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Upper Respiratory Infections and Red Tide

Wow, we’re in our 6th week of red tide here in Sarasota!  Red Tide is caused by the harmful algal bloom karenia brevis. Why have so many people gotten sick during this time?


Many people got the flu around the holidays or just after.  Why does this happen?  Because stress has a broad-reaching effect upon the body.  Each organ has its own role to play in the functioning of the body. Stress is the “Alert Level”, and those levels range from “warm and cuddling” zero stress to “DEFCON 1” ultimate stress.  During times of severe stress, we get a boost of adrenaline, and we can do whatever we’ve done before quickly as if we’re running a race.  Our pupils dilate, our hearts beat faster–we’re ready to GO!  We go holiday shopping, we visit friends and family, we go to parties!  Temporarily, our nervous system is amped up.  But over time, our adrenals tire of pumping out so much cortisol.  Our immune systems suffer, our digestive systems weaken, and eventually, energy and blood flow is pulled from our other organs.

This stress can come from a variety of different sources: physical stress from working too hard, emotional stress, energetic stress (think of being around someone that “brings you down”), or spiritual stress.  It manifests differently in every person’s body: one person might have abdominal cramping and experience a tummy ache; another might get tight shoulders and a headache.  Most of us think other people feel the same way we do when we’re under stress, but actually, we’re all very different.

In recent years, you’ve probably heard a lot about the adrenal glands.  These two small glands sit right on top of the kidneys.  In fact, that’s how they got their name.  “Ad” is Latin for “to” or “towards”, and “renal” means kidney.  They shoot out cortisol to help our bodies deal with stress and when we’re sick, cortisol assists our T-helper cells in going to the site of the infection.  This is why we feel tired when we get sick because our cortisol is going to a different purpose.


The Upper Respiratory Infection.  We all know it well.  It starts with a sniffle, progresses into a hack, and then takes weeks for that lingering cough to stop. The problem is that what starts as “Lung Heat with Phlegm”–you know, you’re coughing up crud, the cough is worse in the evening,  and you feel hot – starts to deplete the fluids in the lungs and they dry out, leading to “Lung Yin Deficiency.”

Here’s what you can do:

First, get rid of all dairy, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.  This list is long because there’s a lot of foods that create mucus in the body.  This doesn’t mean you should get rid of these always–it’s much better to eat well and widely.  But while you’re fighting this bug, avoid these foods:

  • All Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Sugary foods (pies, cookies, ice cream sandwiches)
  • Deep fried foods
  • Soy
  • Jams and Jellies
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine, especially coffee
  • Banana
  • And–seriously: fruit juices, especially citrus.  I know.  It’s all about the orange juice and grapefruit juice, right?  But not right now, because those cause phlegm.

Add these foods:

  • SOUP
  • Fresh Ginger turmeric juice
  • Radishes
  • Green leafy vegetables, dressed with olive oil and herbs
  • Fresh green juice
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Asparagus
  • Bamboo
  • Onion
  • Berries
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Hot Peppers

Another complication of this story is that the phlegm can decrease your appetite.  That’s fine, your body needs time to process.  During this time, soup is excellent to keep your strength up and give you energy.  Some of my favorites are Pho–Vietnamese rice noodle soup with basil, lime, jalapeno.  Chicken and rice soup, especially from Asian take out places with a little spice in them.

But then, because your body is doing a bunch of work, you might also be ravenously hungry!  That’s ok, that’s fine, that’s good!  But WHAT you eat during this time is important.  You will crave nutrient-dense high-calorie foods now, and that could look like anything from pizza and ice cream to straight frosting!  Don’t be fooled although it’s tempting.  Now is the time to EAT, and here’s WHAT to eat.

SOUP.  Did I mention soup?  I know it seems like there’s not much in it, but here’s what soup does for you: the environment of your stomach is about 100 degrees F, and is a soupy gooey mess.  This means the most easily digestible food is SOUP because it’s about the same.  Ideally, a good fresh soup with rich bone broth is best.  Oatmeal is also good during this time.  Do you feel hungry, like you need extra servings of food?  That’s ok–EAT!  On more than one occasion when I’ve been expelling a pathogen (I don’t say “I’m sick” because that doesn’t give my body credit for all the work it’s doing. I say, “I’m expelling a pathogen), I’ve finished a meal and ordered a second serving of the same thing.  Listen to your body.

During this time: stay warm, stay out of the wind.  Get some sunshine and rest! T.  Rest that means to chill out.  Even talking to people can be taxing.  Let other people do things for you and RELAX.  If there’s no one around to do things for you–treat yourself to some fresh soup from your local Chinese takeout.  Take ginger baths (recipe below).  Rest a little more than you think you need to.  Don’t drink coffee, and especially not with cream/sugar.  Definitely no Energy Drinks–these pull energy you’re your kidneys/adrenals, compounding the problem.  You’ll feel great for an hour, and then things will get worse.  Don’t get too excited–either bad excited or good excited.  Let your body sleep and recover.  Take naps when you need to.  Steam – either in a steam room with eucalyptus spray if you can, or the good old fashioned at home with a towel over the pot of water.


Letting your body’s own immune system push out infections is the best path because this gets us stronger over time–allowing the immunoglobulins time to build their maps and strengthen our immune systems.  It’s best to use antibiotics minimally because as you may recall penicillin was first found in bread mold.  That means, antibiotics are derived from mold/fungus, and that’s why we often get yeast infections when we take them.  That being said, if your infection lingers on for more than a week and you’re not improving, consider seeing your MD for a prescription for antibiotics.  Then let your holistic practitioner know you’ve been taking them.  Once the immune system is taxed, our systems are more vulnerable to fungal, viral, and parasitic infections, and your holistic healthcare practitioner can help you avoid lingering coughs and chronically taxed immune systems.

Contact The Longevity Wellness Center if you are suffering from the Flu in the Sarasota area. We serve the Manatee and Sarasota County including residents from Sarasota, Siesta Key, Venice, North Port, Osprey, Nokomis, Englewood, Anna Maria, Longboat Key, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Palmetto, and surrounding towns.

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