Today we are going to talk about what could possibly be the single most neglected part of the human body.
It’s so far from your mind; you’ll never think of it, so I’m just gonna tell you…
It’s your mucus membranes!
If these unsung heroes could sing a song, I’m guessing they would belt out Aretha Franklin, while shaking one of its microvilli, like a shaming finger:
“All I’m asking for is a little respect, just a little bit, yeah, baby, just little bit…R-E-S-P-E-C-T…find out what it means to me.”
Ok, come back to me now. We’ve got a serious conversation to have.
Your mucus membranes do so much for you and most people offer them little in return. They are your inner skin, protecting you and keeping you strong.
Mucus membranes line your mouth all the way through your digestive tract, including your gall bladder.
Your nose, sinus cavity and ears.
Your urinary tract.
And yes, ladies, your glorious vaginal cavity.
Everywhere there is an opening in your body you can count on there being a mucus membrane. The mucus membrane houses your immune system. As the starting point for sending messages to the rest of your body, they say, “Hey! We’ve got a threat over here!”
If all goes well here in the mucus membrane and you are nourished and rested, you may not get sick and you certainly wouldn’t suffer from allergies.
The only thing the medical system can do with your mucus membranes is try to dry them up. This is the opposite of what mucus membranes want to do, which is flush out what doesn’t belong!
I experienced this firsthand. After years of taking prescription anti-histamines, I decided to stop fourteen years ago and my nose ran constantly for months. Months! Drip. Drip. Drip. That was one of my early lessons about this important part of our bodies.
Let’s really ground this concept that I am trying to teach you…
Why does your eye water? Because your eye is trying to get something out.
Why do you have snot coming out of your nose? Because your nose is trying to get something out.
Why do you cough? Because your lungs are trying to get something out.
Why do you shit your brains out? Because your GI tract is trying to get something out.
And ladies, why do we have vaginal secretions? Sometimes it’s because we are hot to trot and other times, well, there is an undesirable bacterial or yeast over growth.
Are you starting to get my drift?
Mucus membranes are our friends and all we ever want to do is shut them down!
While we say, “Make the mucus go away,” as if getting rid of the mucus solves the problem, the body screams, “Nooooooo! I want to flow!”
So the question becomes how can we go with this flow? How can we show our mucus membranes a little bit more respect? I have some ideas for you:
#1 When you are acutely ill with a viral or bacterial infection, know that both over-the-counter and prescription drugs are a last resort. Herbs, along with sleep and chicken broth, can offer your body so much more here. Herbs can make you more comfortable without interfering with your immune system’s ability to seek resolution. My two favorite herbal formulas to aid healthy mucus production during acute infections are Broncafect Phytosynergist and Sinus Forte from MediHerb – both available through qualified health professionals.
Steam inhalations can also be very supportive during acute infections. All you need to do is a place a large bowl in a sink. Boil 2 quarts of water or so, pour it into the bowl (or a clean sink), and cover your head and upper body with a towel to seal in the steam. If the infection is in your sinus cavity, breathe through your nose; if the chest is more involved, breathe through your mouth. You may enhance the steam with 2 drops of essential oil, like tea tree or eucalyptus, for its antimicrobial activity. My favorite blend right now is Respiratory Rescue from Mothership.
Acute illness is a chance to build strength in your mucus membranes. Don’t fuck it up!
#2 Embrace vitamin A. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient to the health of the mucus membrane and is ONLY found in good quality animal fat, like chicken skin, fatty meat, eggs and liver from pastured animals. It is estimated that our ancestors ate 10 times the amount of fat soluble nutrients than we consume in our modern diet. While the label on a can of tomatoes or a bunch of carrots may show that it contains vitamin A, it does NOT. It contains beta carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A that may or may not be converted into the vitamin A that your body needs. So please, the next time you eat a sweet potato, smother it in butter or ghee and know that you are supporting the integrity of your mucus membranes in a profound way.
#3 Eat slime. I know. That’s gross, but bear with me. Foods like okra, chia seeds and flax seeds were made to support the mucus membranes. They hold a lot of water, are soothing and building, and can be quite lovely when prepared properly (see recipes at the end of this blog).
