Don’t be so Quick to Dismiss Self Care
“Many mothers who will read these lines think, well, I don’t need these applications, for I am healthy and well. But there is where the mistake is made. The Kneipp-Cure does not only cure sickness, its principal object is to preserve health and to prevent disease by fortifying the body for all attacks against it by disease.”1
So wrote Benedict Lust, a naturopathic forefather, 115 years ago in an article for mothers about 3 simple routines to build wellness. Lust targeted mothers here because he knew that healthy moms make for healthy families and that a mother’s time and resources for self care are often limited. In this day and age, everyone’s time and resources are limited—and these easy routines are more important than ever—for all of us.
How often have you dismissed self care with thoughts of, it’s a good thing I’m pretty healthy! I’m sure I would (take a walk, skip this cookie, eat more vegetables, go to bed on time….) if I wasn’t feeling as reasonably well as I do? Despite our many effective alternative treatments, naturopathic medicine’s most important strength is prevention as cure. Lust laid out three tasks. One daily, one every few days, and one twice per month, none of which cost anything and which, “if followed, prove a mine of health to all mothers who suffer from one or another ailment or will serve to protect the health of those who are well.” It is in the spirit of this deep, health-building, modeling-self-care-for-our-children prevention that I share the basics of mama self care that Lust preached more than a century ago.
Lust advised that we “walk barefooted at least a part of the day.” This is as simple as it sounds: take off your shoes. There is an increasing body of scientific literature supporting the importance of going barefoot, from positive effects on our biochemistry (think, less clumped blood and better blood glucose control)2-4 to improved muscle function and posture.5-7 The former relate to putting the body in touch with the earth (concrete counts, asphalt does not). The latter, to allowing natural foot stretch to give important input to the nervous system. Much of this feedback is lost when the foot is confined by a shoe.
Busy Mom Tip: Remove your shoes when you’re outdoors with the kids. Wearing flip flops makes this easier. If needed, get in the habit of leaving a towel by the door to wipe off dirty toes before going back inside.
Short (Cold) Showers
Lust urges mothers to “wash their whole bodies twice or three times a week right after rising.” That much probably sounds familiar to most Americans, but wait—“This washing of the whole body should be done as quick as possible and should never last longer than a minute. The body should not be rubbed dry with a towel but should be left to dry itself.” A one minute washing! Can you imagine the savings to your utility bills? And, no towel. By 1900, these washings were probably showers but may have been water splashed over the body from a basin. Either would have the same effect: the skin is cleansed and the nervous system is activated. In both cases, the water would have been cold! Cold water therapies are increasingly known to affect depression and mood disorders, immune system function, healing of injuries and wounds and to offer pain relief.8-10
Lust remarks that these showers can be taken at any time of day. If first thing in the morning does not work for you, other good times include after coming inside on a hot summer day, or after working out. It really does only take a minute: Jump into the running shower (at whatever temperature it naturally comes out) or squat in the tub. Rub your body vigorously, splashing the water over your skin as you go (sing if the water feels too cold!). Then, jump back out. If your home is not drafty (and your jeans are not too skinny) you can put your clothes on while you’re wet. They will dry. Otherwise, attend to brushing your teeth while you air dry. If you feel cold on getting out of the shower, do some squats, jumping jacks or pushups to get your blood moving.
A common modern variation is to add a 30 second cold rinse to the end of your regular warm shower.
Busy Mom Tip: Take this quick rinse before donning your day clothes on days you don’t need to wash your hair. On days when a full 21st century shower is in order, finish with a cold rinse to still gain benefit.
Wet Shirt Treatment
Lust suggests that mothers “cleanse [their] system at least once every fourteen days” using a “hay-flower-packing.” Technically, this means making a tea of hay flower (also known as Sweet Clover, not to be confused with red clover) and soaking a t-shirt in it. Wring the shirt out well, put it on a warm body, and wrap up with a dry blanket. Using hay flower tea increases the sweat inducing effects of the pack, but the clinical experience of hundreds of current day naturopathic doctors supports that simply using water is effective as well. I do not see formal research on this particular treatment, but clinical experience says it improves the elimination function of the skin, kidneys and bowels while calming the nervous system and improving immune function. It is particularly good during illness and can bring on a needed fever, or break one that is too high!
Busy Mom Tip: Do this at bedtime. Use a regular cotton t-shirt, wrung out well from water at the temperature it comes out of the tap. Do a few squats or wall push-ups to warm your body. Put on the shirt and cover it with a wool sweater or a thick sweatshirt. Climb into bed and relish reading a book while your body warms the shirt. You can go to sleep this way, or change out of the shirt after 20-30 minutes.
Karis Tressel, ND understands that your body is meant to experience abundant health. At the family practice she maintains in Bakersfield, CA, Dr. Tressel and her colleagues utilize natural therapies including nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, detoxification/drainage, water therapies and sensible lifestyle to address the root causes of disease, thereby assisting the body in healing itself and moving toward its wellness potential.
A graduate of the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR, Dr. Tressel is passionate about sharing the sensible, simple, effective treatments and philosophies of Nature Cure and old-time Naturopathic Medicine.
- Lust B. Applications of Water for Mothers. Kneipp Water Cure Monthly. 1900;1(6):103.
- Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Brown R. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015 Mar 24;8:83-96. doi: 10.2147/JIR.S69656. eCollection 2015.
- Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Delany RM. Earthing (grounding) the human body reduces blood viscosity-a major factor in cardiovascular disease. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb;19(2):102-10. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0820. Epub 2012 Jul 3.
- Sokal K, Sokal P. Earthing the human body influences physiological processes. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Apr; 17(4):301-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0687. Epub 2011 Apr 6.
- Brenton-Rule A, D’Almeida S, Bassett S, Carroll M, Dalbeth N, Rome K. The effects of sandals on postural stability in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: an exploratory study. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2014 Mar; 29(3):350-3. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2013.12.006. Epub 2013 Dec 14.
- Hollander K, Riebe D, Campe S, Braumann KM, Zech A. Effects of footwear on treadmill running biomechanics in preadolescent children. Gait Posture. 2014 Jul;40(3):381-5. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.05.006. Epub 2014 May 23.
- Tateuchi H, Taniguchi M, Takagi Y, et al. Immediate effect of Masai Barefoot Technology shoes on knee joint moments in women with knee osteoarthritis. Gait Posture. 2014 May;40(1):204-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.03.190. Epub 2014 Apr 6.
- Shevchuk NA. Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(5):995-1001. Epub 2007 Nov 13.
- Mooventhean A, Nivethitha L. Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. N Am J Med Sci. 2014 May;6(5):199-209. doi: 10.4103/1947-2714. 132935
- Kamioka H, Tsutani L, Okuizumi H, et al. Effectiveness of aquatic exercise and balneotherapy: a summary of systematic reviews based on randomized controlled trials of water immersion therapies. J Epidemol. 2010;20(1):2-12. Epub 2009 Oct 31.