“The emergency room and departments are full, and there isn’t a single unoccupied bed in the hospital…” We are used to hearing such announcements from newscasters in recent years. The Ministry of Health and the general public scramble to prepare for the onslaught of seasonal infections with the annual flu shot, antibiotics, and more. But is that the only way to prepare our bodies for winter?
Does natural medicine offer an alternative, or do we need to rely entirely on vaccines and medications?
In this article, I would like to propose a new approach to preparing our immune systems for winter, based on the philosophy of naturopathic medicine.
I will start with a question many patients ask me: how is it that they’re always catching viruses or bacteria at work, while their co-workers—who are sitting in the same room, exposed to exactly the same germs—feel fine, and weather the winter in perfect health?
Natural medicine teaches that germs don’t indiscriminately attack everyone in the environment. They attack when they detect weakness—that is, a person whose immune system is compromised. Pathogens settle in and multiply unopposed because there’s nothing there to fight them. One might compare this to an ant invasion: when ants are swarming our kitchen floor, we might also ask, “Why are they coming in to my house and not anybody else’s?!” And the answer is that they come where they can find food. Viruses and bacteria are also looking for a place where they can flourish. Therefore, the real cause of the illness isn’t the virus or germ in and of itself, but the weakness in the person’s body or spirit.
This means that in order to properly prepare for winter, we don’t need to “declare war” on the viruses or bacteria; they’re not the real cause of illness. Instead, we should focus on the real cause of the problem by taking responsibility for our own health. By strengthening our general health, our immune systems will protect us from whatever we’re exposed to.
There are two complementary paths to strengthening our systems for winter. The first is avoiding elements that weaken our health, and the second is consuming or otherwise using elements that strengthen our health.
The following are some elements that weaken our health, according to “Human Nutrition and Health” by Yitzchak Ben Uri: an unhealthy diet, pollution, pesticides and chemicals in our food and water, obesity, smoking, alcohol, lack of exercise, emotional stress, medications, and difficult life circumstances.
By contrast, here are some factors that strengthen our health: a healthy diet, fresh air, good sleep, good water, creative physical activity and serenity.
The more we adopt these principles, the healthier we will be. In fact, this type of “preventative care” is more effective when we turn it into a way of life and not just a temporary solution in the months before the winter. However, even just a month or two of following these principles can help, depending, of course, on the person’s baseline of health.
I would like to make some practical dietary suggestions that can help even in the short term, to prevent or alleviate seasonal infections. They are particularly important for people who have a tendency to catch these infections. However, please note that none of these suggestions can replace a proper evaluation and treatment plan adapted to the specific needs of the patient.
Things to avoid: Dairy products, sugars, processed wheat items, peanuts and peanut butter, processed snacks, and fried foods. These foods can increase the production of mucus, which stresses the body and wastes energy, making it harder for the body to fight the germs. Additionally, sugars weaken the immune system by increasing inflammation.
Things to consume: Base your meals primarily on fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. These foods are light, nourishing, and neutral. They can also assist in cleansing the body of accumulated waste. You may also want to consider taking vitamin C regularly, which strengthens the immune system, and Omega 3, which is a strong anti-inflammatory.
If you start to feel sick, especially if you have a fever, you can ease your body’s fight with the germs by minimizing or avoiding eating—and drinking plenty. Drink water, water with lemon, or herbal infusions that warm the body, such as cinnamon, or those that strengthen the immune system, such as ginger. If you feel weak, and you need more energy, you can soak dates in water and drink the water. This way, the body’s energies are not wasted on digesting foods and are instead devoted to fighting the virus. Herbs such as echinacea, which fight infection naturally, may also help. Of course, only do these things after consulting a professional.
In most cases, given the right conditions, the body will know how to deal with various illnesses in the best, most precise and often the fastest way. Remember that G-d provided the cure before the illness; healing is within us. If we trust it, we will enjoy good health, and a happy, healthy winter.
The information in this article does not replace the diagnosis and advice of a doctor or therapist.
Eliyahu Shechter is a naturopath with 15 years experience. Among the techniques he uses are Sujok and Iridology. Eliyahu sees men, women and children at his clinic. He also lectures at various colleges and to the general public.