Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves—medical science has proven this over and over again. We know that the instant an injury is experienced, the body sends a team of inner physicians to the site to remove viruses and infection and to start the rebuilding of cells and tissues.
In fact, many of the symptoms we associated with being “sick” are actually the body’s healing mechanisms at work. A fever is our body turning up the heat so “cook out” the virus or bacteria from our system. A runny nose is actually a flushing mechanism to help clear the body of the invader as is diarrhea and vomiting. And pain helps us know where a problem is occurring so we can stabilize that area and be gentle with it.
One thing we can do to help ourselves heal is just let the body do its thing. If we can learn to stand a little discomfort, we actually allow the body to heal itself. But what do most of us do? We take medicine to dry up the runny nose or stop the diarrhea or turn down the pain. And usually we do that so we can get out of bed and get back to work.
When we are sick, what the body really needs is more rest, good nutrition, and time to work it out. If you can, take a sick day, crawl in bed, and let it happen. Save the symptom-suppression medicines for the days when you truly have a make-it-or-break-it moment and it absolutely cannot be rescheduled or covered by someone else.
Now don’t get me wrong. It is important to keep an eye on things. A fever can get too high and prolonged vomiting can dehydrate the body and irritate the stomach, so there is definitely a place and a time to use medicine to control that.
But in my experience, those times are few and far between. When I made a choice to honor my body’s healing process, I found that I actually recovered more quickly. I would be sick only 1-3 days rather than my normal 7-10. I was amazed that if I could hang in with a runny nose or a fever, my body healed itself quickly.
Now, when I feel something coming on, I immediately go home, take a big dose of vitamin C, crawl in bed and rest. I also stop eating any dairy, sugar and flour and dial up my intake of vegetables. I often feel better the very next day. But if I get whatever is going around, I notice that my symptoms are less severe and recover quicker than my colleagues and friends.
This is because in addition to not taking medicines that suppress my body’s healing process, I also remove stress so that the body has more energy to put into healing. You can do this too.
Much of our modern food is actually very processed. Our bodies were designed to eat whole foods, as close to their natural form as possible. Think fruit, veggies, eggs, and nuts. While I certainly enjoy cheese, and bread, and desserts, they don’t pop out of the ground in that form—they went through a “process” that changed the original ingredients into that form. As a result, processed foods require extra energy for our body to break down and digest.
When I am sick, I take that stress away from my system so that it can focus on fighting whatever bug or injury it is working on. In fact, I sometimes am proactive and when illness is making its rounds at my job or my daughter’s school, I go on the offensive and dial down the processed foods and increase my sleep.
This has really worked for me and my family. We often will go en entire flu season without one of us getting it, even though it is taking down everyone around us. And on the rare occasion that we do, our symptoms are much less severe and don’t last as long.
The last key ingredient is sleep. Research has shown that during sleep, our body increases the healing process. It has an intricate process for sweeping out toxins we have ingested during the day through our lungs, stomachs and skin. In addition, we are not expending energy in moving our muscles so our body can really concentrate our efforts.
When we are sick, we naturally are more tired and need more rest. But many of us take a medicine and get back out there. Why? When we allow ourselves to rest, we are listening to our body’s message and supporting the healing process.
Rest is really rest. It is not working from home, or doing that big project on your laptop in bed, both things I used to do. It is getting in your jammies, darkening the windows, and crawling in bed so you can sleep. The more you can sleep, the more your body can accomplish. Give it a try and see what happens.
And you can use sleep proactively as well. During cold and flu season, be extra mindful of your sleep and make sure you are getting plenty every night.
Try using these strategies and see what happens. Start with the small things like the common cold or mild flu. And if you have something that requires medication like antibiotics, still focus on nutrition and rest. You will help the medicine be its most effective if you keep your body’s energy focused on healing you rather getting up and running off to work, grabbing a donut on the way.
Learn more by reading The Healer Within by Dr. Roger Jahnke and Thrive: The third metric to redefining success by Arianna Huffington.