he was my largest baby. Yet his birth was my best.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t easy to give birth “once you get to number six.” 🙂 It is still labor. It is still transition, pushing, crowning, the whole works. But by this time I have learned how to work with my body, how to relax, and a few things to help the process.
This was my first birth using Essential Oils. (See my post on Labor and Birth for all the details!) I absolutely think they helped my labor to progress, my cervix to dilate, my pain to be decreased, my energy to not give out, and my emotions to stay stable and confident. I feel it was the oils that helped me avoid feeling out of control…the “I can’t do this!!” stage. I will be guest posting the details soon over at The OG Blog.
Additionally, having a caring supportive and highly qualified midwife from A Gentle Beginning, being able to spend transition and pushing in warm water (in the tub in my own bathroom), having my caring husband, mother, and for the first time, my oldest daughter on hand to support me, having a dark and calm environment…these all helped me to handle each contraction well.
Holding your new baby in your arms…the baby you just powerfully birthed…that is just about the pinnacle of life’s great moments!
I like to think of my toxic load as a bathtub: water (toxins in this analogy) are flowing in at the tap, and flowing out at the drain. If the drain is plugged, the bathtub gets fuller. If the tap is turned up very high, the bathtub may be getting fuller even if the drain is working. In terms of the toxins stored in our “toxic bathtub” the goal would be to turn down the faucet as low as possible, and to make sure the drain is wide open and draining faster than the water coming in. If this is accomplished, eventually the bathtub will empty and only the daily toxins coming in will flow right on through.
Toxins Coming In
We live in a toxic world, and it’s pretty hard to completely escape modern day toxins. Even if we could, our own metabolic processes in our bodies create toxins to be expelled daily. If we weren’t detoxing all. the. time. we would die. Like, within a day.
Nonetheless, it seems prudent to avoid the toxins of:
Heavy metals which may accumulate in tissues/bones
Off-gassing of chemicals from household products
Chemicals and metals in our water supply
Die-off toxins from internal bacteria/fungus/viruses
Stress from emotional baggage
Much of this blog has been dedicated to these topics.
Organ Systems and Cells
The toxins in our bodies are varied, and are stored in differing areas of our bodies. For example, an imbalance of bacteria in gut flora may be creating a significant toxic load in my colon, even without symptoms I connect to that organ of my body. I may have a high level of lead, stored in my bones. I may have petrochemical chemicals stored in my skin, along with parabens, pthalates (fragrance) and sunscreens (which can all act as hormone mimickers) from years of lotion and cosmetics use. I may have formaldehyde stored in my cells, fungal/yeast toxins and mercury in my brain. My fat cells may have antibiotic residues, chemical cleaners, medications, synthetic vitamins, pesticides, rancid/hydrogenated oils, and styrofoam. (Some researchers feel that cellulite may have a larger portion of these kinds of toxins, which the body has put in “cold storage” to protect itself.) Although not the kind of chemical toxins that are stored in the body, electromagnetic fields are toxic to our bodies while we are present in them, and may inhibit our detox pathways for hours after exposure. I recommend the book Zapped by Gittleman for limiting exposure to EMFs.
The organs and glands of the body may all be holding any of the toxins in the list above; often certain toxins have an affinity for specific organ systems.
There are 5 mains paths of detoxification: Colon, kidneys, liver (and thus through colon), skin, and lungs.
Where do we start?
I know, it can be overwhelming. First, congratulations that you’ve made it this far, even without much planned detoxing support! Next, make a plan.
[Remember: I’m not a licensed health care provider, and I can’t diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Nothing you read on my blog is a substitute for advice from your doctor.]
1. Turn down the faucet. Start to remove as many toxic sources as possible. No, you can’t do it all this week, but START. Food always seems to be an obvious one to most people, but don’t forget that everything that touches your skin gets absorbed, without the benefit of stomach acid and your liver as a filter. So think laundry detergent, any lotions or creams put on skin, deodorant. Your lungs absorb so much of what you breathe in; so open your windows each night to air out your house. See, you’ve already made huge progress!
I recommend the book Homes that Heal as a good resource for reducing toxins in your immediate environment.
