Surviving Influenza A in Pregnancy

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.

Pregnancy Complication

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.]

Essential Oils
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 D3

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!

And I lived.

Cranberry Panna Cotta

I made this creamy, sweet, and refreshing dessert twice during the holidays, and have been asked for the recipe multiple times. Once I served it at a dessert buffet with salted dark chocolate cake. The two flavors played off each other well.

This recipe is really easy, can be made a day ahead, and can easily be modified with other toppings. I’m trying chocolate next.

Cranberry Panna Cotta

Thanks to Nancy Jo Newman for the original recipe.

In a small saucepan, heat until sugar is disolved and liquid begins to simmer:

1 and 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (if there are clumps of cream clinging to the sides of the carton, scrape these out and use them…the richer, the better!)
1/4 cup sugar (I used xylitol for a low-glycemic sweetener; maple syrup would also be wonderful)

Mix together in 1 qt bowl:

1/4 or so of the hot cream
1 packet gelatin (2 and 1/2 tsp.) Read more about gelatin in this post.
The gelatin will disolve. Use a wire whisk to beat until smooth, adding the rest of the hot cream. Then beat in:

1 cup whole milk yogurt (I used Trader Joes Organic European Style Whole Milk Yogurt)
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour into a 9X12 inch pan, or 8 sorbet glasses. Refrigerate for a few hours until set.

Cranberry Sauce

Simmer in a clean saucepan:

4 barlett pears, cored, pealed, and cut in chunks
1 cup black cherry juice (I used Knudsons Just Black Cherry)

When pears are soft, mash them in the pan, and continue to simmer. Then stir in:

1/3 bag fresh cranberries, cut in half each (this avoids the skins from bursting off and rolling up into those little spears in sauce)
sugar to taste (I used 1/4 cup xylitol)

Simmer/stir for 5 minutes more, then cool for about a half hour on the counter before layering over the set cream. Refrigerate until serving.

Pectin vs. Gelatin for Making Jam

My Raspberry Freezer Jam

Christina of Ramey Ranch Review (check out her post on Making Mozarella) writes:

Pectin for Making Jam: I have heard pectin and gelatin content are about the same. While I’m not a vegetarian or anything, I do try to feed my family as wholesomely as possible. Animal waste products are not high on my healthful list! There are some alternative (vegetarian) jam pectins out there, but they are pricey. We live on a ranch and grow most of our own fruits and veggies. I preserve lots of food every year. I am looking for an economical alternative to pectin since I make 12 + batches of freezer jam per year. I would prefer to not cook and can the jam. I did find a product from Mary Jane’s Farm I heard a rumor you could use it for jam. I’m going to try to find out. If you find anything on this topic, please let me know.

Way to go, Christina, on growing the majority of your own fruits and veggies! That has got to be a huge amount of work in and of itself, not to mention the preserving. Your family is undoubtedly reaping the health rewards of your labors!

Pectin is a vegetarian product found in the cellular structure of fruits and veggies, and often sourced from citrus peels or apples. It can be pricey, particularly in small retail packages. In bulk from Azure Standard, a 1lb bag costs $42. 90; this makes about 320 cups of jam.

Gelatin, on the other hand, is an animal product, and most gelatin is made from pork carcasses. Chicken broth and beef broth (made from bones/carcasses) are marketable products, but pork broth doesn’t have much of a market, so this “waste” product is made profitable in the form of Jello, jams, and jellies.

Although this is a waste product of factory slaughterhouses (and that’s a disgusting thought with their sick animals and unsanitary practices!), gelatin in general is a very healthful and nourishing food; this is the main source of nourishment in bone broth (read Bone Broth: Body Builder) and gelatin can even be purchased in capsules as a nutritional supplement for joint problems.

So to find a clean source for gelatin . . . I thought briefly about whether you could make your own from bone broth; gelatin powder must be just dehydrated bone broth. However, I can’t imagine going to that amount of effort (and I didn’t find anything coming up when I googled making your own gelatin powder). I did find some other options, though: certified organic porcine (pork) gelatin, which is more expensive than the pectin above. The bulk size of 2lbs of powder should gel about 200 cups of liquid (perhaps it would be less in making jam?), with a current price of $53.10.

Some people prefer to avoid all pork products, organic or not, in which case beef gelatin is available, and quite a bit cheaper at $7.25 for 1lbs. This is from Azure Standard, a supplier of natural foods, so it is unclear to me if this is gelatin sourced from naturally raised beef or from conventional/factory farming, but a call to their customer service should clarify this. There is no information given on how much would be required to make jam, but I would think it would be 1:1 with the porcine gelatin. If this truly is naturally sourced gelatin, I think this would be an excellent, healthful addition to homemade jam, and an economical option too!

Chill Over Powder

I have no experience with this, although it sounds really interesting. I wonder what’s actually in it? I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary Jane is marketing her own brand of fruit pectin, similar to the one above, in which case you just need to compare the yield/price against the price at Azure or another bulk supplier of natural products.

[Christina writes back: I found out what Chill Over Powder is made from. Ingredients: Agar-agar kanten, an odorless powdered sea vegetable with superior gelling qualities—a MaryJanesFarm exclusive.]

Read Raspberry Jam for my recent experience on using both pectin and gelatin. Good luck in all your summer preserving!

