I used to really think I had this real food and natural health thing figured out. I spent years researching the topics simply because I had been ill for so long and I didn’t want the same for my children.

So up until we made our move off-grid I was quite happy with our family’s fairly low track record of illness. I think I spent two years without so much as a sniffle once I really jumped on board with this traditional food stuff. I did everything they said (or tried to) with great results.

And boy was I full of myself. 

Our Two Weeks of Illness

For the past few weeks we have, one or all, been ill.

It started about two weeks ago with a nauseous three day flu for me. Our three year-old quickly jumped on the band wagon and right around the time I was feeling better the Papa fell hard to it for about five days.

Right around the five day mark our five year old started sniffling… and then coughing… and then sounding like he spent the past 20 years smoking. And then my midwive’s urine test found leukocytes confirming I wasn’t dreaming up that weird thing in the back of my throat. But then a couple days later it went away… right about the time our three year old got the hacking cough.

And just when I thought I had finally missed a round of illness I went to bed last night with a sore throat and woke up with a spasming cough. Just in time to join our still hacking sons and the Papa who just doesn’t feel so great himself.

Oh, and the concerned looks my husband gives me as I uncontrollably cough subtly let me know: I’m due to push a human being the size of a Thanksgiving turkey out of my body within the month.

Health Is Not A Formula

There is no formula for good health, though there are ways to be obedient in taking care of our bodies. God is the author of health – good and bad – and I am finding that in our physical weakness He is glorified and my wrong thinking shines through.

I have learned two things from this experience:

  1. I need humbling in this area and should be thankful that though I physically feel unwell He is using these trials to spiritually mold me.
  2. Many of the things I was doing to get and stay healthy actually were working, as evidenced by their absence and our subsequent illnesses.

Five Habits We Need To Get Back To

Since we’ve been here food, like everything else, has been at survival levels. Most meals have been simply about eating on the cheap, as well as we can, but with an emphasis on calories rather than nutrient density.

There are reasons for this, which I hope to get into in another post, but for now lets just say doing the best you can with what you have isn’t ideal. But there are five things we have definitely not done right.

  1. TOO MUCH SUGAR. Boy howdy have I let this slide and absolutely positively can not be so non-chalant about this anymore.
  2. Not taking our cod liver oil daily. This is one of the only supplements we have regularly taken over the past few years and since we’ve been (almost 3 months) I have not been diligent about it. (Find our favorite CLO here.)
  3. Eating too many grains that have not been prepared properly. As we get used to living without temperature controls, an exponential increase in manual labor, and the generally more difficult life that agrarianism can be, we are eating a lot more grains. I am just starting to get back into the swing of making them easier to digest via fermentation or soaking and need to do this with all of them. (Find sprouted grains here.)
  4. Not eating enough fermented foods. This might be at the top of the list, folks. I’ve just started getting back into this, but still it is a struggle due to our living situation. I don’t think one can emphasize these foods enough for immune and gut health. (Find sources of fermented foods and fermented food starters.)
  5. Not emphasizing pastured meats & vegetables. Lets be frank, I don’t have the storage capacity or money for more than a couple of days of meals emphasizing these foods.

So, what do you think… What else should we be considering?


35 Responses to The Top Five Reasons We’ve Been Sick For Weeks

  1. pam says:

    As a teacher, I used to have a perpetual cold; just get rid of it and a new one would start up. I started gargling with warm salt water once a day, in the evening, as a preventative measure (it’s supposed to wash away the germs on the back of your throat). I have not had a cold or flu in a year and a half! It’s so easy, try it.


  2. Teresa says:

    You might also consider that with your relocation you are now being exposed to strains of viruses for which you have no immunity. Every time I catch a cold, I comfort myself with the knowledge I will never catch THAT cold again. You can only catch a specific virus once after all. So, while you are giving thanks for being humbled, add in a thank you for an increased immune system ;) .


  3. Jenn says:

    It also seems like stress may be a factor in your illnesses.


  4. Gigi says:

    So glad I’m not alone! I have been sick three times since Thanksgiving. I have also been on a *bender* of gluten, sugar, dairy, & alcohol. Coincidence? Nope! ;-) The first round I kicked with good nutrition & supplements. The next 2 rounds I went the allopathic route. (I didn’t want to, but I have to admit the inhaler helped that violent spasming cough…) but when the doc wanted me to take a third round of antibiotics, I said, “Enough!” Getting back to good food & supplements (FCLO, probiotics) has gotten me over it, finally. I do the NeilMed Sinus Rinse (like a neti) and that is very helpful. Hope you are all well soon!


