Last Wednesday, I felt like I was coming down with a cold: runny nose, itchy throat, ominous heavy feeling in the middle of my head. The typical cold lasts 7-10 days. Bummer.
Today is Tuesday. I’m still having an episode of sneezing and nose-blowing every few hours, but otherwise I feel great! I’ve been feeling pretty well since Sunday. Even on Saturday, I got through a major grocery-shopping expedition without collapsing afterward. So really, I was only sick for 2-3 days, and it didn’t turn into a lung or sinus infection like my colds often do. It’s possible that this was just a weaker virus than some, but I think that my treatment of myself during this cold helped it to run its course more quickly than it might. Here’s what I did:
I stayed home from work on Thursday and Friday and took things fairly easy. Too often, I’ve pushed myself to do everything I had planned even when I’m feeling rotten, and that strains my body until I get so sick I have to stay home, so I lose the same amount of work time but experience much more misery. Going to work sick is also irresponsible because it keeps me out in public, spreading the virus to others. I considered keeping my 5-month-old baby at home with me so that I wouldn’t have to go outside at all and I could nurse her directly, which is easier than pumping milk–but I decided to take her to the sitter as usual so that I could nap as much as possible.
I drank plenty of fluids, gulping down a full glass of water at the slightest hint of thirst. I was especially conscientious about it this time because making milk uses a lot of water. In addition to cold water, I made lots of herbal tea and breathed the steam to loosen congestion in my sinuses. We were out of rooibos, the caffeine-free “red tea” packed with antioxidants, but I enjoyed peppermint tea for its soothing vapors and red raspberry leaf tea for Vitamin C. We didn’t have any raw ginger, but even dried powdered ginger mixed with honey and boiling water makes a great decongestant. I also ate ramen noodles, although they aren’t the healthiest of foods, because I love them and the salty broth makes me drink lots of water as well as containing water itself.
I also ate a lot, including plenty of fiber. You may have heard the folk wisdom “Feed a cold and starve a fever,” but I can’t recall ever hearing any health authority advise eating high-fiber foods during a viral illness. I think it works. Several years ago my friend Vinnie, a very healthy person who was wise in his own weird way, showed me a George Carlin comedy routine in which Carlin advises, “Give it to your colon!” i.e. eat food that will push the virus out of your body. Since then, I’ve been stuffing myself with beans, vegetables, and oatmeal when I get a cold or flu…and it really does seem to help! Between the fluids and the fiber, I made many trips to the bathroom, but each time I visualized germs leaving my body. Positive thinking probably helps, too.
I chose foods that are supposed to support the immune system. I’m having a hard time finding all the references I know are out there somewhere, but here’s a good article on fighting infections with garlic and one on fighting colds with honey and cinnamon and one on coconut oil, which is antiviral and by the way is also good for milk supply. Here are some of my favorite easy snack/meals to eat during a cold or flu:
- Mix in a bowl: quick-cooking oatmeal, a big glob of coconut oil, a big glob of honey, cinnamon, ginger, raisins, a dash of salt, and boiling water. Stir. Add more water if necessary to obtain a pleasant texture.
- Steam some broccoli or other dark green vegetable. Meanwhile, put a glob of coconut oil in a bowl and let it soften. (You can place it on the stove an inch or so from the burner you’re using, or microwave it briefly.) Mix the oil with soy sauce, ginger, and crushed raw garlic. Stir in the broccoli.
- Cook whole-wheat pasta, or better yet find some left over in the fridge, or use cooked/canned beans instead for even more fiber. Heat a little olive oil in a pot and add shredded fresh or frozen kale. Cook it a minute or two, then mix in prepared marinara sauce, lots of it. When sauce is heated, pour it over the pasta. Crush as many cloves of garlic as you can stand and mix it in. (You could use coconut oil instead of olive oil, but to me it doesn’t taste right.)
- Egg Drop Soup with plenty of raw garlic and hot pepper. May as well throw in some kale if you have some handy.
- Baked winter squash or sweet potato or pumpkin, mashed with plenty of coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger, and maybe some honey. Alternatively, use the coconut oil with crushed raw garlic; I like to add nutritional yeast flakes as well. It’s hard to cut up a squash when you’re sick and wait an hour for it to bake…but if you happen to have baked a bunch of squashes before your illness, you’re set! Or you can bake a sweet potato in the microwave, or open a can of pumpkin.
There are also some things I avoid eating because they may depress the immune system and/or increase mucus production and because they just don’t feel right to me when I’m sick: added sugars other than honey, deep-fried foods, and dairy products other than yogurt. I take it easy on white flour, too.
Here’s to good health this fall and winter! Visit the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop and Real Food Friday for more ways to nourish yourself. Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday for all kinds of great tips. And since all but one of the above foods are vegan, I’m also linking to Healthy Vegan Friday.