Runny or Snotty Nose? Let's Talk Fuel!

Do you or does someone in your family have symptoms of a cold or flu, fall allergies or maybe even symptoms of the coronavirus, which at this point all seems like the same thing?

Many illnesses of the nose and throat are caused by viruses.

Perhaps by this point you are aware that antibiotics are not an option as they only work to kill bacteria, not viruses. Therefore we are basically left to stay home and isolate, rule out Covid-19, and allow things to run its course or take cold and flu medication to just get through another day by masking our symptoms.

Let's talk FUEL! Get in the car and let’s fill up with a tank of premium :-)I have had several people reach out to me especially in the last month embarrassed that they are stuffed up, have a runny nose, coughing or suffering with symptoms of a cold, flu, allergies, Covid-19… they’re not too sure.

Because of the current pandemic, testing for Covid is a social and public responsibility we have to ourselves and others. So get tested and rule out the worst case scenario.

Let's waste no time!

A common denominator of most viral infections involves phlegm, also known as mucus. If mucus is present, likely the root of the problem is due to spleen and stomach fatigue or exhaustion, and a need for a break at the very least!

You likely had one or more of the symptoms below prior to getting sick because when the spleen and stomach are weak and overworked mucus accumulates in the body. Or, if the mucus comes from external factors like being in a humid damp environment, for example, it can weaken the spleen and stomach, it's a bit of a chicken or egg situation.

Regardless, the symptoms of a weak spleen and stomach can be any or all of the following: no appetite because the phlegm offers a false sense of fullness, fatigue, heaviness in the body, feeling unmotivated, foggy headedness, bloating, nausea, possibly hemorrhoids, and loose stools to name a few.

When the spleen is blocked with mucus it impairs the natural direction of its energy or Qi to rise and support the lung, pericardium and heart.

For example, people with diabetes have a taxed and very weak spleen, stomach and pancreas’ and therefore limited energy moving upward to nourish the heart. They are also 2 to 4 times more likely than others to develop cardiovascular disease. They just don't have the energy from their spleen, stomach and pancreas to rise and support the heart. Because this risk is so high, cardiovascular disease remains the most common cause of death in people with diabetes.

In the case of a cold and flu, if the spleen’s energy is not able to rise upwards to nourish the lung, the lung is then weakened. Therefore our defence system is as well because the lung acts as our initial stage of defence. It's our immune response and as a result makes us more susceptible to catching and becoming run down with bugs that come our way and decreases our ability to recover when we do get weakened. For a deeper understanding on the lungs physical and energetic responsibilities, check out this blog article.So how do we get rid of mucus and congestion and help strengthen the spleen, stomach and pancreas? Stick around and I'll tell you how :-)

Through the lens of fuel, yes the 4 letter F word… only this one is spelled F O O D, I want to challenge you to pay attention to whether food gives or takes your energy.

Most food that makes you want to take a nap after eating weakens the spleen, stomach and pancreas and/or produces mucus that eventually weakens those organs.

Anyone ever taken their child out for a poutine date and absolutely NEEDED a nap before anything else could happen!!?? ...nah, meeee either ;-)

Foods that weaken the spleen and stomach are typically foods that are harder to digest such as nuts, raw food, meat (especially pork, lamb and beef). Greasy deep fried and fatty foods are also hard to break down and digest, like the poutine, lol!

Please note this isn't about labelling food as healthy or unhealthy but rather looking at food from the perspective of how much energy is required to digest and assimilate that food.

While food is thought to give us energy, it can equally take our energy, depending on our digestive strength at any given time.

Definitely check out my 1st ever blog (yeah!) on “Sheryl Stanford's guide to treating the common cold and flu” for more information on the comprehensive perspective that Chinese Medicine views food from.

Overeating in one sitting is also an inevitable way to overwhelm and weaken the spleen, stomach and pancreas' ability to transform and transport food appropriately so that it can be assimilated optimally.

Eating foods that are harder to digest between 5 & 11pm can greatly weaken the digestive system over time. The digestive system is strongest between 5 & 11am and at its weakest 12 hours after that, 5 to 11pm.

Yes I know, this totally goes against the fact that most of us eat our biggest meal in the evening after we get home from a busy day at work. Honestly, I believe this is the reason that the vast majority of North Americans are overweight or even obese - because they eat their biggest and heaviest meal at night, not to mention yummy snacks after…What I am proposing from this theoretical reality is that we still cook at night because that might be when we have time but perhaps we can eat the protein element of the meal the following day for breakfast or lunch. Perhaps there is something to be said for that steak and egg breakfast after all!?

I learned so much living in Japan and the way they organize their eating. Whether it's on purpose and around this theory I'm not sure but they always served their biggest, most protein rich meal in the morning, the classic meal being miso soup, rice and fish (so yummy).For those of us really trying to optimize our sleep and digestion, ideally adults don't eat any food 2 to 4 hours prior to bedtime, regardless of what it is.

Our body needs to be filtering and cleaning up our blood and has so many other restorative functions as we rest. On a regular basis it should not being held back by having to digest food 24/7.

So many people suffering from acid reflux or GERD have a significant history of eating and laying down shortly thereafter which weakens the sphincter between the stomach and oesophagus, allowing the stomach acids to eventually rise upward.

Doesn't the word sphincter kind of make you want to cringe, lol!!!??

Foods that creates mucus, whether or not the spleen and stomach are weak yet include:

  • Dairy, this includes yogurt, yes even Greek yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and yes unfortunately chocolate falls into this category as well.
  • Bananas and tropical fruits are mucus forming, as well as cold concentrated juices and smoothies, especially tomato and orange juice.
  • Sweet treats and all that converts into sugar like bread, also contributes to mucus formation.

Did you know that according to the American Heart Association the recommended intake of sugar for men should be less than 38 g which is 9 teaspoons and no more than 25grams, 6tsp per day for women and children?? Ever looked to see how much sugar is in one granola bar or one container of yogurt? Things add up really quickly!

Our environment and emotional state also have a big effect on our spleen and stomach's ability to perform optimally. Unfortunately this often gets overlooked as it’s harder to measure.

The emotional states that weaken our spleen and stomach the most are worry, rumination, pensiveness and anxiety.

So yes, working anxiously through lunch to finish a project from time to time is OK but not everyday.

Also...remember getting in trouble at the supper table, that knot in your stomach, and then totally losing your appetite… but you were forced to finish your food anyway before leaving the table??

Both of these examples interrupt the transformation and transportation function of the spleen, stomach and pancreas and remember we want food to ultimately give us energy not take it!

Our food is basically our blood so we want to get the most from it.

Eating is a great time to give thanks, cultivate reverence, and share light but meaningful conversation. It is not the time and space for execution of discipline and heated discussion.This is really important for us to understand as not only are we eating our biggest meal at night but if we do end up eating together, it's usually the time that we try to work through all our problems too.

Mindlessly scarfing down food and rushing around, eating on the fly, again, is OK once in a while but not recommended as a regular practice.

This is something we need to value and deeply consider when planning extracurricular activities and perhaps even the number we get involved in, especially if having too much going on means that we rarely get to sit and eat slowly and peacefully in a calm and quiet, loving environment.

Now that I've told you what NOT TO DO & EAT, here's what you CAN DO & EAT to help speed up your recovery :-)

Be sure to wash your food before eating and cooking it. While this might seem like common sense it is certainly not common practice. This is the one thing that really turns me off if I'm ever invited out for a meal. I can usually go along with it if the food is going to be cooked after but if somebody doesn't wash the vegetables that are going to be eaten raw, like in a salad, I am so tempted to politely decline. Do you know how many hands touch our food before it gets into our mouths??

When sick with a cold or flu, eat less to give your spleen, stomach and pancreas a bit of space to recover and also make sure that you eat cooked food, especially soups, as opposed to raw food. It takes less energy to break down and digest cooked food as opposed to raw food and if you're already tired and rundown, cook your food. The chicken noodle soup thing is totally legit!

Also to your food and soups add mucus clearing foods such as celery, barley, corn, daikon, pumpkin, squash, onion, garlic.If you're feeling like a real gangster juice and drink celery. It is one of the best things you can do to clear toxins and mucus from the body.  I personally love it and I feel like I am doing something truly supportive for my body when I take the time to include it in my health regime.

Two teas that are really good to clear mucus are green and jasmine tea.

It is also super important to hydrate well in order to eliminate toxins, even though you may not feel thirsty due to the mucus, so just slam it! Like my dad always says, “you don't have to like it or want it you just have to eat and drink it”!

On the water front, gargle with warm salt water 2-3X/day to break up and clear mucus. Follow this with making a concoction of warm water, honey and lemon that you will also gargle but then swallow. This will be super soothing and help with any kind of dryness and itching in the throat.

I have the proportions of this concoction all concisely detailed in my free guide on how to treat the common cold and flu that you can download from my website.

Vitamin C and D and elderberry syrup are very effective in boosting the immune system so be sure to add them to your regime.

Lastly, if a fever is present, rather than sucking on sugar filled popsicles and ice cream to cool things down, or soothe the throat, suck on ice cubes. Also be sure to cook your food for a shorter period of time, still stay away from consuming a lot of raw food because it is harder to digest, but sautéing, steaming and boiling it will be beneficial.

If you are feeling chilled, add more ginger and cinnamon to your food and drinks, even cayenne if you're up for it. Cook your food for a longer period of time such as with slow cooking, baking and roasting.

I go into this further in my first blog but in a nutshell the longer you cook your food, the more heat you put into your food so naturally if you are feverish you would not want to cook your food as long because you don't want to add any more heat than need be.

On the contrary when you cook your food for a shorter period of time, such as when we sauté or steam our food, it doesn't add as much heat. Also if you add water to the food you eat, by boiling it for example and eating more soups, the water content makes it more hydrating and therefore more cooling.

Because fevers can be so alarming, please be sure to download the free guide I put together for you on my website for some other helpful tips on bringing down a fever and check out the other tried-and-true tools used to shorten the course of illness.

There is nothing worse than being sick! But trust me, it doesn’t have to go on forever!

If you have any tried-and-true tricks for clearing mucus please let us know by commenting below. If you found this information helpful please be sure go to my website and subscribe to my blog so that you will be notified of future blogs that I post.

Lastly, if you know anyone who is run down or their family is in a cycle of sickness, especially the children, please pass this article along so that they too can enjoy a greater quality of health more quickly. Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing children sick!

You are worth it, make health your 1st priority!



This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. 

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