I had my tonsils removed at age 7—I didn't have a choice. I was told I was being taken on vacation and was instead deposited in a hospital, spanked on the bottom and put into bed, where I proceeded to scream my little head off for the duration of my time there. My parents thought they were sparing me the stress of knowing what was going on (and perhaps sparing themselves the stress of telling me they were sending me off to have my body parts yanked out) for my own good.
I mentioned to a doctor years later on a routine visit that perhaps my immune system was compromised as a result of not having my tonsils. "Nonsense," he told me. "Tonsils are not necessary. If something is infected, take it out. That's what we're here for."
"Hmm," I thought. "Fancy our creator giving us all these body parts we don't really need and that are eventually going to cost us several days off work, much stress and discomfort—not very forward thinking."
After my traumatic hospital visit, I was quite happy to hear the nurse recommending to my mother to give me ice cream—a just reward, I felt, for what I had just been put through. Oh, if only I knew then what I know now. That very reward and my love of all things sweet, creamy and comforting was the devil that had put me in that hospital in the first place. Isn't it tragic how the very things that so seductively tempt our palate and offer us moments of sheer bliss can turn out to be our worst enemies? Wouldn't it have made more sense to make everything that's bad for us taste so disgusting that we wouldn't ever let it pass our lips?
These days, I tend to choose medical doctors who have integrated a more holistic approach to health and medicine. The body is an intricate machine, and there is a valid purpose for all the body parts we come endowed with. From my personal experience, disease is very often a result of my actions and choices. When I accept responsibility for my part in creating these health conditions, then I see it as something I can change by making healthier choices.
"Integrative health" is a phrase we're hearing more about these days—a mind/body/spirit approach to health. It integrates conventional medical practice with alternative or complementary treatments like herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, massage, dietary therapies and stress-reduction techniques. I have had the opportunity over the years to work with many people with various health conditions, and I'm always excited to witness the transformations and miracles that can happen when some simple dietary and lifestyle changes are implemented.
As part of the lymphatic system, tonsils are a vital component of the immune system. They are our first line of defense against potentially harmful bacteria and viruses that may enter the body via the nose and mouth. They fight off infections, particularly infections of the upper respiratory tract. It is no coincidence that I developed pneumonia shortly after my tonsils were removed and was much more susceptible to colds and flu. When any part of a system is taken away, it obviously puts more stress on the rest of that system, which must work harder to make up for the missing link. The thymus gland, spleen and bone marrow are other components of the immune system, and when they have to work beyond the call of duty, it's more likely that other health issues will occur.
7 dietary changes that ward off tonsillitis
If you are diagnosed with tonsillitis, or any other "itis" for that matter (the suffix "itis" is derived from Greek and refers to inflammation), here are a few steps you can take before you rush off to have your precious bits removed.
Remember that natural remedies will often take a little longer to work, so be patient and enjoy the process of integrating healthier practices into your life. Illness can be our best teacher.
Try to omit sugar from your diet. Give yourself a week off it, and see if you experience any changes. As well as depleting the body of vital minerals and vitamins, sugar consumption has also been shown to reduce the body's ability to fight viruses and infection. If you need your sweet fix, take a spoonful of manuka honey, as it is said to have many health benefits, including antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
If you enjoy fizzy drinks or sodas, try instead to reach for a glass of pure water when you're thirsty. Alternatively, you can drink fresh vegetable juice—made from carrots, cucumbers, beets and celery—with a little fresh ginger, which will alkalize your body and is an excellent tonic for tonsillitis.
Cut out (or at least cut down on) dairy products. Many people lack the enzyme to digest lactose, and because of their high fat content, milk, cheese and other dairy products can cause a buildup of mucous in the throat and lungs, creating conditions for infection and inflammation.
Cut out all processed and refined foods as well as fast foods. Try to find time to cook wholesome meals, focusing on whole grains, vegetables and proteins such as fish and legumes.
Take an echinacea and goldenseal tincture. Echinacea boosts the immune system, while goldenseal has antibiotic, anti-catarrhal, anti-infective, anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric and ginger are powerful anti-inflammatory spices and can easily be integrated into your diet or taken in capsule form. For more serious cases, it's probably a better idea to take 400 to 600 mg daily of the dried spice as a supplement in capsule form. You can also use them to spice up your dishes or use the fresh ginger to make tea.
If you're unwell, take time to rest and stay out of stressful situations. Often, sickness is our body's way of letting us know we need to slow down and smell the roses. Take deep breaths, invite in some healing energy and, if possible, take walks in nature. You might get some strange looks, but there's nothing like hugging a tree to give you some renewed strength and energy.
The healing power of miso soup
When it comes to tonsillitis, I also swear to the power of miso soup, made from a nice selection of vegetables, wakame seaweed and fresh ginger. As well as being a rich source of protein, miso contains many trace minerals, including zinc, manganese and copper, which help boost the immune system.
I regard my miso soup as a daily tonic because of its high nutritional value and ability to clear toxins from the body. It is traditionally made with mineral-rich wakame seaweed and garnished with scallions, occasionally with the addition of tofu cubes. I also like to jazz it up with a nice, colorful assortment of vegetables, depending on what happens to be in my fridge.
I may be straying a bit from my Irish roots here, but I love to start my day with a big bowl of miso soup, served with some nice whole grain bread or with a scoop of rice.
Miso could be an entire blog post, but, for now, here's a brief overview: Miso is a paste made from soybeans that have been fermented with salt and koji, which are grains (mainly rice but also barley) that have been fermented with mold cultures. The miso is aged in cedar vats for one to three years. (The longer the fermentation process, the darker and stronger flavored the resulting miso.)
Because of the fermentation process, miso is high in enzymes that can promote healthy digestion. However, in order to get the benefits of the enzymes, you need to make sure that the miso is unpasteurized. Miso is also an excellent vegetarian source of protein, is high in minerals and is a good vegetarian source of vitamin B12, which is otherwise found mainly in animal foods.
Adding different ingredients and varying the lengths of fermentation time result in different types of miso that vary in flavor, texture, aroma and color.
The Most Common Types of Miso:
Genmai miso is made from brown rice and soybeans. It is traditionally fermented for up to 18 months, has a red color and has a nice mellow flavor. It is a good miso for everyday use to flavor soup and stews.
Mugi miso is made with barley and soybeans. It has a hearty, yet mellow flavor and is usually my first choice for my daily miso soup.
Hatcho miso is a strong, dark miso made from soybeans and used for flavoring hearty dishes. It is fermented for up to three years and is highly revered in Japan for both its medicinal properties and robust flavor.
White miso, also known as shiro miso, is a lightly colored miso with a milder flavor. It is made with 60 percent rice koji and 40 percent soybeans, so it is higher in carbohydrates and sweeter than other misos. White miso is only fermented for about two weeks and it also has a shorter shelf life—up to two weeks at room temperature and two months refrigerated. It is used mainly to season lightly colored soups or stews or as an addition in salad dressings or marinades.
Natto miso is made from a combination of soybeans, ginger, kombu seaweed and barley malt. It has a unique savory yet sweet flavor and is used more as a chutney or relish.