How could cleaning your nose help you not get a cold?
I’m the cold master. The Queen of Colds. I had a cold for most of every winter for years after my daughter was born, and canceling teaching gigs was just part of the season. Even as a kid, I had terrible allergies to cats, dust and pollen. I was mucous-y a lot.
I reduced the allergy problem in my 30’s by reducing gluten and completely omitting dairy from my diet. I even got two cats, and now I’m not allergic anymore. Which, for me, is the universe’s miraculous answer to every birthday-cake wish I ever made: “please let me not be allergic to cats.” It feels weird to be able to say your wish out loud, but it’s come true!
But I kept getting colds, and once my daughter was born, they seemed to overlap all winter. I decided to study Ayurveda, the oldest health system still in use today, and that’s when everything changed.
What I learned allowed me to fight off colds successfully, and I’ve spent the last three winters without getting colds at all.
The Three Self Care Practices I Love
1.) I drink hot water with turmeric and cinnamon first thing in the morning, to reduce inflammation. Both are anti-inflammatory, and turmeric is considered a powerful weapon in the fight against allergies, asthma, and is even part of a holistic treatment for back pain.
2.) I use my Neti Pot each day to clear out exta mucous.
3.) When I feel a cold coming on – the slightly fuzzy feeling in my head and tickle in my throat – I cancel everything the next day, no matter what. I spend the whole day resting and drinking “spicy tea.”
Below is what I’ve learned about colds, from an Ayruveda lifestyle practitioner as well as my own vast personal experience. See your doctor (as well as an Ayurvedic practitioner!) to figure out what’s right for you.
The first and most important thing I’ve learned – and you already know this: colds are nature’s way of getting us to slow down.
When we get out of step with our natural rhythms – staying up late, eating late, having a lot of processed foods – we handicap our body’s ability to fight the germs that are always around.
It’s hard as a new mom to slow down, and many of us ignore the reminders to sleep when the baby sleeps. I changed “sleep” to “rest.” Take a bath, lie around – just don’t be productive in the more masculine, get-it-done sense. Let the dishes pile up. Allow yourself to have a task list for the week, rather than for the day. Go easy on yourself. Life will be there when you return.
And as a “Mantrapreneur”– someone who’s got their own chosen path where there’s always exciting work to do, it’s so important to draw boundaries around your work life. Find your daily practice (even 5 minutes is sufficient) of meditation and yoga and never compromise it (here’s an excellent way to create a morning power practice for yourself). And when you do realize it’s been days, just get back to it.
If you feel a cold coming on, stop everything and REST.
How We Can Help Our Body Fight Colds
The body uses mucous to surround foreign cells. The body must then get rid of the mucous, or it becomes a problem in itself. Mucous is a breeding ground for more germs. And when that happens, your body keeps making more mucous – and this is what we experience as a cold.
We become a sniffly, drippy, mucous-forming machine. Our body can’t get rid of it fast enough to keep up with production.
When you have a cold, the body uses heat to help get rid of mucous. In Ayurveda, earth energy or “kapha” is used to describe mucous, which like earth is cool and heavy.
We can support the body’s healing process by using spices. The first thing I do when I feel a cold coming on – that little itch in the throat, or a tiny bit of fuzzy head – is I open up the spice cabinet.
I now have super spicy herbs I use from my Ayurvedic doctor, but you can just find the spiciest thing you can stand – from warmest to hottest:
- Black pepper
Add to boiling water. Drink. Your spicy tea will support your body in burning up the mucous and help it fight the good fight. I even gave some ginger/cinnamon/clove/honey mix to my toddler to help ward off her evil colds.
How We Can Help Our Body Get Rid of Mucous
I never quite did the Neti Pot consistently because – I don’t know. It sometimes burned my nose (usually that means there’s not enough salt in it) and I was just so busy…
But when I committed to doing it every day, something changed. I no longer sniffled and sneezed in the morning. I didn’t have that slight sore throat when I’d had a crazy long day. I felt like I could breathe easier.
It’s pretty easy. Just boil water to make sure it’s germ-free, add 1/4 t to a mug, and let it cool (I boil it the day before, and then microwave for 30 seconds in the morning).
Stand at the bathroom sink with some tissues nearby. Tuck your chin, lean forward 45 degrees, turn your head, and pour it in one nostril. Amazingly, it just comes out the other!
Blow your nose after each time you do it, one nostril at at time. You will not believe how much snot will come out and how many times you have to blow your nose to get everything out!
The biggest surprise for me was that this winter I didn’t get a cold. At. All. For the first time ever.
I drank the occasional spicy tea; I went to bed early and had low-productivity days when I was feeling run down, but the Neti Pot is now something I won’t spend a winter without.
Here’s a great article on how to use the neti pot from the Himalayan Institute. And here’s an all-in-one neti pot kit.
If you’re a teacher or practitioner, or just someone who wants to dive deep into the ancient but profoundly effective wellness practices of Ayurveda, join me for my online training in essential self-care routines, food as medicine and daily rhythm practices for busy women, MAyurveda: Living Ayurveda for Women.