Naturopathic Medicine and How It Treats Common Colds

6IX Feature: Out OF The Ordinary Medicine | Grace Hwang

Naturopathic medicine is one of the most effective ways to treat common colds.

Things are not always what they appear to be. This is true for people, books, and even our health. The way I view health as a naturopathic doctor can often seem like the total opposite of what we’ve come to believe is true through allopathic medicine, cultural ideas, what our friends say, and what the media tells us.

A FEVER IS A GOOD THING

Just because we feel sick or uncomfortable doesn’t mean this is a bad thing. We live in a modern world where we often think discomfort or even pain is a sign that something’s wrong and that it needs to be remedied quickly! Our bodies are miraculous self-regulating machines that don’t just do things for the heck of it. Patients often come see me or seek out a naturopathic doctor because they want a natural alternative to their pharmaceuticals. A majority of the time, I’m treating patients with therapies that include all-natural botanicals, homeopathy, nutrition, and nutraceuticals, but naturopathic medicine isn’t just about using natural treatments; rather, it’s a greater understanding that our bodies are connected to nature and universal rhythms. In Chinese medicine, there’s a saying, “Man is the conduit between the Cosmos and Earth.” We are all connected. Naturopathic medicine is really about the knowledge that our bodies mimic the natural order and the greater wisdom of nature. There’s a reason for why things happen and why we might be feeling discomfort or pain. The goal isn’t just to rid the discomfort. It’s like turning the smoke detector off and feeling relief that the annoying beeping sound is gone while the kitchen burns down.

When we get sick and develop a fever, it may feel like crap (and it usually does), but the truth is a fever is a glorious thing. Most of us already intuitively understand that a high temperature can destroy foreign bacteria and viruses. What many people don’t know is that a fever as high as 102 degrees is actually a great bactericidal temperature. It takes a certain amount of what we call in naturopathic medicine, vital force, or “gas in the tank”, to generate a fever as high as 102 degrees. Many of us are generally overworked, overtired, and so depleted that it isn’t even possible to get up to 102 degrees. So when it happens, we freak out! But know that this is a good thing and a sign of a strong vitality. If you’ve ever been around babies or small kids, they can easily catch a cold or flu, have a raging fever, and still be happy and wanting to play. This is because their gas tanks are full and their vital force is strong.

Besides just destroying foreign bacteria and viruses, a fever speeds things up. This allows more blood to be filtered through the liver and lymphatic system. These are the normal ways in which our body detoxifies and cleanses itself. I like to think of the lymphatic system as the vacuum cleaner of our blood, so when we have a fever and everything is running faster, this allows more of our blood to be filtered at a faster rate.

The next time you get sick and develop a fever, don’t panic and immediately try to squelch it with over the counter medications. We don’t want a fever to stay too high too long but know that a fever is an effective immune response. Thank your body for being strong and doing its job.

6IX Feature: Out OF The Ordinary Medicine | Grace Hwang
6IX Feature: Out OF The Ordinary Medicine | Grace Hwang

DISCHARGE IS GOOD

We’ve all had that feeling of “uh-oh, I think I’m getting sick.” We feel run down—maybe a bit achy—and just not 100 percent. Often when this develops into a full blown cold or flu with a runny nose or coughing up phlegm, people start to think, “Shoot, now I’m really sick,” and assume things have taken a turn for the worse. The truth is, like a fever, this is a sign of health and the body’s innate ability to heal. The body wants nothing more than to achieve homeostasis or balance. Isn’t balance what we’re all trying to achieve anyway? Often, if we just get out of our own way, the body will have no problems achieving this. Anytime the body starts pushing things out—whether it’s through a runny nose, coughing up something gross, vomiting, diarrhea, or even vaginal discharge—this is a good thing. The body is attempting to get rid of what it doesn’t need (potentially harmful pathogens) and just cleaning up house. So often, the trend I see in my patients is a huge improvement immediately following an episode of lots of discharge. Patients have proudly told me that they are really healthy because they haven’t had a cold in years. I tell them that’s like not cleaning your house in years. We don’t want to get sick every other month and for weeks at a time, but it is a good thing to do a deep spring cleaning once (or twice) a year, not only in your house but in your body as well. Modern medicine has been in search of the cure for the common cold for decades without success. I truly believe that this is the case because the cure for the common cold is the common cold. The cold and accompanying discharge is the actual healing process in action.

WEAR COLD WET SOCKS

Imagine you’re in bed with a fever, have already discharged, and still feel awful. Now what? Should you just feel miserable until it passes? Getting sick is indeed a good thing but only if it’s efficient. One of my most favorite naturopathic treatments to help the body move through a cold or flu efficiently is hydrotherapy, the use of water to heal. Most people have experienced or heard of alternating hot and cold baths, saunas, or the healing benefits of natural hot springs. The Warming Socks Hydrotherapy treatment consists of first making sure your feet are not chilled either by taking a warm bath, showering, soaking your feet, or if you’re pressed for time, holding them under a warm running faucet. Then, take 100 percent cotton socks and run them under cold water. Wring out the socks well and put them on. Then put on dry 100% wool socks over the cotton socks and go straight to bed. In the morning, the cotton socks will be dry and you will feel so much better. This unusual, simple home remedy increases circulation and is great for alleviating symptoms from colds, flu, headaches, and insomnia, to name a few. I often recommend doing this treatment for a few nights in a row. If you just can’t bear the thought of putting on damp socks, another option is to take a hot-and-cold shower, alternating between three minutes of hot water and 30 seconds of cold water three times.

Finally, in this crazy busy world of ours where we’re burning the candle at both ends, juggling all sorts of responsibilities, trying to do it all, and being there for everyone—where the thought of taking even a day off seems impossible—the most out of the ordinary treatment recommendation of all is rest.

Reference: Thomas A. Mace, Lingwen Zhong, Casey Kilpatrick, Evan Zynda, Chen-Ting Lee, Maegan Capitano, Hans Minderman, and Elizabeth A. Repasky. Differentiation of CD8+ T cells into effector cells is enhanced by physiological range hyperthermia. J. Leukoc Biol November 2011 90:951-962; doi:10.1189/jlb.0511229

Dr. Patti Kim is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist in Los Angeles where she uses natural medicine to help her patients achieve optimal health. She regularly wears wet socks to bed when she’s feeling under the weather. She loves all things miniature and her giant Standard Poodle, Olive. Find out more about naturopathic health with her @drpattikim.

UNDO Mag 6ix title: Out of the Ordinary Medicine
Written by Dr. Patti Kim
Illustration by Grace Hwang

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