2. Flush. Drink all your water every day. Even if you can’t buy a really good water purifier this month, get a Brita which takes out some of the bad stuff. Everyone (unless your Dr. has you restricted) should be drinking half their body weight in ounces, every day (that means, if you weigh 150lbs, you are drinking 75oz water). Herbal tea counts as water, but add 8oz water for 8oz coffee or black tea consumed. Juice, milk, etc. don’t count for anything. Don’t drink soda. Just don’t.
3. Begin to cleanse the detox pathways, colon, kidneys, liver, skin, lungs, in roughly that order. I have read a lot of detox books/methods over the years, and done several types of cleanses. I recommend the book Inner Transformations by Deardueff as one book with several suggestions on cleansing each of these pathways, and even further into non-pathway systems. The author recommends some tried and true methods like Master Cleanse, veggie juicing, Candida diet, coffee enemas, Epsom Salt baths, skin brushing, as well as specific products to try.
4. Food. Yes, this is important. Not just to get clean sources (organic, grass-fed, etc.), but to have a broad spectrum of foods in fruit, veggie, proteins, and fats categories (dairy and grains not required for cleansing, and often inhibit cleansing). My experience has been that a Paleo type diet is a great jump start for food cleansing, but I recognize that Vegan diets are good cleanses too (think veggie juicing!). However, I don’t think that long term the Vegan approach supplies enough quality proteins/amino acids for some crucial metabolic detox processes. The book It Starts With Food is a good read if you feel helpless to change your diet.
Some foods that are super cleansers are fermented foods (homemade sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, etc.), dark leafy greens, the whole cabbage/broccoli family, the artichoke family, citrus, berries, and fresh fats/oils like coconut, cod liver oil, flaxseed, and avocado. But really, the fermented ones top the list.
5. Exercise/Sweat. I don’t love to exercise, but I feel more energetic and happier when I do. I use the T-Tapp 15 minute workout because it is very lymphatic; focuses on opening up the lymph channels and pumping lymph fluid (clear fluid in our bodies that does not have a pump like the heart pumps the blood). Any “pressing” type movement such as walking, running, or trampoline moves lymph, and this is very important for daily detox. In addition, when we sweat, we release toxins through the skin; terry-towel off that sweat if you’re not showering immediately.
6. Essential Oils. In the past year I have begun to study therapeutic vs. fragrance use of essential oils, and have begun to introduce them into our family as therapies. We have seen a few mild detox reactions, but I have heard and seen more dramatic reactions from others beginning EO therapy. Many EOs do have the ability to cleanse cells of petrochemicals and even do some chelation of heavy metals. Because EOs are absorbed directly into the cells, and can be within every cell in the body (even brain cells) in about 20 minutes, they carry huge potential for detoxification. Lemon juice squeezed in water has long been a detox standby, but a drop of lemon essential oil is far more potent and powerful than the juice; best to start very slowly before ramping up to one drop per glass of water (glass only, no plastic!).
Because of their ability to penetrate every cell in the body, it is very important to have absolutely pure essential oils, from a distillery which preserves every naturally occurring (balancing) chemical constituent. At this time I only recommend Young Living brand EOs (see my Essential Oils tab above).
Essential oils can also assist with emotional detox by opening up hormone pathways, and stimulating the lymbic area of the brain which stores memories and emotions (and is the area which receives signals from scents). I believe that Jesus is the true answer to the needs of our souls/emotions, and that Scripture which reveals Him is cleansing to our minds. I have found that repeating Scriptures to myself which relate to my emotional needs, within a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, have helped me to heal past hurts, depression, and unload emotional baggage.
Detoxing is good, but too much, too fast can create some uncomfortable detox side effects: rash, itching, headache, sinus drainage, feeling hot, feeling grumpy, restlessness, loose bowel, nausea, tiredness. It’s likely that the longer a person has been pursuing a detox lifestyle (has a less-full bathtub) the less they will experience these reactions. When these symptoms do strike, here are some things I have done to ease them:
Rest/sleep (it takes a lot of internal work to detox!)