Raspberry Jam

My Raspberry Freezer Jam

Today I made raspberry freezer jam with some local fresh picked raspberries. My first batch was the “yummy” batch because my husband asked me to make sure that it turned out really good. 🙂 My second batch is made with honey rather than sugar, gelatin rather than pectin (because I ran out of pectin, and I wanted to experiment with gelatin), and without lemon juice because my daughter is allergic to citrus. Here are my recipes:

Raspberry Jam
4 pts. fresh raspberries, rinsed and mashed with potato masher (yield 3.25 cups)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, stirred into raspberries
1 package pectin, slowly added and thoroughly stirred into raspberry mixture
4.25 cups organic sugar, added slowly to raspberry mixture, then stirred until completely dissolved (it takes awhile)

Pour into freshly washed glass pint jars, leaving 1 inch at top for expansion. Leave on counter for 1 day to set, then freeze. Thaw in refrigerator and use within a few weeks. Yielded 5 jars, and tastes delicious (of course, with all that sugar!).

Raspberry Jam with Honey
4 pts. fresh raspberries, rinsed and mashed with potato masher (yield 3.25 cups)
1.25 cups honey
4 envelopes gelatin, stirred into 1/2 cup water in saucepan (my jam turned out a little too firm, so I’ll try 3 envelopes next time)

Add about 1/3 of the mashed raspberries and all of the honey to saucepan, and stir over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Add back to the rest of raspberries. Pour into freshly washed glass pint jars, lid, and place directly in freezer (one recipe I was adapting stated that if left covered at room temperature the gelatin would liquefy). It did set up, even more firmly than the pectin jam. Yielded 3.5 jars jam, and tastes nice, although not as bright of a flavor as if I had added lemon juice.

Read Pectin Vs. Gelatin for Making Jam a review on the health and price comparisons of these two products.

I am linking to a linky party on Inspiration at theinspiredroom.

Bone Broth: Body Builder

Homemade broth has become a lost tradition of good cooking, and good health. Bullion cubes, with their dubious list of ingredients (hydrolized fat, lots of salt, chicken “flavor”?), and watered-down boxed broth, are in common use for instant flavor in soups and other recipes, but they boast none of the amazing health benefits of their predecessor, true bone broth.

Centuries of chefs have prized a good stock (their term for broth) as the basis for soups, sauces, and glazes, and centuries of mothers and grandmothers have prized it as the best immune-boosting food for the sick and invalid. Chicken soup used to be known as the “Jewish penicillin” as it was standard treatment for the ill in the Jewish community.

But bone broth is not just for the sick; it’s for building healthy bodies and strong bones. By slow cooking bones over several days, the mineral elements of the bones are leached into the broth and broken down for easy absorption by the human body. If the bones being cooked have cartilage attached to them, this is also broken down into easily absorbed gelatin, which directly nourishes the intestines, and then the joints of the body. Marrow inside the bones dissolves into the broth, providing nourishment for the immune system and building blood.

And the good news is, bone broth is easy to make in a crock pot, and is made from ingredients which you are likely already just throwing away!

Bone broth can be made from any bones: red meat, poultry, or fish. I have not made a fish version, but I plan to with the next “whole” fish I have (and then I’ll delve into oriental soup). Chicken and Beef broths are my staples, as these meats are the most common in my home (turkey broth only gets made once or twice a winter, when we have a holiday feast).

Obviously, the more nutrient-dense the animal that you are cooking, the more nutrient-dense the food will be. So bones from organic free-range poulty, and organic grass fed beef/lamb or wild shot game will yield a better broth.

Poultry Broth
Read my recipe for Poultry Broth, which is the basis for innumerable soups, or can be thickened with potato starch or wheat flour to substitute as “cream of chicken soup” in casseroles.

Beef Broth
Read my recipe for Beef/Game Broth, which is the basis for beef flavored soups, including my favorite, French Onion Soup, and can be used for sauces, glazes, and gravies.

Poultry Broth

Plan to make chicken (or other poulty) broth immediately after roasting a whole bird. I like to roast a chicken for dinner, and as each person cuts the meat off their respective bones, they put the bones back into the roasting pan (casual family dinner). After dinner, remove the roasting pan to the kitchen, and remove all the remaining meat from the carcass. If it was properly roasted, the meat should be sliding off the bones. Refrigerate or freeze the meat separately as an addition to a future soup or casserole.

Place the rest of the carcass and the drippings from the pan into a large crock pot. (Wait, aren’t those drippings just a bunch of fat? No, there’s a lot of good gelatin in there too, and don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to skim the fat off later.) Add enough purified water (3-5 qts) to cover the carcass by 1 inch (you may break up the rib cage to fit in better; a turkey carcass may need to have one half frozen for a second batch). Add 2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar; this acidifies the water and causes more leaching of minerals from the bones.

Turn the crock pot on high. After an hour or two, when you notice that the water has heated thoroughly, turn down the crock pot to low, and let slow cook for 24-48 hours. If you see skum form on the top of the broth during cooking, carefully skim away and discard. If you wish, you can add spare ends of vegetables during cooking. . . a carrot end here, extra chopped onions there. This will add richer flavor, but is unnecessary.

When the broth is finished, you should be able to easily crush a chicken drumstick bone with a spoon. Remove chicken carcass with a slotted spoon, and discard. Place a sieve over a funnel fitted into a quart size glass canning jar. Ladle broth through sieve into jar, leaving about 1.5 inches at the top. Continue to fill additional jars until all broth is stored; cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you will notice a hardened white layer at the top in each jar; this is fat, and may be removed with a spoon and discarded. As you remove it, you’ll notice that the broth under it is actually Jello-like in consistency. This is caused by the minerals and gelatin which are suspended in water.

Freeze all the jars of broth which you will not use within the next 2 days. Defrost in the refrigerator 1 day prior to use.

Poultry broth is the basis for innumerable soups, or can be thickened with potato starch or wheat flour to substitute as “cream of chicken soup” in casseroles.

Update January 2013: For the last year I have been using a single lemon, halved as a substitute for the apple cider vinegar, with a more pleasing end flavor.