Never forget the great mantra of traditional medicine: LIKE HEALS LIKE! If you have a problem with a specific organ or gland, eat it and if you have deficient mucus membranes, eat slime!
There are also slimy herbs that can go a long way to healing the mucus membranes in your body. Marshmallow root and slippery elm root are two of my favorites. Add water to these two and you get a gel-like substance.
Yes, you can just swallow these in capsules with a big glass of water, but I prefer to taste my medicine. Right now, before I go to bed, I’m drinking a slimy beverage made with 1 heaping tsp of slippery elm powder from Oregon’s Wild Harvest, ½ teaspoon of burdock root powder from Dr. Cowan’s Garden, and room temperature water.
Not only am I supporting the health of my mucus membranes with this beverage, but I’m also feeding good bacteria in my gut. This kind of fiber is what you call a prebiotic – food for the good bugs that live within you.
Speaking of bacteria, I was very grateful to Dr. Ronda Nelson when she came to teach us in Austin because she highlighted the fact that people aren’t going to have a healthy microbiome unless they have healthy mucus membranes!
Think about that for a moment. If I’m a beneficial bacteria in your gut, I need a good home filled with good food that contains fiber. But if I consume inflammatory, refined foods, then my damaged mucus membranes become a home to pathogenic bacteria, and I end up with leaky gut, dysbiosis, maybe a vaginal infection, chronic sinusitis, and an overall weakened immune system, which leads me to my next point…
#4 Your mucus membranes are connected to each other. Medical doctors might specialize in a specific part of the body or system, but that doesn’t mean that it exists in isolation from everything else going on.
Look, you are like a giant sack of water, muscle and fat, being held together by skin. Everything’s connected. All the time. What goes on in your digestive tract is going to affect your respiratory tract, your urinary tract, and even your vaginal tissue.
This is why if you have a vaginal infection, you take probiotics!
Dairy also wreaks havoc with the health of mucus membranes. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is common advice to avoid dairy products during an acute infection because it is a thick, damp-inducing, inflammatory food that most people are better without when they are sick…and even when they are not.
Health begins and ends in the digestive track and usually dairy isn’t doing us any favors. I have a few how-to videos on my website for making homemade nut milks and creamers, if that would be helpful to you.
#5 Look at the excretions coming out of your body! Everything coming out of your body, tells a story. Pee, poop, menstrual fluid, and yes – mucus – is important information.
For instance, thin, watery mucus is usually the sign of a histamine, or allergic, reaction, while yellow to green mucus may signify a bacterial infection.
Don’t just say, “Yuck!” and throw away your Kleenex. LOOK at it first!
And FYI, just because you see green mucus and have a bacterial infection does NOT mean that you need antibiotics. I personally think that antibiotics should be relegated to the emergency room only to be used in life threatening, emergency situations, not because you want to stop hurting and carry on with life as usual.
#6 Simply thank your mucus membranes for taking such good care of you. None of us are acknowledged enough for the work we do in the world, and that includes your mucus membranes, so please, if nothing else, just bring a word or two of encouragement to this part of your body and start to observe it in a different way.
The next time you get sick, instead of cursing snot coming out of your nose and phlegm coming out of your chest, say something like, “Wow! Look at that chunk! AMAZING! You really love me, don’t you? Thanks for cleaning up this sacred house called my body. Thank you.”
Realizing that the mucus membranes and the bacteria living with you are inextricably linked is a very important step in healing your body and doing the next right thing. As Louis Pasteur said on his deathbed: “Bernard was right; the pathogen is nothing; the terrain is everything.”
Respect your mucus membranes in peace, my friends.
P.S. – Your recipes!
1 pound okra
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss okra with olive oil and spread evenly on pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
*Note to self: if you put too much olive oil, you will have mushy okra. If you put too little olive oil, it will be dry. So while you cook, just say a prayer that you will use just the right amount.
If you do not like okra, but want to benefit from its positive health effects, then you can consider taking Okra Pepsin from Standard Process.
Here is a link to a Gogi Berry Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding recipe for you.
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