I have missed you all! My apologies that I didn't get a post up last week but whatever cold/flu combo hit our house this season was truly a knock-you-off-your-feet-and-lay-you-flat-out-for-a-week type of thing. It came with a whole host of symptoms including a bad fever, nausea, headache, body aches, clogged sinuses, and now a lingering runny nose qne sniffle combo. What a treat.
Now I like to think I take pretty good care of myself - what with my being a healthcare professional and all. I eat a pretty balanced diet, I exercise regularly, I try to control my stress levels, and I make it a point to get enough sleep. I don't get sick very often but seems inevitable that about once a year I am struck down with whatever is ailing the masses. Struck. Down. Hard.
I would say I was suffering with whatever bug this was for about 6 consecutive days. 3 of them I was completely down and out and not able to leave my bed or survive more than 4 hours without nearly inserting a Neocitran IV into my arm. Despite this, I count myself lucky because like I said, I usually only get struck down with one bad illness per year. I know many people that seem to constantly be suffering with different colds and flus all year-round. Although it is inevitable that we will all get sick from time to time, there are things that you can do to help keep your immune system strong and important ways that you can take care of yourself when do you happen to get sick.
Ways to keep your immune system strong
EAT NUTRITIOUS FOOD!
What we eat to fuel our body everyday is one of the most important ways we can prevent illnesses such as the common cold and keep our immune system strong and healthy. A balanced diet that contains lots of fruits and vegetables, protein, and whole grains is a great way to ensure your body gets the nutrients that it needs. Most healthy people that eat a balanced diet have no need for expensive vitamin and mineral supplementation other than perhaps a Vit D supplement during the winter months and a prenatal multivitamin for women who may become pregnant. Spend your money on fresh whole foods instead and feel healthy all year long!1
Although a warmer climate may keep the winter sniffles at bay and your toes from freezing, you don't necessarily have to change your postal code to stay healthy. Moving your body by engaging in physical activity most days of the week is another way you can keep your immune system strong. Exercise can help your body fight off cold and flu bugs during the times when it needs to most! Light exercise can also help you recover from a cold or flu faster, so if you are ill and able - get moving!1
Too much stress wreaks havoc on our body and makes us more prone to getting sick. Reduce stress in your life by finding time for yourself and doing the things that you love!1
CATCH SOME ZZZZZ's!
Sleep is vital to good health and a strong immune system. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep to feel their best. My husband does well with about 7 hours of sleep but I definitely need more! Make sure you get at least 6 solid hours per night if you can (parents I know this can be tough)! Take a nap if you are able, to catch up on lost sleep since this is the time the body needs to repair itself and cope with daily stress.1
SPREAD LOVE, NOT GERMS!
We have all seen the numerous public health ads advocating for more hand washing and although it can seem like overkill, hand washing really is the most effective way to protect yourself from bacteria and prevent the spread of germs to others. Hand sanitizers work well in a pinch but washing with warm water and soap for at least 15 seconds is best!1
KEEP TO YOURSELF!
Avoiding others when they are sick is important for minimizing your exposure to germs and bacteria that can cause colds or the flu. Also, if you are the one that is sick, stay home if you can and be sure to wash your sheets, blankets, and towels once you start to feel better. Oh! and throw away your toothbrush!1
What to eat when you are sick
So what do you do if you don't have an appetite?
EAT WHAT APPEALS TO YOU!
Firstly, try and eat the foods that DO appeal to you. When I'm sick, nothing soothes me more than a nice pot of chicken noodle soup. Sort of cliche, but that's what works for me! I think I ate soup for lunch and supper all 3 days that I was flat out in bed. I'm lucky in the fact that even when I'm feeling really awful, I am usually able to eat at least something at each meal. That didn't prevent me from dropping a few pounds over the last week or so however, which tells me that I definitely wasn't eating all that my body needed when I was sick. Weight loss is definitely not a desirable outcome when you are ill but it just goes to show you how much energy your body needs to maintain it's weight while also fighting off those nasty seasonal bugs. Soup is a great choice since it provides comforting nourishment and also some fluid. If the thought of soup makes you nauseous - reach for whatever you are able to keep down. SOME sort of food is definitely better than no food in these cases.5
As I've already said, fluids are important all the time, but especially when you are sick. Sip on hot tea to soothe a sore throat, flat Sprite or Gingerale if you are having trouble keeping solid food down (this will provide your body at least the basic sugar that it needs), or warm broth such as chicken or vegetable stock (aim for low sodium versions because even these have enough to replace any that might be lost in vomit or diarrhea). Water is always the number one choice so try and always have a glass nearby!1,2,5
C is for CITRUS!
Although it is a myth that Vitamin C can cure the common cold, many Vitamin C containing foods such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli are full of antioxidants that may help strengthen your immune system and get you healthy faster!4,5
SPICE UP YOUR LIFE!
If all you have is a cold, (no stomach involvement) spicy food can act as a natural decongestant. Add some spice to your life with chili peppers or Tabasco sauce.5
If you are suffering from the flu and have an upset stomach with no appetite, try foods like soda crackers, dry toast, or plain muffins to help settle your stomach. This will ensure you are taking in at least some energy in order to help you get better faster!5
MONKEYS KNOW BEST!
Bananas aren't just a monkey's best friend! Bananas are generally easy on the stomach and contain lots of potassium which is an electrolyte that may be lost in sweat, diarrhea, or vomit. Try to keep a few on hand this cold and flu season.5
There are many herbs and supplements marketed to help prevent, treat, or cure the common cold or flu, however most of these have little research to back them up. Some supplements that may have beneficial effects include ginger, zinc, probiotics, and echinacea. Check out this resource from Dietitians of Canada for more information on how much to take and what effects these supplements can have on your health.3, 5
So there you have it, a pretty good list of ways to keep your immune system strong and what to eat when you're sick! Hopefully all of you were able to make it through the holidays unscathed. Here's to a HAPPY, HEALTHY 2015!
2. Dietitians of Canada. (2011, November 18).Tips for staying well during cold and flu season. Resources. Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://www.pennutrition.com/viewhandout.aspx?Portal=UbY=&id=JM3mWQI=&PreviewHandout=bA==
3.Eat Right Ontario. (2015, January 1). Get the facts on the immune system. Resources. Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Frequently-Asked-Questions/Get-the-facts-on-the-immune-system.aspx#.VKrsTivF-So
4.Eat Right Ontario. (2015, January 1). What you need to know about Vitamin C.Resources. Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Nutrients-(vitamins-and-minerals)/What-you-need-to-know-about-vitamin-C.aspx#.VKrrxivF-So
5.Shih, C. (2014, February 14). The best and worst foods to eat when you're sick. Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://greatist.com/health/best-foods-eat-when-sick