Thrown for a Loop

The Mountain Farmgirl woke up last week feeling like she’d been hit by a truck. Ordinarily super-healthy, she had finally succumbed to a nasty bug, but its reign was of short duration. Learn about her secrets for possessing a killer immune system in Thrown for a Loop!

Padding:10pxYes my friends, I was most definitely ‘thrown for a loop’ last Wednesday! And now that I take the time to write it out, I’m not exactly sure what the definition of that expression is … but let me tell you that whatever it means, I definitely WAS, and much more besides! Allow me preface all this by saying that I hardly ever get sick. Really and truly. I can go for years and years without so much as a head cold, but once in a blue moon something hits me, like it did last week, and it’s often so unexpected that I usually don’t realize what’s happening at first. Has that ever happened to you? The first clue vaguely hit my consciousness before I opened my eyes, and by the time I officially woke up, I had a raging, splitting headache. You could have put my head in a vise and tightened it down with a crowbar, and it would have been an improvement. That alone should have tipped me off that something was up because I never, EVER get a headache … yet this one sent me looking for the bottle of extra strength pain relievers. TWO of them in fact – and that should have been clue #2, since I never took so much as an aspirin even when delivering each of my five babies!

By 9 am I realized that the pain killers had done absolutely nothing for me; in fact my headache was worse, and I felt terribly, terribly weird. TERRIBLY. With the vague thought that I ‘might’ be sick finally dawning on me, I said to my husband, “I think I’m fighting something.”  Ha!! You think? (Note to self:  ‘I need to lie down for a little while.’)    It was good advice, not that I really had any choice at that point. I slept for 3 hours, waking up only to get a glass of water and squelch the urge to scarf down the rest of the pain relievers in the bottle. Not really; I’d never do that. And besides … they did less than nothing for the pain. By this time I had that hit-by-a-truck sensation. Every cell in my body – even ones I never knew I had – hurt intensely. On a scale of 1-10, I would say I hurt with a solid score of 7 or more … and on top of the screaming pain, I ached all over to boot. If I’d been able to articulate better at the time, I would have asked, “Where did that truck go that ran me over? It needs to finish me off the rest of the way!”

Have you ever noticed that when we’re healthy and feeling good, it’s hard to imagine how wretched we can feel when we’re sick? I actually wonder what could possibly have been going on in a cellular level in my body to cause so much pain and make me feel so wretched?  I had no other symptoms except those intrepid  aches, some chills and a slight fever, but I wanted to die. By the next morning I was half-way back to the Land of the Living, and by sunrise on Day Number 3, I was good as new, my own perky self again, as if nothing had ever happened. Wow. What WAS that??? – and how was I able to throw it off so fast?

Not to brag … well, not much anyway, but I’ve always marveled at my immune system. Part of it is just good genes; I inherited them from my mother who is strong as an ox and rarely gets sick. (Here she is, right, with my beautiful sister!). Admittedly, that’s just the luck of the draw, and I’m lucky to have won the lottery in that department. But I think there are a lot of things we can do in our everyday healthy lives that can boost our immune systems and help us get over the sickness hump when it hits. Here are ten things that I actively do which I believe have helped me stay healthy for long stretches, and made illness little more than a fleeting nuisance:

1. Walk every day. I do this religiously! Besides a good pair of shoes, walking requires no equipment, costs nothing, and has a tremendous positive  impact on our health. We have a 1 ½ mile loop that circles our little town, and I’m out there about 6:30 each morning for my ‘prayer’ walk.  It’s a brisk 17-minute power walk that gets my blood circulating and my heart rate up, and is also my own private appointment with God. It starts me out on the right foot, so to speak, and helps me order my day. Often I take a walk around this loop in the afternoon as well. Then I usually walk with my husband, and that is a more leisurely stroll because he, like Thoreau, is a ‘saunterer’! On this walk I get to observe the world – to see and smell the roses! The benefits of walking are huge, but moving our bodies helps our lymph system move, too, which helps filter out impurities and fight illness. Probably one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to walk every day.

2. Eat healthy and organic and avoid sugar. And just as important as WHAT we eat is HOW MUCH we consume, or should I say, how LITTLE. The rule of thumb here is not to overeat. Less is always better. But these days it’s hard to know what to put in our mouths.  Supermarkets are full of beautiful looking produce, but much of it doused in invisible, harmful chemicals and grown with questionable fertilizers. Some of it has been genetically altered. Often it has come halfway across the country or even the globe, losing precious nutrients along the way. The best bet is to eat locally grown organic foods from local farms (or even better, to grow it ourselves!).

3. Don’t smoke or use drugs.  This is a no-brainer (or will be if you don’t heed the advice). While it’s better to never have started in the first place, it is never too late to stop if you are a smoker or use drugs. Not only will you feel better but you will add years on to your life. Help is available if you need to quit, in the form of patches, counseling and support groups. Your health and immune system will thank you, and if you do get sick, you will have less likelihood of it developing into bronchitis or pneumonia.

4. Keep weight under control. Just by walking, avoiding sugar and  not over-eating, this will happen without any extra effort from you. But if you have a significant amount of weight to lose before maintaining it, check with a doctor or nutritionist to come up with a sensible plan, and then stick to it. Your mind will want to play tricks on you to try to sabotage your efforts, but be strong! Take up knitting or do anything to keep your hands and mind busy. I find this is especially true late in the afternoon or in the evenings, when your resolve will weaken. If you can resist temptation, you will wake up in the morning feeling lighter and happy you did.  Once you begin and start to see results, temptations to slip back into old habits will diminish.