Epsom salt baths (pull toxins out through the skin so it doesn’t all have to flow through liver/colon/kidneys)
Coffee enemas (no more than once a week, and only done in a safe way with electrolytes in the enema)
Cease heavy exercise; stretch instead
Go back over the list of toxins to find ways to “turn the faucet down” more
Consider backing off the detox of the moment, then ramp it up again more slowly.
Although we should discuss diet/exercise/detox plans with our doctor anyway, there are some situations which require a doctor’s help for detox. These would include chelation for heavy metal poisoning, heavy industrial chemical poisoning, and advanced cardiovascular disease chelation. A doctor knowledgeable in environmental medicine would be worth enlisting in these cases; it’s likely that he/she will be recommending at least some of the ideas above, so the more educated a person is about home therapies for detox, the faster their progress will be.
Additionally, some people have genetically faulty metabolic processes for detoxification; MTHFR gene defect, inability to methylate B vitamins, insufficient amino acid production, anemia of many types, thyroid and other hormone insufficiency, etc. A knowledgeable integrative doctor will be able to test for these types of disorders and recommend simple solutions to underlying causes. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking the right form of a B vitamin.
Detox for Life
I’m not going to sugar coat this: if you are new to detoxing, it will likely be a year of intentional detoxing before you feel really clean, and then an ebb and flow of maintenance detoxing thereafter. But, the benefit of having more energy and joy, and feeling lighter (if not actually BEING lighter) will make it worth it. You may never know the health crises you’ve dodged by keeping your toxic bathtub empty.
I’ve contracted Influenza only a few times in my life. It’s never fun. But the sickest I’ve ever been (I think?) was last month; fighting Influenza A while 27 weeks pregnant.
My husband and children were the first ones to show symptoms, with fever, headache, and extreme fatigue. After the first day, a cough and snotty nose were the residual symptoms, but fever was gone in 12-24 hours. As soon as the first child was sick, I rubbed everyone’s feet with essential oils, put some on their chests and backs as well, fed everyone vitamin C and a high loading dose of D and A drops.
And then the next day, I became sick. Fever of 102 (which is pretty high for me). Tachycardia (racing heart; mine was 108-125 bpm), which is not uncommon with fever. Fatigue which kept me in bed from the time I woke up. Beginnings of a cough, and congested sinuses. As the cough progressed, the muscles around my ribs suffered severe soreness. I just hurt everywhere.
Midwife Care/Naturopathic Care
One of the great things about having a midwife is that my calls are returned 24/7 by the caregiver. My midwife, Catherine Schaefer, is a Naturopathic Doctor, in addition to being a Certified Nurse Midwife, so I felt very confident in her ability to advise me in the best treatments during my illness.
In addition to speaking with my midwife twice, I had previously scheduled appointments at my MD/ND’s clinic for iron IVs to treat anemia; these were on days 3 and 9. The nurse checked my vitals on day 3 and the Dr. did an exam on day 9 (see below). If you are ill in pregnancy, it is important for your and your baby’s health to contact your health care provider(s).
I normally allow fevers to take their course, as they serve the purpose of killing the pathogens causing the illness. But when I spoke to my midwife, Catherine, she advised that I really should not allow my fever to exceed 102 for the sake of the baby, and that it would still be effective against the virus below 102. She also advised that I should stay in bed because she was seeing pneumonia develop even after a week of illness if the patient did not reserve all their energy for healing. Since I’ve had pneumonia twice I’m already at higher risk for developing it, so I was motivated to take all measures I could to avoid it. We also discussed several natural medicinal therapies. In addition to several of the therapies which I did follow, she offered homeopathic therapy for Influenza, but homeopathics and essential oils cancel each other, so I felt like it was best to stick with what I had already begun.
OK, so if I gave this to you in a blow by blow, it would be a long story of misery, so I’ll summarize. I was sicker for longer, much longer, than anyone else in my family. I assume this is because I am pregnant. My fever and tachycardia lasted for 5 days/nights without breaking, then returned for a few hours on days 6 and 7. I am new to Essential Oils, but I was very impressed with the use of Peppermint for fever (see below).
