I have the flu.
I’ve been holed up in my house for nearly a week with the full-blown flu. Body aches, chills, exhaustion and congestion has left me resigned to immobility on my couch, where I’ve eaten through a stack of books and binge-watched House of Cards.
And through it all, I’ve determinedly repeated the mantra, “Bless this cold.” Even though I didn’t feel like blessing my stuffy nose, I’ve blessed this darn cold because Dr. Natasha Capbell-McBride says I should do so.
Many of you know the GAPS Book, the work of world-renown researcher, scientist and practitioner Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. At the last Weston Price Conference, I had the privilege of hearing both her speeches on the GAPS Diet and Lyme Disease. She warmed the room with her elegant presence and left me in awe of her articulate wisdom.
Her discussion on Lyme encompassed the intelligent dance of the immune system. She made a point that forever changed my perception of being sick:
A cold is a cleansing process. If you have a cold, bless the cold.
Inflammation is a Cleansing Process
When faced with an acute infection, the body, in its innate intelligence, mounts an inflammatory response to cleanse the body of toxins or a pathogenic invader (such as bacteria or a virus).
Dr. Natasha illustrated this with the example of arthritis. Overnight, a joint inflames and you wake up with a painful, swollen knee or elbow. This is the immune system cleansing the toxins that have attached to the collagen of the joint. If the body is equipped with nutrients, the acute inflammation flushes out the toxicity and signals the regeneration of the collagen. Continued accumulation of toxicity, however, keeps the inflammation turned on continuously. The acute cleansing process warps into chronic inflammation.
Fever, a potent cleansing mechanism, often accompanies acute, cleansing inflammation. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, knew the healing power of fever when he said,
Give me the power to produce fever and I’ll cure all disease
Dr. Natasha touched on the crucial role fever plays in cleansing the body of pathogenic invaders and foreign substances. A fever is the body doing vital work, and she doesn’t advice reducing a fever unless it is above 103 degrees. She stated, in reference to the cleansing power of hyperthermia,
Fever will remove the possibility of arthritis that is developing right now.
Dr. Tom Cowan, in The Fourfold Path to Healing, paints an analogy between sclerosis (stasis and hardening of the body) and inflammation to the seasons of winter and summer. The body requires both seasons to maintain homeostasis. Without the fire, movement and heat of inflammation, the body stiffens into sclerosis. He asserts that cancer epitomizes a sclerotic state in the body. He states,
If we suppress our inflammatory response too vigorously, we actually push our biochemical balance more and more toward the sclerotic pole. That is one reason why, in a culture like our own where suppressive therapies are the main medical model, more and more people have become chronically ill. […] Bacterial infections can cleanse the body of the underlying sclerosis that leads to cancers.
Get well to get sick
Another reason why I should bless my flu, according to Dr. Natasha? It means I’ve nourished my immune system enough to support its intended activity. It may seem counterintuitive that malnourished individuals never get the common cold, but you’ve seen it yourself. Perhaps it is your coworker or family member who consumes nothing but empty calories, and yet never takes a sick day.
Without adequate nutrients, the body cannot produce a proper immune response. The virus or bacteria which instigates cleansing inflammation in everyone else will settle, dormant, into the body of the malnourished individual. As Dr. Natasha has witnessed in her practice countless times, children who never catch an infectious suddenly come down with a cold once they begin the deeply nourishing GAPS Diet.
How I’ve blessed my cold
I consecrated the ritual of convalescence. As a 21st Century go-go-go 20-something, I am fully immersed in the productivity consciousness of my generation. And I’m choosing to change my consciousness. I never learned how to take sick days, or to value the lost art of convalescence – an immersive, nurturing rest period during illness. This time, the first day of my flu, I took almost complete bedrest. I didn’t tell myself I owe the world busyness or productivity. For a whole week, I’ve allowed myself to fully rest.
I’m nourishing myself with meat stock – Meat stock, not to be confused with bone broth, provides the nutrient foundation of The GAPS protocol. It’s made by simmering a lamb shank, whole chicken, or a meaty beef joint for a few hours. Vegetables may also be added. The result is a protein-rich stew infused with collagen. Unlike bone broth, cooked for up to 48 hours, meat stock is low in potentially irritating glutamic acid.
I’m supplementing with plenty of collagen – Dr. Natasha explained the importance of collagen in the convalescence period. Collagen-rich foods provide essential fodder for the immune system, as collagen is where antibodies first form. In addition to my meat stock, I’m enjoying 2-4 scoops daily of hydrolyzed collagen.
I’m taking food-based vitamin C. I stay away from synthetic ascorbic acid (which is usually made from GMO corn) and instead use a food-based vitamin C supplement, which contains the cofactors necessary for absorption.
I’m activating hyperthermia – I’m supporting my cleansing inflammation by inducing sweating. I use my infrared sauna daily during this period. In addition, I’ve visited the cedar sauna and eucalyptus steam room at a local spa.
How do you bless your flu?