  5. Theresa K says:

    REST, mama. That’s not on your top five and it should be. Restful sleep is sooo important for maintaining good health. With all of the extra, hard, laborious work you are doing each day, you need to put quality, restful nights on your priority list!


  6. Sarah says:

    Probiotics and essential oils. Both will beef up your immune system and help you get healthy! I like to use Thieves oil for viruses and oregano oil for bacteria. Also using twice the dose of probiotics while sick can help. And I agree, cutting out sugar will help too. Hope you all get well soon!


  7. Cathy says:

    Sorry to hear you’ve all been sick. A bit surprised, too. I guess I thought living in the middle of nowhere illnesses would be spread less due to the lack of contact with people. Something to think about and plan for before our own eventual move to a more isolated area.

    I hope you’re planning for a “small” Thanksgiving turkey…mine are usually 20 lbs plus! ;)


  8. Natasha says:

    Stress can be a factor too. I’ve been reading your blog for over a year and I’ve never thought you came across as full of yourself! Sometimes we need to be humbled (I’ve been in those shoes!) but we also need to give ourselves grace. You have a lot to offer your readers – don’t be too hard on yourself. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and look forward to reading much more about your lives there. I don’t expect you to be perfect :)


  9. I’m with Natasha on the stress part as well as Teresa about new strains of illness from a new environment. Stress though always seems to make my body far more worn down, especially combined with a different and less than adequate diet. For both Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Years we were traveling. Overall we have all been very healthy this winter, but I managed to get something like a stomach flu both times at the end of our trips. Both trips def. played their roles on my stress level, plus with the one family we were visiting our diet is nothing even close to what we eat when we are at home. (They eat a TON of sugar, like to the extreme and mostly processed foods and white flour.) I don’t feel like a weeks worth of not so great food should leave me so sick so quickly, (although perhaps being pregnant makes this a little different), but I do think it doesn’t help. So that leaves me believing that the stress of leaving town, not sleeping well while traveling, just being around family (love family, but doesn’t always mean its stress free to be around them!) and just all the stuff that goes into traveling with young children, takes its toll on the body.

    I hope that this can continue to be a time you can grow in the Lord and that He will bless you with wisdom and the answers you need to keep your family healthy. May He also provide His healing hand for you all as you continue to adjust to your new life. Before anything else, God is always the perfect healer and provider. He is the ultimate doctor who can fix us and make us well with no side affects and no lingering problems. That’s the best type of medicine in my mind! :-) Perhaps your whole family can come together and pray over everyone’s health and pray for strength. Where two or more are gathered…


  10. Ivy says:

    how about you just caught it off of someone and passed it around? you seem pretty healthy with eating, so you can not blame that. the dry air of winter and being closed up in the house more than usual can do it too.


  11. brite says:

    We had a similar experience over Thanksgiving/Christmas. I am 33 weeks pregnant with three younger ones as well, and I know the frustration of passing things around and seemingly running in circles as far as illness goes. We had the hacking cough thing, and I do think our pregnant bodies need more of a boost (with food, sleep, and herbs) to fight off what would normally be no big deal. Two of my kids even got ear infections over our Christmas travels, which has NEVER happened before. Sugar, lack of rest, not our usual good food…all of it plays into it. I do wish we weren’t so “delicate” since I’m sure that doesn’t look good to our family/friends who don’t eat and live the way we do. Oh well. God is good, and He knows what we need. For us, the sickness forced us into a quieter schedule of rest and a laying aside of a few activities we probably needed to put away for now anyway.

    I am eagerly following your adventures, and feel much more empathy being huge and pregnant myself! It’s one thing to change your lifestyle when you are 100% but you are a brave woman. :) We have a very agrarian lifestyle (compared to most of our friends) but nothing like you guys! Thanks for sharing…blessings to you in your upcoming birth.


  12. Andy says:

    I don’t see much else to consider. Those five points are all tremendously important and missing on all of them will surely lead to poorer health.

    As far as pastured meats goes, I’d encourage you to search for a small local farm where you can buy direct. I did so a couple years ago and now I get 100% pastured beef, chicken, and pork for grocery store prices or less.

    I’ll add a recommendation for elderberry syrup. It’s helped keep the flu away in my home for the last two winters.


  13. Dutch girl says:

    I think you shouldn’t be so harsh on yourself. Consider it a blessing that you immunity is doing it’s proper job. I know people with auto-immune disease; they almost never get sick.