The exhaustion was so profound, I stayed in bed from days 1-9, except to go to the bathroom. Days 10-12 I spent mostly in bed, with a few trips to other parts of the house for food and other needs. Days 13- 18 I had to take a long nap or two. During my days in bed, my husband and children rose to the occasion and cared for me, prayed for me, brought me water, food, and whatever else I needed (mostly I slept). Several dear friends brought chicken soup and juice-jello for me and other meals for my family, prayed for me, and watched my children during several days when my husband needed to work. Thank you dear friends! What would we do without community? I’m so grateful.
My cough developed quickly during the fever so that on the third night, although the mucous in my lungs was loose enough, there was so much of it I felt that I couldn’t get oxygen from my breaths. This was a scary thing to realize at midnight. Again, Peppermint saved the day…I began to apply it each hour (when I woke gasping for air) and it allowed me to breathe. I am certain it kept me out of the ER that night.
My Pregnancy Influenza Protocol
[I am not a health care professional nor licensed to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please consult with your healthcare provided before beginning any health protocol, especially during pregnancy.]
As I said, I’m new to essential oils, having only begun using them therapeutically (vs. as aromatics or in cleaners) in October. I am currently using Young Living oils since they are the only company which seemed to have a completely safe track record and the most data on use in pregnancy.
“Thieves” oil blend (immune system/antibacterial/antiviral). I used this liberally on my children, and by the time I was ill, realized I was running out. I was able to use it at least once on my feet (2-3 drops) and twice or so as a drop in my cheek. I felt it truly did boost my immune response, and wished I wasn’t running out! I made an oils order, but with the weekend and 3 days of shipping, it didn’t arrive until after my fever/the worst was passed. I did begin taking it a couple times in my cheek each day after receiving my new bottle, through the remainder of my convalescence.
“Oregano” oil (antibacterial/antiviral). I used this liberally (3-4 drops) on my feet, perhaps 4x day, against the virus and to ward off bacterial pneumonia.
“Peppermint” oil (fevers/airways/sinus). I used this liberally on my feet, over Oregano, to reduce fever and clear my airways. It consistently reduced my fever by 2 degrees; 102 to 100, or 101 to 99. For this use, I applied it about every 3 hours. My mother (sick with Influenza a few weeks before) reported that Tylanol (Acetaminophen) did not reduce her fever (103 and higher) at all, but that Peppermint oil on her feet reduced it by 2 degrees, as it did for me. Additionally, I used peppermint liberally on my feet about every 1-2 hours on the night when I had difficulty in breathing/lungs. I took it as a drop in the mouth to help ease/drain my congested sinuses.
“Lemon” oil (loosens and thins mucous). To avoid pneumonia, it was important for my cough to be as effective as possible. At one point I felt that the phlegm was too thick to cough out of my lungs, so I began to put a drop or two of lemon oil in my water. It was very helpful in thinning the mucous. I began to run low on the lemon, so alternated between the oil and drinking the juice of a whole lemon or lime plus a TB or so of maple syrup in a 12oz glass of water. At this point, it was difficult for me to eat much of any food, and this drink is a good nourishing drink.
“PanAway” oil blend. I used this liberally on my rib area to relieve the muscle pain associated with coughing and with strain from laying on my sides for so long (pregnant belly pull!).
“Frankincense” oil (antibacterial) and “Purification” oil blend (antibacterial). When most congested in my lungs, I used 3-4 drops of Frankincense over my lung area, then covered with Purification. And I made myself cough whenever the urge arose, regardless of the pain to my ribs and head which was suffering a splitting headache. Like a fever, a good cough is your friend during illness.
“Joy” oil blend (cardiac/calming). I used this (2 drops) with Frankincense over my heart to help end the tachycardia (see below).
“Eucalyptus” oil (sinus). This oil was one I had on hand from years ago when I had a sinus infection. It was not from Young Living so I did not want to take in internally/topically, and after several years it has likely lost it’s potency, but I diffused it in my room for whatever benefit it may have given my congested sinuses.
