Vis Medicatrix Naturae: The Healing Power of Nature
One of six naturopathic tenets, emphasizing faith in the wisdom of our natural abilities to survive and adapt.
For as long as I can recollect, I and most other Americans have been brainwashed to believe that a fever is the enemy. If a fever sets in, we must suppress it with all possible means as to avoid a death sentence.
Well I am here to clear up the bogus misconception.
Fever is GOOD. It is the body's natural, powerful defense mechanism to the bug in your body. The body raises its temperature when an uninvited pathogen arrives. Heat is a "vital" process or sign of life, destroying all substances that invade its path to wellness. We are not cold-blooded mammals, but rather hot-blooded beings that have the capability of warding off disease in a very simple matter.
When someone experiences a fever, they may become very hot, flushed or even sweat. Their body may become achy (malaise) and fatigued. Chills are often felt, and this is due to vasoconstriction of the skin's blood vessels- blood is turned inward, away from the skin, to the core to raise internal heat and fight the bug more efficiently. Fevers can also cause people to lose their appetite, which is a healthy adaptive mechanism. This allows the body's energy to go into defending itself (sympathetic) rather than digesting (parasympathetic).
Fever is the body's natural defense to pathogens. It stimulates the immune response- our physiological defense army is brought to the area of dis-ease, then enhances the removal of the bad guys to the major elimination processing centers like the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.
The optimal fever is thought to be around 102' F (by mouth). This temperature has the most efficient anti-microbial and immune stimulating effects. It is not until fevers of over 105' F-106'F do we need to be concerned, and this is primarily in children as they have a bigger risk for febrile seizures. Children tend to spike higher fevers quicker than adults because their vitality and core temperatures are slightly higher.
How do we support a fever?
By encouraging the fever's natural course, of course!
- REST!!! SLEEP!! STAY HOME!!! If you do not let the body put the energy it needs into the war against bugs, it may you are setting yourself up for a major disadvantage.
- FLUIDS- you must drink more water than you usually do (which is half your weight in ounces, right? Yes.) Think about it, heat + water = evaporation. So drink up.
- ELECTROLYTES- In addition to drinking all that water, add broths to your consumption of liquids for electrolytes. Add GARLIC & ONIONS to enhance antimicrobial activity.
- FAST. Don't eat if you are not hungry. Again, let your body do the work it needs to do. You will be resting anyway!
- GET TOASTY- Warm up and encourage the fever! Throw on your warmest clothes and jump in bed. Take a sauna. Sweat is good.
What if it gets uncomfortably high?
- HYDROTHERAPY- lukewarm-tepid water bath (not cold!). Gentle sponge baths are great, especially for children (>104'F). Keep the child wrapped in warm blankets and explose one limb at a time for cooling with sponge. Then return to warmth with blanket and move on to the next limb. Keep repeating this procedure until the fever finds a comfortable level. This can be done for hours. Be sure to consume even MORE water in this case.
Caution with Aspirin. Suppressing a fever with aspirin also suppresses the body's natural defense mechanisms. Aspirin reduces the body's immune modulators which then turn down the heat. It can cause nausea and vomiting, trigger an attack for asthmatics, and even turn UP the heat with overdose. If you must, use acetominophen as the toll on the body is lower with 1-2 doses.
- NOTE: Aspirin use in a child's fever due to viral illness (cold sores, chicken pox, the flu) can cause Reye's Syndrome. This is a serious complication of the body's organs including the liver and brain. Sorry, don't mean to scare you, just inform you.
- Some herbs contain salicylates, the fever-reducing component found in aspirin. They do not have the same risks and can be used safely if one must reduce a fever. They are in the willow family and include: Black cohosh, Poplar and Meadowsweet. Please contact an ND before self-prescribing.
Tolle Causum. Treat the Cause- another naturopathic tenet. Why cover up or suppress the problem? Encourage and support the disharmony of the body. It only makes you stronger.
Treating the underlying infection with anti-microbial herbs can also be helpful. These include Echinacea, Hydrastis, Thyme, Mahonia, etc. But again, please contact an ND for specifics as there is no overlapping medicine for all people. We are individuals with individual needs, and the bugs which decide to visit us are individual bugs with individual functions (viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic).
Note: I am not yet a doctor. I am purely relaying information that I have been granted. If you have questions, please ask me! Questioning philosophy and reasoning helps all of us. Be assertive in your own healthcare and knowledge.
Be well, be educated. Support balance with moderation. Don't worry, be happy.