By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
You know those crazy busy weeks when getting sick is absolutely not an option? On the Monday morning of one of those, I happened to say that my immune system hadn’t let me down much the past few winters. I should’ve known better. Within two hours, the sneezing and achiness began. A sore throat kicked in soon after – followed by swallowing over and over to check if it still felt like I was swallowing daggers every time.
No matter how much TV you get to catch up on, being sick is never fun. Maryann recently wrote about 7 flu fighting foods to keep you from getting sick in the first place. Luckily, even if you’re past the point of preventing a cold/flu from happening, it’s not over yet. You can bounce back quickly. The key is to take advantage of those initial 24 hours when symptoms kick in. Over-the-counter cold and sinus medications can give you temporary pain/symptom relief, but there’s more to speeding up getting well. Here are a few ways you can give your immune system a boost and kick feeling sick.
Eat colorfully: The color of a fruit or vegetable is due to different nutrients called flavonoids. By eating different colors, you’re also getting a whole variety of immunity-boosting antioxidants and phytonutrients. These two are especially important:
* Green cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach get their color from indoles, immune boosting nutrients that also stimulate detoxification enzymes and eliminate carcinogens from the body.
* Orange and yellow citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes contain anti-inflammatory carotenoids. They also have vitamin C, which may reduce the duration of cold symptoms.
Get spicy: garlic, ginger, cayenne and turmeric contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic is incredibly anti-bacterial but must be consumed raw for benefits – throw it in salad dressing or on top of warm soup. The really spicy, “warming” (or sweat inducing) ones—ginger and cayenne—are also fever-reducers.
Avoid starchy and sugary foods: You might be drawn to them when you’re not feeling well, but they can actually work against you and worsen inflammation. Stick to whole grains.
Drink water, tea, and broth-based soups: Hydration is essential for getting better. In addition to water, try peppermint tea to clear up your sinuses. Green tea and chicken noodle soup are also great choices.
Zinc: this mineral boosts infection-fighting cells in your body. It’s naturally found in oysters, meat, beans and whole grains. There is some evidence that increasing zinc intake with lozenges and supplements when getting sick can reduce the length of a cold by as much as 50%. But before you buy anything, check out the ingredients: no need for artificial stuff when you’re trying to get healthy. I’m a fan of Cold-Eeze lozenges and Boiron’s Coldcalm.
So, on the bright side, my oncoming cold lasted all of about18 hours. The down side: unintentionally wearing garlic perfume for a day. But, better that than a sore throat!
What do you do when you start feeling sick? Do you use food to help yourself feel better? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking community.