Breaking the Fever
After 5 days/nights of fever and tachycardia I was exhausted. I just felt like I needed to break the fever and let my heart calm down. Those that are not pregnant can do the “cold sock therapy” or the “wet sheet therapy” but I did not feel that these kinds of shock would be good for me/baby. After consulting with my midwife who advised that Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safer for the fetus than Ibuprofen (Advil), I took a single 500mg Acetaminophen and took a warm Epsom Salt bath with clove oil (again, my clove is several years old and not therapeutic grade, but I used it for whatever residual help it may have given). Epsom salt baths are helpful in drawing toxins out of the body, relaxing the muscles, and providing the body with some magnesium which is an immune stimulant and helps clear lungs, among other things.
After the bath, and an hour after taking the Acetaminophen, the fever had only lowered a slight amount, and the tachycardia was still present. I reapplied the peppermint oil on my feet, and used a few drops of Joy and Frankincense on my heart. Finally, the fever broke and my heart rate slowed to about 70bpm. I woke in the middle of the night and felt that my heart rate was beginning to speed up…this is odd, but by just reaching out and touching my sleeping husband with my hand, it calmed down again.
The following two afternoons I again had a fever, this time low grade (99). I used the peppermint again, and it did not seem to reduce it immediately, but the fever only lasted about 2 hours.
I stayed in bed to use all energy for fighting the virus and symptoms. I feel this was vital.
I drank water or herbal tea. My goal was the same 75oz I had been drinking, but it became really hard for me to drink more than 6oz at a time, and I know I probably didn’t drink my goal on any given day. A few times I took a TB of liquid chlorophyll in my water.
As I stated, several dear friends brought homemade chicken soup (the kind made with the whole carcass so it is very nourishing) to our home, and one made juice-jello. For the first 5 days or so my husband brought the soup to me pureed in a mug so I could drink it, which takes less effort than spooning; after that time he brought it in a bowl. The juice-jello is made by adding pure gelatin to juice, honey, and in this case pureed strawberries. It makes for a protein rich snack which goes down easily. There were several times during my fever where I felt like my body/baby were truly hungry, although I couldn’t imagine eating anything more than broth and jello. It was really important for me to continue to supply protein and calories to my growing baby. My breakfast meals were either the jello or kefir/flax oil/banana/strawberry smoothies. Still, I lost 7lbs the first week.
I coughed, as often and as effectively as I could.
I took a total of 3 Epsom Salt baths, starting on the day after I began waking at night drenched in sweat, which is a sign the body is trying to clear all the toxins created by the virus dying off. Upon waking in sweat, I stripped off the wet clothes, scrubbed my skin vigorously with a dry terrycloth towel (which helps to remove toxins), dressed, and went back to sleep.
I blew my nose gently and snorted and spit often into tissue while in bed. And I used a Netti Pot with sea salt flush to clear my nose once during a shower. I also used a whole dropper full of my eucalyptus oil in the shower (floor) as a steam inhalation (only had strength for 1 shower during those two weeks). I used the Xlear nasal spray often to loosen nasal mucous and moisten the irritated/dry sensation in my sinuses.
Vitamin A (Palmitate)
Vitamin A is contraindicated in pregnancy. The original study upon which this recommendation was based was quite flawed, asking women to remember after pregnancy what their supplemental and dietary intake had been. Since that time, some studies have established birth defects associated with excess intake during the first trimester.
However, vitamin A seems to be the most effective agent for avoiding the cytokine storm reaction in certain Influenzas; it has immune modulating properties, and is quite specific to mucous membranes (lung tissue cells).
[Beta Carotene is often confused with vitamin A; most people convert beta carotene into vitamin A, but some do so poorly, in which case eating animal foods where it has already been converted, like eggs, butter, and liver, is a good idea nutritionally. I know I’m one of those people who poorly convert (one symptom of poor conversion is keratosis pilaris; bumps on the back of the arms). Beta Carotene is considered safe in pregnancy at moderate levels in prenatals, and of course can be obtained through eating yellow, orange, and green fruits and vegetables. But for use during illness, you need a higher dosage than is available in food. ]
I weighed these risks and benefits with my midwife, and chose to take a high dosage of vitamin A for 3 days, then discontinue. I took 50,000IU drops (Biotics Research) in one dose during each of those 3 days. I was 27 weeks pregnant, well beyond the first trimester/fragile genetic reproduction time.