5. Take nutritional supplements. I do this every morning after my walk. It’s become a routine, and I seldom skip a day. Nothing makes up for eating right in the first place, but taking supplements  will help assure that your body gets what it needs for a healthy immune system. If you feel a cold coming on, there are certain herbs, such as Echinacea, or things like zinc or vitamin C that can boost your immune systems and help ward off a cold or make it of shorter duration.

6. Deal creatively with stress. Notice I didn’t say AVOID it, as this isn’t realistic; stresses will arise in even the best of circumstances.  But knowing that we have a choice in how we see and deal with them makes all the difference. Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies. It also takes a toll on our mental states as well. If our minds and bodies are not in tune, it is much more likely that we will get sick. Instead of blowing up at an intolerable situation, take a break to clear your mind first. Go for a quick walk to think it over before reacting. Thomas Jefferson would count to ten before speaking, and if that didn’t work, he’d count to 100 if necessary! Whatever works to calm you down and not get all stressed out will be the healthy thing for you to do. Teach yourself some little tricks that work for you in dealing head-on with stressful situations as they arise.  Over the long haul, doing some yoga to help center and calm yourself, or even writing a letter to a friend make help relax you. Whatever works for you.

7. Keep a positive attitude. This goes hand in hand with the step above, but basically it requires teaching ourselves to look on the bright side, to see the glass half-full instead of empty. We can relearn bad habits, turning our negative behaviors into positive ones. Knowing that we do have a choice is empowering. A positive attitude is one of the biggest immune builders there is.  Norman Cousins had cancer and found that laughter is indeed the best medicine (and laughing tastes so much better!).

8. Find Balance in your life. Extremes in anything are not sustainable over the long haul and are seldom healthy choices. This is generic advice and works for just about everything from diets to exercise, to how much you work or play. Finding your center and that place of balance within you is one of the keys to good physical and mental health.


9. Consciously do things for other people.  Taking our eyes off our own problems by helping others is not only just a nice thing to do, it will have the unexpected extra benefit of adding to our own well-being. Try it. It works on the same principle of giving things away and getting even more back!

10. Get enough sleep. I’m guilty of not following this one, which might be why it unconsciously got stuck on the bottom of the list … but I’m doing better than I did ten or twenty years ago! Also, I am the master of the power nap! My days start early, often between 4 and 4:30 am, and by mid-afternoon one or two days a week I sometimes find myself getting powerfully sleepy. I know the feeling when it starts to come on, and I just take my Power Nap!  Ten minutes tops, and I feel like a new woman. I have a little ‘nest’ in my walk-in closet, which I have set up as an office, with a small futon in the back. It is my little nest, and I take the most delicious naps there, which refresh me for the rest of the day. “Forty winks” is what my great-grandmother used to call it! She was a little 4’11” dynamo who  had seven children … and I suppose that 40 blinks was the only time she had during her day, but it definitely works!  I wasn’t always able to do this; I had to learn it. But becoming a new parent gives plenty of sleep deprived opportunities to acquire the skill, and I have been faithfully indulging ever since.

This list is certainly not complete, but will get you on the right track to a healthy immune system. I once (about 40 years ago)  knew two very old Quaker sisters, well into their 90s at the time, and both swore that they had never been sick, not even with a cold. This was corroborated by friends who knew them. I once asked them what they thought their secret was?  They thought (I was going to say 'swore', but they were good Quaker ladies, and only 'affirmed'!) it stemmed from the fact that their mother made them take a cold bath every morning in the tin washtub in the kitchen, even in winter. Their house, even when we knew them, was only heated by wood, so you can imagine what a shock that would have been to their systems!  However, they swore that it toughened them enough to be able to make their remarkable health claim.

I know there are lots of other health regimens and ideas out there.  What works for you? Lets add to the above list and all enjoy great health!
Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from Cathi,
The Mountain Farmgirl



By: Diana Henretty
On: 04/01/2013 12:15:02
Happy Monday Morning from the Ozarks,
To everyone out there with a poor immune system, start making your own yogurt for pennies a day.
I was catching strep throat every 6 weeks working at Head Start, and then started eating a cup or two of yogurt in a smoothie each day, building up my immune system fast.
I was able to be sickness free for the next 2 years working there!
Also, grow your own marigold flowers, pull off the flowers and let them dry, they make a beautiful golden tea, and it is stronger then most antibiotics
to protect you naturally. Drink 2 cups a day when sick.
Here's to health and happiness for all of us!
Loved your pictures this morning, it brightened my Ozark morning!
Hugs, Diana
By: Kelly
On: 04/01/2013 15:57:19
This is awesome Cathi- totally loved reading this and totally agree with you!
I too rarely every get sick. The last time I had a cold was when I was pregnant with my son in 2003. The last time I had the flu was in 1999.
I believe that being vegetarian, mostly vegan, is the number one reason that I am so healthy. I've been vegetarian since 1990 and mostly vegan since 1995. Before then I used to get approx 1 or 2 colds a year and the flu about once a year. Since then I only get something once in a great while. I also workout frequently( mostly Jazzercise) but I was working out before becoming veg so for me it's that single change that has had the most impact.
I love reading your blogs!!!!
Kelly in CA
By: Joan
On: 04/06/2013 22:51:52
Oh my Cathi, I totally can relate to you being thrown for a loop. I too got the BUG, actually am still with it a bit. I can't remember the last time I was sick - so enough of this already for you and me. Hope you are on top of it by now and I hope by tomorrow I will be too. Take care - God Bless

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir