Combatting the Great Plague of 2013

From what I have heard, this cold and flu season is one of the worst in recent memory, especially in Colorado. Our whole family came down with the flu at the start of Christmas vacation–even my dad, who actually got the flu shot. On top of that, as soon as we had recovered from the flu, we were struck down again inside a week with a really nasty cold that lingered for a good two weeks. Nolan and Jeremy were affected worst by all this sickness: Jeremy got pneumonia from the cold and ended up having to go on a hefty course of antibiotics and albuterol; and poor Nolan also had a mild case of walking pneumonia and double ear infections, barely ate anything but noodles with nutritional yeast for almost a month, vomited more times than I could count due to wicked post-nasal drip and coughing spasms, spent a good week with his nose raw and bleeding from so much wiping, and dropped back down to 35lb, which is under 1% for BMI for age. (In fact, when I plug those numbers into the calculators, they tell me to double-check my typing.)


Nolan did end up having an antibiotic shot, but I was able to talk the doctors out of subsequent rounds of oral antibiotics as well. I supported him at home as best I could, but when he is sick, he is incredibly ornery and resistant to medication–a dab of ointment on his raw nose or Vicks on his chest sent him into meltdowns, and the sight of the medicine syringe, even just loaded with honey, made him vomit spontaneously. We tried every over-the-counter cough syrup we could find, natural and conventional, all with virtually the same results. But I do think there were a few creative remedies, mostly natural and homemade, that helped him somewhat with immunity and calories, and I want to share them with you here. (Note: These suggestions include affiliate links.)

  1. Elderberry syrup: Nolan actually likes the taste of this stuff, so he doesn’t mind having it added to his water, despite the color change. I have never gotten him to take it straight from a spoon or syringe, however. While we were all sick, I just purchased bottles, but now that we are well again, I’d like to try my hand at making it myself–I may even experiment with a version in a pineapple juice reduction so that the baby can benefit from it also. More on this below.
  2. Onion syrup: This was simply raw honey mixed in equal parts with freshly extracted onion juice; most recipes call for soaking an onion in honey overnight, but I wanted it faster than that. I got it into Nolan once or twice in the syringe, but he occasionally accepted it in his water as well. I used this syrup myself during the worst of the cold, and I do think it helped with my sore throat and cough; it seemed to make a difference for Nolan also, at least when he swallowed enough of it.
  3. DoTerra Breathe: I put a drop of this essential oil blend on the collar of our shirts or pajamas, even for the baby, and it made a big difference in opening up our airways with a stuffy nose. I liked this method particularly because it only took a second to apply and did not require anything to be rubbed on the chest (which Nolan won’t stand for, and I dislike personally myself). I also used the blend in an essential oil diffuser and put a few drops into our humidifier for overnight use.
  4. Thieves oil: I make a homemade Thieves Oil blend from essential oils of cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon, and rosemary, suspended in organic apricot kernel oil; I rub this on our feet to boost immunity whenever I think of it, which is probably not as often as I should!
  5. Colloidal silver: I think colloidal silver helped Nolan get over the hump and finally on the road to feeling better. It has no color or taste, so I can put it in his water undetected. Colloidal silver has antibacterial properties and can be used topically or internally; it can be helpful for canker sores, ear and sinus infections, and for first aid.
  6. Immulox PRP spray: This immune-boosting product contains proline-rich polypeptides derived from bovine colostrum, which work by resetting and regulating your white blood cells’ ability to send and receive information accurately–in very much the same way that the peptides in human colostrum first turn on a baby’s immune and digestive system. I first heard about this product when Andrew Keech spoke during the Gluten Summit, and had already purchased some to see if it could help balance Nolan’s gut-immune issues, which are so common among autistic populations. This may be a subject for further discussion here in the future.
  7. Herbal infusions: Warm water with honey and lemon, perhaps with a bit of fresh ginger or peppermint, is the classic combination, but Nolan mostly resisted this choice. However, he does sometimes go for this herbal cold tea for kids from Traditional Medicinals, which is soothing and helps him stay hydrated when he might otherwise resist drinking even water.
  8. Bone broth: I make bone broth in our crockpot or VitaClay cooker all the time, most often from roasted chicken carcasses, but also with the remains of pretty much any bone-in cut of meat: duck, turkey, lamb, beef, pork, even fish. Since reading specifically about the mineral density of bone broth (especially calcium) in Deep Nutrition by Cate Shanahan, I have been making a particular effort to get more bone broth into Nolan in general, and particularly during this illness. The problem is that Nolan won’t eat soup or anything off a spoon. When he was at his sickest, I was able to get him to drink just a few sips of warm bone broth from his sippy cup. However, I have found that if I reduce bone broth down to a syrupy state almost like a demi-glace, I can often drizzle it over his noodles successfully; I freeze 1-tablespoon portions in an ice cube tray, and it can also be reconstituted very quickly with water for my soup stocks and sauces. In fact, the frozen reductions often retain a gelatinous texture even when frozen, so the cubes can be cut into smaller portions with a knife also.
  9. Hydrolyzed collagen: The collagen hydrolysate from Great Lakes is derived from grassfed beef, and dissolves in cold water without gelling. It is not a complete protein, but when Nolan was barely eating, I could add it to his water for a few extra calories and amino acids, without a noticeable flavor or texture. I also sometimes sprinkle it on his noodles for an extra boost.
  10. Pineapple juice: This one was new to me! The bromelain in pineapple is a natural proteolytic enzyme, which means it breaks down proteins. When you eat it with other foods, it can aid digestion; however, when you eat it on an otherwise empty stomach, the bromelain has mucolytic properties which can thin mucus, helping treat sinusitis and potentially helping avoid ear infections. Pineapple is a rich source of dietary melatonin, peaking 2 hours after ingestion, which can help promote restful sleep during an illness. Fresh pineapple is also a good source of vitamin C, which is anti-inflammatory and of course well known for helping combat the common cold; and due to its low pH and other constituents, pineapple juice has even been shown in studies to deactivate rotavirus. As if all this weren’t enough, a study in dairy goats suggests that pineapple may have a beneficial effect on milk production and quality, which means it is not only safe to eat while breastfeeding but could actually improve it! Nolan did not much seem to mind the taste of it added to his water, and I do think it helped somewhat with his post-nasal drip even in that diluted format.


We went through several pineapples during the course of this sickness, and I juiced some of them complete with the core, which contains the highest concentrations of bromelain. Theo had his first taste of pineapple this month (cut in large chunks that he loved to gnaw on), and I started wondering if it might be a good idea to save some pieces of fibrous core in the freezer for him to use as teethers when the time came.

Well, my tiny man, who will be 9 months old next week, is finally getting ready to cut his first teeth, and he is miserable. He has spent the last few days alternating between nursing, napping, and attacking anything he can grab with his gums, especially chunks of food. He is loving his pineapple core teethers, which not only provide numbing relief from the cold but also the soothing anti-inflammatory properties of bromelain, all in such a fibrous package that I don’t have to worry much about him breaking off pieces and choking–of course, that doesn’t stop me from watching him like a hawk just in case!

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