Fight Swine Flu with Food? Why Old Health Secrets Are New Again

Leslie Garrett by Leslie Garrett | November 18th, 2009 | No Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Healthy Eating

lesliefeatureI know exactly what my grandmother would say. With all the sturm-und-drang about swine flu vaccinations, she would scoff and mutter, “What they need is a good mustard poultice.”

A mustard poultice could cure anything — from “women’s problems” to a stuffy nose.

Now before you dismiss my grandmother as some backward hillbilly, let me assure you she was a sophisticated, elegant, intelligent woman — right until the day she died, roughly three months before her 100th birthday.

My grandfather believed that food held the secret to good health. Long before it was featured on Oprah (indeed long before there was an Oprah), he mixed up concoctions of flax seed and cod liver oil. Ate food free of antibiotics and hormones. Grew his own vegetables. And snorted at the notion of what food politics writer Michael Pollan calls “food-like products” and what he called “the work of a mad scientist.” He, too, stood tall and lived long and strong.

Of course, I considered my grandparents quaintly old-fashioned. Though that didn’t stop me from accepting their handouts — real butter, garden-fresh vegetables, meat free of additives — offered up in hopes that the two of them could protect me from the evils of industrial agriculture.

Turning back to the remedies of the past

It seems that the organic apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Now a parent myself, I eschew “food-like products,” though my three kids perceive my stance as child abuse or at the very least “sooooooo unfair.” I feed them food free of pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.

My first line of defense with the swine flu is vitamins (lots of D, lots of C — along with zinc to boost absorption), lots of fruits and veggies, lots of sleep and lots of tea.

These days, I have plenty of company. Increasingly, folks are turning back to those remedies of days past. Gargling with salt and hot water is a respected response to rid the mouth and throat of viruses before they take up residence in your system. Even the most advanced medicine puts forth eight hours of sleep and a brisk daily walk to keep most of the continent healthy. Even mustard poultices still have their dedicated fans.

I think my grandparents would approve.


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