Photo Credit: dudeiwantthat.com
Dr. Brenda Fairchild
The Wonders of the Neti Pot
As many of you know… I can talk about the neti pot all day. I think this product is one of the greatest inventions of modern times!! Now, I know not everyone loves to see and feel the neti pot doing its job, but it is a wonderful way to naturally rid your sinuses of congestion and infections. And when you are pregnant and not a lot of options as far as decongestants go, this is a wonderful alternative!!
The word Neti means “nasal cleansing” and comes from ancient India. It has been around for over 5,000 years!!! Yoga masters used this technique to help with mediation. They felt they could get to a higher and deeper state of mind. Some yogi’s also believed it helped with mood swings and addictions as well. The neti pot was then massed produced in the early 1970s and has since become a favorite for those of us looking to relieve the sinus pressure naturally!
Benefits of the Neti Pot
- Lessen the time of cold, flu, or allergy
- Relieve the pressure of sinus headaches
- Help reduce pollen from the nasal passage
- Remove mucous
- Allows for easier breathing
- Great for post nasal drip
- Allows for easier breathing
Using the neti pot is pretty simple and oddly satisfying. You can get a simple pot at most of the chain stores. And most come with packets of sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride. Usually under $20. You can get ceramic to metal ones at health food stores or online. Now, from personal experiences, I highly suggest the packets!! I have tried just plain water, and it did not feel well. But, it is all up to you. I like to use filtered water if I can. I don’t use it all the time, but I try to as much as possible.
How to use the Neti Pot
Add one packet to the warm water and let them mix. I like to start with draining my most clogged nasal passage first. This means the pot is pouring the water into the good side and the clogged side is towards the sink. And let the magic begin!! I use about half the pot per nasal passage. Depending on what is going on with you our your child, the nasal mucous could be green or yellow which could be an infection to clear which could be allergies. When in doubt, call your primary physician. If there is a bad infection, there may be some blood mixed in. When you have done one side, gently blow your nose. You want to rid the body of the mucus, which is inflammation. I always tell my patients “better out than in!” You will instantly feel the pressure release!!! It is amazing!!!
I start to use the neti pot at the first sign of a cold coming on. I will do this 3-4 times a day if it is really bad. And use that over the course of 2-3 days if need be. It really cuts down the time of the cold or allergy. And can help you get some sleep at night due to your breathing better!
Other recommendations to follow the neti pot. Get Adjusted!!! It helps with aligning your body and helps with draining your sinuses as well. Watch your dairy, gluten, wheat, and sugar as they can be inflammatory. Stay hydrated with water. Get Sleep and make sure you are getting you vitamin D!
The colder days are approaching, and along with purchasing more soup and stew ingredients, most people are adding tissues, elderberry syrup, and over-the-counter cold and flu medications to their carts. You can’t seem to turn a corner or go one commercial break without reading a sign or hearing about ‘flu season’ and how bad it will be this year. Along with the increase in coughs, colds, sniffles, sore throats, and ear aches, the flu and other ‘winter illnesses’ cause more missed work and school days than illnesses commonly contracted in other seasons.
Have you ever wondered why we, as a population, tend to get so sick in the winter? The flu doesn’t magically appear every year when it gets cold outside, it exists year-round, but is generally caught and passed to others easiest throughout the coldest months. The same goes for strep throat, stomach viruses, fevers, and colds.
Research from 2015 shows that 1/4th of our gene activity is impacted by seasonal changes with winter suppressing the gene responsible for warding inflammation. This, of course, effects the cells that make up the immune system. It also impacts our blood composition and adipose tissue (fat cells), making us more susceptible to weight gain and pain, along with increasing our chances of getting sick. You can see that researchers found a cyclical trend in healthy individuals’ genes over a year’s time, which identifies the body’s natural ability to stay healthier throughout the summer as compared to the winter.
When you pair this gene activity with the cold, dry air that presents in the winter, and the decreasing Vitamin D levels due to less sun exposure, you have the perfect environment for viruses to attack. Viruses enter the body through the nose, and when you have a runny nose, a virus has the ability to ‘hang out’ in that mucus longer than it would be able to in a clean nose. Everything that mucus touches then becomes contaminated with the germs it contains. It may seem impossible to prevent a runny nose, so keeping tissues nearby and using soap to wash your hands well will prove to be your best defense.
The winter generally keeps you indoors, whether at home, work, or school, with windows sealed tight and the heater running. This also presents the perfect environment for viruses to spread. Having the same air continually circulate weakens the already impacted immune system. While turning up the heat is a necessity, you need to pay attention to the humidity levels as you do so. The dry air caused by your heater and outdoor weather not only increases illness probability by allowing germs from a sneeze to survive longer, but it also causes dry, cracked skin, sore throats, and headaches. Research shows that running a whole-house humidifier, or having versions in the rooms most commonly used, can help you stay healthier throughout the sickest season of the year, killing up to 30% of the influenza virus in the air and promoting more restful sleep.
One thing to note: humidifiers must be cleaned out at least two times a week to prevent build up.
The greatest way to ward off illnesses year-round is of course proper hand-washing, regular exercise, eating a whole food diet, and getting proper rest. Throughout the winter, however, supplementing with Vitamin D3 has been shown to decrease the probability of contracting flu symptoms, especially in school-aged children. It can prevent or lessen joint pain caused by inflammation, too. You can also aid your body by taking daily probiotics, keeping your gut health at an optimal level.
In light of the news that this year’s flu shot is, at best, 23% effective (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/flu-vaccine-working-23-percent-effective-28249610), many people are wondering what they can do to help protect themselves and their family from the flu. In fact, there are a lot of lifestyle changes that you can make in order to help keep your family healthy during what we have been calling ‘the sick season.’ In addition to influenza, norovirus (what most people refer to as a ‘stomach bug’ or ‘stomach flu,’ that includes vomiting, diarrhea, and fever), and rhinovirus (the common cold), all run rampant this time of year. Many of the tactics that you can use to prevent the flu will also prevent the spread of other common contagious illnesses.
First and foremost, practice proper hand washing! Check out this awesome poster from the World Health Organization. You can print it out and hang it in your bathroom for your kids: http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/How_To_HandWash_Poster.pdf. One of the best best strategies that you can implement to help prevent the spread of illness, is have everyone take off their shoes and jackets, and WASH HANDS as soon as you get home. From anywhere! When you get home from school, the drugstore, the mall, the grocery store, a friend’s house, your mom’s house, anywhere. Every time you walk in the door make it a habit to wash your hands. If you are running multiple errands, or will be in a location where soap and water is not readily available, it is a good idea to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but keep in mind this does not kill norovirus, clostridium difficile bacteria, or many strains of the flu virus. Experts have said that hand sanitizer is more effective at preventing germ proliferation, rather than at killing it off, so it’s important to use soap and water whenever it’s available, and not to rely on hand sanitizers.
In addition to hand washing, when you are out and about, it’s important to try not to touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth! This is more difficult than people realize. It’s habit to rub our eyes when we are tired, scratch our nose, or eat something with our hands. Spend any time with children, and you will notice how often they have their hands in their mouths, and fingers in their nose! That’s one of the best ways to spread germs, so talk to your kids about keeping their hands away from their face. This will be almost impossible for them! But it’s still important to try, and it’s never too late to begin instilling good hygiene habits in our children.
Typically, the influenza virus is considered a “droplet transmission” virus, which means you must come into contact with the secretions of someone who is infected. Some strains have been known to be “airborne,” which means the microscopic droplets can stay suspended in the air for some time and you can become infected by breathing them in. For this reason, if you are going to be in contact with someone with the flu, or if you MUST go out in public when you have the flu, it is prudent to wear a respiratory mask. These are available at any drugstore. While you might feel silly wearing it, it’s better than getting the flu or spreading it to someone else! Alternatively, you could wear a Scough and pretend you are covering your face because you’re cold! http://wearascough.com
Getting regular chiropractic adjustments can help keep you and your family in optimal health. In order for our immune systems to function appropriately, our body and brain need to be able to send effective messages to each other! These messages are sent up and down our spinal cord (in a complex process I won’t bore you with here), and a simple adjustment can make all of the difference if some of those pathways are blocked. Chiropractic adjustments can be especially helpful for children who have frequent sinus and ear infections as the adjustments help to keep those areas open for drainage.
