The first winter after I gave birth to our son, I suffered 8 colds. Maybe 9.
Who knows how many it was? I was lost in the fog of sleep deprivation that is, by definition, early parenthood.
Sore throats rolled into nasal congestion and then into bronchial crud — and then finally, into a dry cough that would soldier on for weeks.
I'd enjoy a few days of relative wellness, only to feel my throat getting scratchy again.
I went to go see my doctor at the time — a fellow burned out working mom.
I liked having her for my doctor but I worried.
She looked more tapped out than I did. Puffy eyes, a general vibe of deep fatigue and unspoken burdens.
She checked out my ears and throat, listened to my lungs. She wrote out a prescription for my first inhaler. Yippee!
I told her I thought this was extreme, all these colds rolling into the next one. I'd never known such illness. Prior to parenthood, I'd had one, maybe two colds a winter.
She looked at me and said, “You have a new baby. New parents get a lot of colds. Eight's within normal range.”
I was dumbfounded. Eight colds a year was normal?
Eight colds awaited me every winter now that I was a mom?
That day, I made a vow. I didn't care if eight colds was normal.
I wasn't doing this again.
By the same time the following year, I had discovered juicing and was embarking on a food-as-medicine passion that eventually fueled my entry into nutrition school.
I juiced so much my shopping cart drew stares at my local Whole Foods. I had no money for new clothes or fancy shoes, but who cared? There were so many vegetables and fruits to try juicing: burdock root, prickly pear cactus, habanero chiles, ginger, blood orange, turmeric, sweet potato, cabbage. I was hooked.
And so was my body.
The land of eight-colds-a-year became a mere speck in the rear-view mirror, and my love for juicing led to other real food adventures such as smoothies, DIY nut milk, and veggies-at-every-meal.
Fast forward several years, and I'm now a certified nutritionist helping other people heal and balance their bodies through real food.
Clients may initially come to me to lose weight or break up with sugar, but they often end up getting so much more: stabilized blood sugar levels, clearer skin, disappearance of hot flashes, improved energy.
And, of course, a stronger immune system.
Now, when cold and flu season approaches, I make sure certain healing foods become part of my family's regular rotation. I do my best to prioritize proper sleep. I'm diligent about my workouts, but make sure I'm not running myself into the ground.
And I try to be really mindful about my body and what it might be telling me.
Our bodies definitely tell us when they're tired, or when they're feeling vulnerable to cold-and-flu.
But most people don't want to “hear” this. They ignore the fatigue, the headache, the burning eyes. They try to power through by applying sugar and extra caffeine.
Which isn't what the body is asking for — that's what the cold wants. The cold takes sugar and caffeine and a lack of rest and, in turn, gives you a sore throat and runny nose.
Is that what you really want?
The instant I start to feel run down or fatigued, I think about two things:
1. Get to bed early
2. Food-as-medicine — in other words, what can I prepare that will support my body's natural healing capabilities?
A spicy soup has saved me many times, and this is my latest “kitchen prescription” — a Spicy Coconut Ginger Soup.
I serve it with loads of greens such as baby kale, because the kale's fiber helps move toxins out of the body, and it's of course filled with beneficial antioxidants.
You start making the soup by brewing up a tasty and inflammation-fighting broth flavored with red curry paste as well as ginger, turmeric and lemongrass. Then things get mellowed out a bit with rich and creamy coconut milk. Toss in a bunch of greens and some protein, and you have your soup.
Delicious, warming, healing soup.
Try it out the next time you're feeling vulnerable to cold-and-flu, or when something's going around at the office or your kiddo's school.
Dare to be the person who doesn't catch it this time.