  14. Cynthia says:

    Our thoughts and Prayers are with all of you sweetie, feel well soon.
    I agree with diet, cod liver oil daily and fermenting everything, oats are in canning jars near the wood burner, veges fermenting in the kitchen and the fermented butter we are absolutely in love with, we will eat no other. Today we are researching the history of fermented raw honey and are in hopes of finding the best process to do so, our hives arrive this spring, as do our chickens. Our thanks to all of you in the south for leading the way.


  15. Dana says:

    Tea – herbal teas to help boost your immune system! I have been sick for MONTHS because I ended up catching pertussis (Whooping Cough) and it took them over a month just to figure out WHAT I had (very annoying as a busy mom of 6 that no one could give me an answer). After thinking about it (can’t do anything else because I seem to get run down super fast and end up sitting in bed)…. we were in the same boat as you – eating off what we could on the cheap side since 2 big eater kids, ages 4 & 15, were placed with our family and our food budget wasn’t there yet. We just started eating better this week, and I am really working on it – but I feel a difference just with drinking tea in the morning to help my immune system go.


  16. Shannon, I’ve been sick as well. For the past two weeks I’ve had a stomach flu followed by a sore throat/cough/ head something. I’m also pregnant and wondering if that may have something to do with it but I do agree with Therese on the stress. It’s been the most stressful time for my family that we’ve had in such a long time. Worry, anxiety and tears, I feel, have lowered my immunity. I’ve been trying to be diligent about my ferments and foods but lack of sleep has gotten the best of me. Things have gotten better over the past couple of weeks and the Lord has definitely been testing my faith. I really feel surrender and obedience is the medicine I’ve been needing. It’s so easy to forget this when we feel we have control over our own lives. Huge mistake, lol! I’ve really been enjoying following your off grid journey and look forward to your upcoming posts. God bless you and your family and I’ll be praying for restored health soon.


  17. Kimberly says:

    We moved to our farm almost one year ago. I haven’t been this sick this often since I was a classroom teacher. It has been awful. Stress-check, new germs-check, struggling with cooking-check, little baby-check. Yuck. Hopefully, this year will be better! It’s a good life, but a hard one for sure!


  18. Lori says:

    I’d also like to suggest that maybe your family is low on vitamin D3 as most people are this time of year. Vitamin D3 is an immune booster and when we get low the germs come a callin’.

    A couple of weeks ago I got a hacky cough, mucus, and a bit of a runny nose. I took some honey and cinnamon (this usually wipes a cold out within a few hours), but no, it kept hanging on, so I upped my vitamin D3 to 20,000 IU’s a day for a few days, gagged down some homemade thyme tincture (made in vodka; I’m not a drinker at all), tried to eat better, including some fresh fruits and veggies, especially ones high in vitamin C, and took some olve leaf and some oregano oil capsules. My cold disappeared within 4 days.
    I’ve kept the vitamin D3 regimen up (10,000 IU per day), been trying to eat better and get better sleep, and though it is cold here (central Ohio) with blustery winds, snow, and ice, I am healthy as a horse.
    Hope you and your family get to feeling better soon!


  19. Katherine says:

    I have found that 2 drops of hydrogen peroxide (3%) in each ear for about five minutes each will cut short viral sicknesses. If you have a virus it will bubble madly (sounds like fireworks and tickles) for a few minutes. Drain it out of the first ear and do the second the same way. Within a few hours you should feel better. You might need to repeat a couple times but you will not be miserable in between. Nobody knows why this works but even Dr. Mercola recommends this because it does work.

    We watch our diet carefully and by and large we are healthier, but 3/4s of the adults in the family work in public service jobs so we are exposed to all kinds of viruses. We do this often and it works.


  20. Jennifer says:

    I vote for exposure to new and different things The first thing got you and as your body is trying to fight off that, the other thing snuck in. Maybe God was trying to make you slow down a little.

    At any rate, I do hope you and your children are immunized against pertussis. I have (sadly) in my job as a peds ICU nurse taken care of too many infants who have died as a result of exposure to pertussis by adults who just had a bad cough. As you are now living in a different place where surely there are more peopple who may not adhere to an immunization schedule the way the CDC requires, I would be most concerned about that.

    And before any of your readers “go off” on me and my comments regarding immunization, please understand that it’s incredibly difficult to hand a dead child to their parents and especially so when their death could have been prevented.

    I’ll pray that you and your sweet bunch feel better soon :-) I love reading your posts!