Vitamin D deficiency is almost epidemic in this country, especially during the winter months when we are exposed to very little sunshine. However, vitamin D is crucial for proper immune function and many other functions in the body. In order for our bodies to make adequate vitamin D, we need to have adequate levels of cholesterol in our bodies, and at least 15 minutes of face and arm exposure to sunlight per day. Clearly no one one in the Northeastern United States is getting that amount of exposure during the icy cold winter months. A high quality vitamin D supplement can help fill in the gaps until we can all lay out in the sunshine during the warmer months. We like Bluebonnet brand, Xymogen, and Nordic Naturals, but you can ask your chiropractor or naturopath which supplement brand they recommend. It is especially important for breastfeeding mothers to make sure that they are not vitamin D deficient. Many pediatricians mistakenly claim that breastmilk is deficient in vitamin D and that babies need supplementation, but this is only true if the mother is deficient. Some breastfeeding mothers need as much as 5,000-10,000 IU supplementation in order to have enough vitamin D for themselves and their nursing baby. Your chiropractor or other health practitioner can order a blood test so that you know what your vitamin D levels are.
It is very important to maintain the healthiest diet possible when trying to prevent the flu and other illnesses. By now, most of us know how damaging excess sugar can be to the immune system, so it’s especially important to keep the sugar down during outbreaks of illness! We know how hard it is to maintain a healthy diet when fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t as available and when all you want to do is curl up with some hot comfort food. Nourishing soups that contain a lot of garlic, onions, and ginger will help fight the flu and other illnesses. Bone broth is a wonderful addition to everyone’s diet, see our favorite recipe here: http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth/ Organic oatmeal with grass-fed butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup is a delicious and nourishing way to start the day. Pastured eggs have plenty of protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamin D. Don’t forget to eat the yolk! That’s where the vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats are. Snack on organic almonds and walnuts, organic dried fruit and seeds, and grass-fed cheeses. If you must have something sweet (as we all must sometimes), you can make your own organic low-sugar hot chocolate. Organic, fair-trade pure cocoa powder, plus the milk or milk alternative of your choice, and just a couple teaspoons of organic cane sugar will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Remember also, that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut. There are certain food additives and over-the-counter medications that are known to harm the beneficial bacteria inside your large intestine that protect you from infection. NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can damage gut flora when taken in excess or over long periods of time. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda) have been known to kill off beneficial bacteria. Always read labels of all over-the-counter medications as many contain sucralose or aspartame. Pedialyte, often given to children for dehydration during illness, contains sucralose, which is almost guaranteed to make your child feel worse. Check out this blog for an all-natural rehydration drink for kids: http://dontmesswithmama.com/homemade-citrus-electrolyte-drink/
If you or your family members do happen to come down with the flu, in the absence of other serious medical conditions, it is usually a self-limiting illness. It is important to stay at home, preferably in bed, and to REST, when you are ill! Our culture encourages pushing yourself to the limit, but it’s important to STAY HOME when you are sick in order to prevent passing the illness along to others. Plenty of rest also results in a quicker recovery. Keep hydrated and eat nourishing meals such as bone broth. For kids without an appetite, I make a delicious, immune boosting rice dish that I have put on my birth blog here: https://birthinfullbloom.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/immune-boosting-rice-dish-for-sick-little-ones/
Stay hydrated with coconut water, electrolyte drinks, organic juices, and tea. Organic Lemon Balm tea is both antiviral and delicious! Even kids like it, sweetened with a little raw honey (honey is not recommended for babies under 1 year of age). Breastfeeding babies and kids are much less likely to come down with the flu, but if they do, it is important to nurse frequently for hydration, calories, and immune boosting effects. If you are nursing a baby and your older child comes down with the flu, pumping breast milk and giving it to your older child in a cup can help them benefit from the antibodies it contains. We have yet to read a convincing study indicating that Tamiflu is indicated for treatment of the diagnosed flu, but this is something you must discuss with your healthcare provider.
There are many herbal remedies that are safe for treating common illnesses at home. These include Echinacea and Elderberry, the two most common, Lomatium, Olive Leaf Extract, and others, but as herbal remedies are out of the scope of this blog post, we suggest directly contacting an herbalist or naturopath for dosing recommendations. As always, boosting probiotics and vitamin C will help almost any illness. Note that too much of either can cause loose stools in both adults and children. If this does happen, remember that is normal (and often indicates you have just passed the therapeutic dose), and simply discontinue or back off the dosage.
There are so many ways that you can help protect your family from the flu this season, and not all have been listed here. If you have any questions about the information you’ve read here, please contact us at peaandthepodchiropractic.com or 302-368-0800.