Vitamin D is recommended in pregnancy, and I had been taking 10,000IU in drops (Biotics Research) daily. When ill, I increase the dosage to 25,000 IU of vitamin D3 for 3 days, then dropped back to 10,000 IU daily.
In my first phone conversation to my midwife, she recommended I take NAC, which she said has some evidence of protective effect for a fetus during maternal virus/fever. I took 500mg NAC immediately following the phone call. I forgot to take this after the initial dosage, but probably should have taken it each day I had fever.
Prenatal/Cal/Mag/Zinc/B12/Folic Acid/Vitamin C
I was pretty out of it, so although I planned to continue to take my prenatal and other daily supplements while sick, I’m not sure I got them in each day. It was also an issue of remembering to ask someone to bring them upstairs to me . . . I know I did take my prescription thyroid and adrenal insufficiency medications . . . any other supplements were just for good measure. I know I drank several glasses of water with Vit. C/Magnesium powder. It was pretty random.
Modified Myer’s Cocktail
On day 9 I kept a previously scheduled appointment for an iron IV at the office of my MD/ND, Daniel Newman. I was fortunate that I was there during his lunch break and he was able to listen to my lungs. He noted I had not developed pneumonia, but because of my wheezing and continued weakness, he recommended I take a high potency vitamin/mineral IV immediately following the iron infusion, which I did. I don’t know exactly what he prescribed for it, but it did include magnesium, vit. C, and B12.
Elderberry/Royal Jelly Syrup
When I became ill, my mother quickly ordered a fantastic Elderberry Syrup to be shipped to me. It came around the same time as the Essential Oils which I had run out ; after the fever and the worst was passed. Nonetheless, I began to take 2tsp. 2 or 3 times per day, and felt that it helped me to recover. It’s delicious, so you won’t have trouble if you need to give it to a child!
A friend called this week to say their family just had head lice, and they kicked it with a blend of essential oils in olive oil. (This friend lives a long way away from the Portland area, in case any of you local readers are starting to feel your skin crawl already.)
A lice infestation is gross, and makes a mother feel like a louse of a clean person (pun intended). But having lice just means one of your children hugged, wrestled, or traded a hat, coat, or scarf with another child who had lice. Children with good mothers get it, and pass it on to other children with good mothers.
So if your kids get it, don’t feel guilty. But also, don’t reach for Uber-Toxic over-the-counter lice shampoos until you try this blend. (And there are reports are that lice are now showing resistance to the OTC and prescription insecticides.)
2 cups olive oil
1 tsp. each: essential oils of tea tree, eucalyptus, oregano, peppermint, cinnamon
Note: the cinnamon seemed quite “hot” to the skin, and was too strong for the little boy in the family whose skin is sensitive. The mom thought it could probably be left out and the blend be just as effective.
Mix well, apply to head and scalp, massage into all the hair. Leave on for 1 hour, then shampoo out with normal shampoo.
The olive oil seems to dissolve the nits from the hair shafts, while the essential oils do a number on the parasites themselves.
I hope this is one recipe you (and I!) never have to use!
Update from the Mom whose family had lice:
I didn’t get to finish telling you this the other day, but the essential oils washed out a lot of the nits, but not ALL of them. To get them out, skip the plastic nit combs from the drug store or that come with the toxic lice shampoo, and go right for the Nit Terminator.
It is sold for about $8 on Amazon, but I found it locally at my Ulta store for double that, $15.95. I didn’t care that it was twice as much money, once I found out we had lice I wanted to start the war THAT DAY and not wait for a package from amazon!
I have gone over everyone’s hair with this comb and the first day it produced quite a few bugs and nits. Ewwww. But on successive days I would only find one or two nits, some days none at all. None the less, I have continued to give everyone a combing each day and will do so until the end of the incubation period, so that if I did miss a nit I know I can brush out the bug.
My plan was to reapply the essential oil mix if I found any live bugs, but I haven’t. My husband has called me the TSA because of my unresonable inspections, but I don’t care. I’m not messing around with this!
Also, I was worried that maybe our long haired inside dog could have caught lice from the children, since she often snuggles with them and sleeps on the furniture. However, a quick search online revealed that lice only live on human blood, and can’t live on dogs or cats. I’m glad I don’t have to start doing lice inspections on her!
Well here’s something that’s an easy changeover from traditional to non-toxic: hand soap.
In fact, it was one of the first things I changed when I became conscious of the negative possibilities of chemical-based care products. Then I began to notice that my daily (mild) headaches were gone for good . . . until I was at a friend’s house and got a headache from the fragrance in her hand soap.
This is an easy change because there are many great options, and let’s face it: most of us don’t have a great deal of personal attachment to the soaps at our sinks. (Changing deodorant was far more traumatic for me. You can read about my experiences with that in my post Deodorant: Love Hate Relationship.)
Bar or Liquid?
It’s really up to you. Bar soaps are luxurious (especially those with a goat milk or vegetable oil base), unless you live in a home with small children, where a bar of soap will inevitably be found in a puddle of water with dirt streaks on top. This is my home, so bar soaps are reserved for the shower, and liquid soaps rule the roost at the sinks.
My favorite liquid soap is an old classic: Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap. (At a great price on iherb.com. Check out my post iherb.com: Awesome Prices Plus $5-off.) If you’ve been around health food stores for awhile, you’ll know this one quite well, and maybe you’ve brushed your teeth with it (I have, but it isn’t pleasant). For those of you new to this soap, the label is amazing. It reports of couple dozen uses for the soap . . . remember, this is a “classic” in the natural care product world, and it came out when there weren’t a lot of choices for things from shampoo to flea control. Also, there is a lot of crazy mantra/philosophy on the bottle (ever square inch of it) which ranges from distressing liberties with Kipling poems to just bizarre political stuff. I’m not kidding.
But, I don’t buy it for the label. In fact, I never display the bottle at all, preferring to buy the 32oz bottle and refill my pump dispensers. This soap is truly concentrated, and must be mixed with water in a 1:1 ratio, at least. (Bonus: a soap requiring this much dilution is really easy on the wallet!) Sometimes I find that even that ratio is too strong, and the pumps clog with the soap over time. Washing out the pumps and adding more water to the soap seems to clear this up.
Speaking of pumps, I love the newer pumps which pump out a pile of foam instead of liquid. (My children think they are cool too.) They seem to reduce soap waste and mess at the same time. You may have these types of pumps already with chemical-based soap in them. If so, it’s an easy thing to wash them out when they are empty and switch to a natural liquid soap.
Dr. Bronners has several other lovely scents: Almond, Citrus, Unscented, Tea Tree, Lavender, and Rose. I have also tried Dr. Woods Peppermint Castile Soap, but found that it was much more dilute, so the value wasn’t what I was hoping, and the clean scent of peppermint was not there. I switched back to the original.
If you are wanting a liquid soap with more of a gel-like consistency, there are several available, including the Lavender Glycerin Hand Soap from Avalon Organics (also available for an amazing price on iherb.com). It’s an elegant solution, and since it is already in a pump bottle labeled with its contents, you’ll have no guest confusion in your powder room.
What about anti-bacterial soap?
This is a concern in many households, especially in the colds season. However, many antibacterial soaps are toxic; the FDA just recently stated that, based upon animal studies, there is valid concern that Triclosan can have an impact on the endocrine (hormonal) system. Also of concern is the now growing problem of Super Bugs, which are bacteria which have become resistant to antibiotics and anti-bacterial cleansers.
Natural soaps made with Lavender, Tea Tree, or Peppermint oils are known to be mildly antibacterial; they won’t kill on contact, but they do inhibit bacterial growth. Researchers believe that because the chemical makeup of the plants, and their essential oils, are slightly different from year to year, it leaves bacteria guessing, so to speak, and never allows them to develop a specific resistance.
However, thorough hand washing with plenty of warm water and soap will wash away bacteria, rather than attempting to kill them on contact. Teach your children (or yourself!) to wash properly and often with a mild soap, and you are better off than depending on a harsh chemical to do the job, while it simultaneously breaks down the natural barrier of their skin. And if you have illness in your home, clean “touch spots” (door handles, light switches, hand towels) often, air out your home at least once a day, discard all used tissues immediately, and quarantine the sick as much as possible.