December 14, 2010

Fast and Gentle Remedies for the Big "D"

It's that time of year. Friends have been saying they've had some major tummy distress that produces some rather undesirable (and sometimes embarrassing) side effects. Unfortunately, I myself had a bought of food poisoning this week - the very day I was supposed to perform in Handel's Messiah. Eeeek! I needed a remedy - quick! So, although there's a certain "ick" factor to posting about something like this, I will sacrifice my dignity to share my remedy for the bigger "D" with the world. Haha!

Here's what's in my medicine cabinet to treat the dreaded diarrhea.

First of all - straight water and tummy ailments don't go well together. There's a reason why Saint Paul recommended a little wine for the stomach's sake. (No, I don't believe it was just grape juice.) Water can feel very bracing to a sore stomach. So, instead, mix up the remedies below with some gentle, weak teas - like chamomile, mint or cinnamon. All good for healing and comforting what ails you.

Secondly, use one of these Remedies and GO TO BED. Rest and you may find you don't get sick at all. Contrary to current popular belief, wandering around feeling like crap, trying to prove you're superman (or woman) - and likely infecting everyone you're in contact with is not "Fighting the flu, cold, etc." It's just giving it more time for a big windup that will likely knock you down for the count.

At the Onset of Ickiness

Charcoal Pills
These aren't supposed to work for the flu but they will help with food poisoning (since the big "D" can happen with either, they count). Activated charcoal has a vast surface area and is good at absorbing all sorts of random particles. So, it is used by emergency rooms to neutralize poisons and drugs.

That said, it will neutralize the effect of any medicine being taken with it as well, so medication should be taken separately. A relatively healthy person who doesn't have any liver or kidney problems will appreciate the fast acting benefits of charcoal. It never hurts to check with your doc about taking something like this.

Blackberry root
Blackberry root has astringent properties, which means it can knock out the big "D" pretty quickly. This year, I was prepared. I made blackberry root tincture this summer in preparation for this year's stomach flu season. For the uninitiated, a tincture is simply an extraction of the herb's medicinal properties into a base of alcohol, glycerin or vinegar. I use brandy. It also mitigates the sometimes punchy taste of this herb.

While I had tincture and drank it every hour for about 6 hours, Rosemary Gladstar, a well-known American Herbalist, also suggests making tea from the root, along with slippery elm and cinnamon. This is probably the easiest remedies for people who are newbies to herbs. Soothing and pretty tasty. This is something I use for my kids also. You can purchase blackberry root & slippery elm bark online from Mountain Rose Herbs. They offer great prices and high quality.

To make this tea, use 3 parts blackberry root to 2 parts slippery elm. Use one teaspoon in a cup of water and simmer for twenty minutes. Strain and cool - then drink 2-4 T every hour or more often as needed. You can add cinnamon bark to the mixture or sprinkle some cinnamon on the top of your drink. I usually add raw honey to whatever tea I'm making since the big "D" takes so much out of it's victims.

Blackberry Jam
If you've been blindsided by the big "D" and don't have any blackberry root, anecdotal information says that blackberry jam might still be helpful. Blackberries are nutritious and have some fiber that might slow things down a little. It tastes great in yogurt or a smoothie. Just be sure your jam is mostly berries with a little sugar - and no corn syrup. Ick.

Raspberry leaf tea 
Raspberry leaf is also in the astringent category - and thankfully, tastes more mild than the blackberry root, which makes sense since roots tend to have a stronger flavor than leaves. You can make a tea out of it like I did - and toss a few rose petals and lavender in for flavor - or just drink it straight.

To make this tea, add 1 T raspberry leaf per 8 oz boiling water. Steep covered for a few minutes and drink with a little raw honey. Always use raw - it will help your tummy feel better too.

Rosemary Tea
I just discovered rosemary as a stomach comfort the last time my husband had the stomach ick. He was actually having a hard time keeping anything down as opposed to the topic we're discussing today. I steeped a bit of rosemary in boiling water - just like tea - and he was able to drink it with a little raw honey. It is supposed to help with stomach cramps and he said it worked for him. I would not recommend rosemary for pregnant women.

Chamomile Tea
A comforting, soothing choice for sore tummies.

Mint Tea
Some people really love mint tea for tummy aches. It's not my personal favorite - but mostly because I'm not a huge fan of mint when I'm feeling seasick.

Coconut water
If you haven't had coconut water before, this is a great time to try it. Coconut is awesome. It's anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-microbial. More importantly, coconut water will replenish nutrients lost to diarrhea like potassium and electrolytes. We use coconut water and teas instead of Pedialyte in our house. My kids never would drink Pedialyte and I think it tastes nasty too.

When you're dealing with something like the big "D" that sends you running to the toilet at the most unexpected times, it's best to give your body a little rest from hard to digest foods - at least temporarily. They'll only prolong the pain a little longer. Instead, go for clear liquids like teas and broth. Chicken broth (especially homemade) is high in magnesium, calcium and other yummy nutrients that will provide nourishment to your taxed system without causing more crazy tummy distress.

Here are a few more things to avoid
Caffeine - a diuretic that will wreak havoc on a system that's already taxed. Give your bowels and your adrenals a break and avoid this during illness
Oatmeal - too rough on a sore stomach.
Dairy other than yogurt
Wheat toast - too rough on a tender tummy
Anything acidic like tomato or orange juice.

That's it for the herbal remedies we currently use.

Just a note...Blackberry root and raspberry have an astringent effect on the body - that's why they're useful for diarrhea. However, to stay hydrated, mix it up a little in the drink department. Remember tea - not soda. I remember doctors always recommending 7-up or gingerale when I was a kid. However, I recently read that carbonated beverages might not be the best option for sore tummies. Something to do with the carbonation causing more discomfort as the bubbles expand the stomach. You decide. You can still get the hydration and a bit of sweetness from honey tea - without corn syrup.

As usual, I want to clarify that I'm not a doctor or herbalist and this information is not intended to diagnose or cure any diseases. It's meant for informational purposes only and I encourage you to do your research and consult with an herbalist or Naturopathic doctor for more information about herbs - especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if you are taking any medication. That said, I'm not trying to scare you away from herbs but encourage you to be informed about whatever it is you are choosing to put into your body. The reason I love herbs is that they are usually far more gentle on our bodies than over the counter prescriptions and remind our bodies how they are supposed to work! 

Be healthy. 


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