It’s winter, and there are lots of flu and cold bugs going around. A number of people have asked me how we handle sick days abstinently, so I thought this would be a good time to address the issue. Today it snowed, about six inches where I live, and the temperature outside is 29 degrees. There are abundant warnings about black ice and high winds tonight, and half the people I talked with today were coughing and choking, or dealing with some other kind of illness.
So I want to offer a few suggestions for those of you who want to stay healthy. One, of course, is wash your hands – a lot. Keep the used tissues in the trash. (Don’t ask me why they keep crawling out from there – I can’t figure it out!) If you pick up someone else’s tissues, cover it with a clean one first, or wash your hands – again. And stay away from folk who are coughing and choking – you don’t want their germs!
But that isn’t nutrition – let me give you some serious suggestions:
- Before you even get anywhere near sick, stock up on what you need:
- Gypsy Cold Care, made by Traditional Medicinals – great for nasal stuffiness, coughing, mucusy colds.
- Throat Coat, also by Traditional Medicinals – the purpose is obvious.
- Ginger tea, several brands are available – for an upset stomach.
- Your favorite hot teas, so you can sip on them all day long.
- Lemon juice, lime juice, unsweetened.
- What else? What other sugar free flour free medications really work for you? Have them in the house so they are there when you need them!
- The foods you need:
- Broth – sugar free; Nature’s Promise is my favorite; chicken, beef or vegetable. Amy’s and Tabachnik have a few soups without inappropriate ingredients.
- Coconut water or Powerade. Get the kind that has electrolytes and no added sugars or sweeteners.
- Fresh ginger is one of the best anti-nausea foods. Use it in cooking, or brew it as tea, but do not settle for ginger extract; that won’t work.
When you are sick, eating the right foods is more important than ever. We want you to eat foods that nourish the body, support your body’s efforts to heal, and maybe even help you heal more quickly. Not eating can actually keep you sick longer; the body needs nutrients: vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrate, to fuel the immune system and help you heal.
Another priority – it is really important that you drink enough fluid and keep yourself well hydrated. This helps the immune system function better and may even save you a trip to the ER for dehydration! Your body will need even more fluid if you have a fever, or are throwing up or having diarrhea. What fluids can you drink? Not ice water? So warm water with lemon or lime? Or your favorite tea? Or broth itself?
Chicken soup is always recommended because it has vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. It’s even believed to be a good decongestant. Chicken soup can thin your mucus and may have anti-viral effects. Consider adding your chicken, some brown rice or quinoa, and some leftover vegetables, and letting that be your meal.
Many people think that garlic can stimulate the immune system and has antiviral and antibacterial effects. So a few shakes or slices of fresh garlic or garlic powder in your broth might really help.
Bananas, surprisingly, are good for you when ill. They are mild in flavor and easy to swallow, and still have nutrients. Their soluble fiber will help if you have diarrhea.
Oatmeal is bland and easy to eat; you may count 1 oz uncooked oatmeal (1/3 cup) as your starch at other meals. It will make you feel full and comforted, as well as helping your intestinal tract settle down. You could add your banana or a nut butter or other protein to it if you wish.
Yogurt is fine, if dairy foods are on your food plan. Look for the kind with probiotics. Greek yogurt has more protein; but if you think milk products increase your congestion, use other foods.
If you want cold foods, try frozen fruits. Or puree them and make popsicles! Many people like spicy food like chili and horseradish. They are a kind of decongestant; they can make your nose run and your eyes water and if you like them, it is fine to use them.
Now about your food plan. You need to allow a little flexibility here. When you’re sick, the body really needs every possible nutrient it can find to heal itself. You need all your calories to make your immune system function. But do not force yourself to eat foods that the body is resisting. Set it aside, or choose something else to substitute.
It’s also essential that you eat more frequently than usual. Every two to three hours is fine. If you cannot finish your meal, put the remainder aside and try again in two hours. Eating half portions more frequently may make it more possible to get all your foods in.
You may not want some foods; vegetables especially. Be gentle with yourself. Try vegetable soup; just put them in broth and simmer till they are soup. If you cannot eat all the veggies, let those foods go for a day or two. No, you may not use this as an excuse to eat foods not on your food plan! And no, you do not replace the veggies with foods from other food groups! And at the same time, we do not want you to increase your nausea and stomach upset with foods the body cannot tolerate. Use your nutritionist or sponsor or other trusted advisers to help you find a balance.
When you have memories of the addictive comfort foods you used to eat as a child, tell yourself there are better choices for you today. Do not allow yourself to go back there; talk to one of your support people about the feelings. Know that this too shall pass.
This is not the time to isolate and not talk to anyone; check in with your trusted advisers about your food plan; you may have to make adjustments. Talk to folk you trust about the decisions as you make them. Be gentle with yourself and treat the body with respect. Give the body the foods it needs to heal.
REST!!!! Rest, rest, rest!! Read those novels, watch silly television, take long naps. Give the body the time and space to heal.
We have another more specific instruction sheet in the office about sick days. If you want a copy, just call or email us.(610-257-3699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I’d love to hear your comments about this or other topics. Just leave a comment below please. Tell us what works for you when you are ill.