  21. Heidi says:

    I feel for your recent illnesses…I have been carrying around a cold since just before Christmas which this week turned into a hacking cough…combined with caring for my three little ones and being 33 weeks pregnant, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I went to my long neglected doctor’s office…she said that when a cold drags on for 2 weeks+ it typically indicated a bacterial infection…
    I know that I definitely need to improve our nutrition as I am just beginning on the traditional/whole foods journey…so I definitely hope that making those changes will improve my family’s future health!


  22. Dutch girl says:

    So my comment about being too hard on yourself is not being accepted because? Alrighty then…


    Shannon Reply:

    Dutch Girl – Comment moderation automatically kicks in for first-time commenters or seemingly randomly at times. As we have been quite sick I have not made comment moderation a priority and so am just getting around to approving the 80+ comments awaiting moderation.


  23. I’ll have to give this a try! I’m a teacher too and regularly get sneezed on or touched by hands that have just wiped noses…I’m up for anything preventative – thanks!


  24. Yuck – pregnant and (perpetually) sick. Commendations to you for viewing this as an opportunity to grow in humility and for acknowledging that the Lord brings everything into our lives with purpose. I am hoping you feel tip-top better by the time your baby turkey comes :)

    For my part, also pregnant and sick, I am a huge believer in ginger tea. My husband and I lived in South Korea a few years ago and every time we were even slightly sniffly, our Korean friends would ask “Have you taken any ginger yet?!” So, both preventatively, and especially when I feel something coming on, I boil about an inch of peeled, fresh ginger in 2-4 c. of water, then simmer for 15 minutes. Some lemon and some honey added in the mug. I really feel like this helps us – for everything to soothing icky stomachs to congested colds.

    You seem to know about 1000 times more about natural health remedies than I do, but this always seems to do the trick for us.


  25. oops – I meant to post this in reply to Pam’s comment at the top!


  26. Sarah says:

    Sorry to hear you guys have been sick! Moving, new viruses, and stress can make us all more vulnerable. I remember being sick almost constantly my first semester living in the dorms at school.

    My Mom swears by taking echinacea. I haven’t found that it works for me, but taking Emergen-C seems to help when I feel a bit under the weather.


  27. Granola Girl says:

    Major bummer! Since moving into the sticks, we have found the manual labor/ size and space dilemma as well. We upped our intake of greens and now eat a fairly large salad with most every meal we have. We also started foraging “weed tea” made of all sorts of local herbs which grow as weeds along the roadside here. If we drink this at the first little tickle of an issue, it is resolved and never develops into anything. As a family we drink 1 eight ounce glass a week as a multi-vitamin as well. It works wonders.


  28. Are you taking your prenatal vitamins? I was so bad at it because they made me so nauseous. I was always anemic (and sick with all sorts of things including pneumonia ) until I found the rainbow light prenatal vitamins which I was able to tolerate. I also find oil of oregano a miracle cure. I put one drop (it’s super strong) in steam to breath in or take it internally (capsule form).


  29. Jessica says:

    Understanding the forced humility of multiple illnesses. Since heading more towards traditional food prep a couple years ago, my family has seen very few illnesses, at least nothing more than 3 or 4 days here and there. But this year is very different. Since the beginning of December, it seems like at least one of us has been sick. Frustrating and draining on the patience. Some live like this from October to March, but having been rather healthy for a while, we are easily discouraged. For me, I see it as a chance to pull in and take care of these people of mine and put other “obligations” aside.

    What I’m also realizing (this being my first round of illnesses while practicing mostly homeopathic/herbal healing) is that it really does take a bit longer to get over things when you avoid the stack of antibiotics and OTC remedies at the drugstore. Still learning, though.


  30. I would also vote for the need for more rest. You’re busy right now, and the stressors of all those things you really do need to get done are undoubtedly adding to the need for rest.


  31. Dutch girl says:

    My apologies. I jumped to conclusions.


  32. Jessie says:

    I hope you will all be well soon. One suggestion I have is to sterilize your toothbrushes or to just get new ones after an illness. They often don’t dry out properly & bacteria & viruses can breed in there. Also, wash the sheets after being ill.


  33. I hope you are feeling better now! I know how difficult it can be when everyone in the family is sick.

    You are right about the sugar. Replacing it with stevia is what I’ve found works for us and doesn’t lead to illness. I’m also a big proponent of Cod Liver Oil. It works! Add in some Elderberry juice for it’s anti-viral characteristics, and that combo is a winner. Here is a post I wrote about it: http://www.getpurevitality.com/articles/nutrition/natural-remedies-for-colds-and-the-flu/


  34. Giannina Cangemi-Binotto says:

    Elderberry Syrup: Super easy to make, you can forage for the elder berries if they grow in your area. Simple, inexpensive, preventive, treatment.


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