I am blessed with a strong constitution and thankfully I live in a part of the world where sickness most often means a cold or flu. However I do have weak sinuses, and as a result I end up every so often with a stuffed up nose and a horrible frog in my throat. In honour of all those suffering the various symptoms of the all-too-common cold, I offer a few interesting tidbits for you in this week's column (in between bouts of blowing my nose).
"Feed a cold, starve a fever" - did your Mom or Gramma ever utter that expression? It is said to come from a time when they thought that the temperature in your body should be balanced - eating would warm you up if you had a cold, and fasting would cool you down if you had a fever. There is some modern research that says this theory actually matches the reactions in your body that are needed to heal. Colds are often viral and your system requires food to fight that kind of infection; the flu is usually bacterial and is best fought when your body is fasting.
Chicken soup is said to be the best thing to have when you're all stuffed up. The nutrients are good for you, the broth keeps you hydrated and the warm vapours from the broth may even help clear your sinuses. Not to mention that it will work as an anti-inflammatory which helps relieve congestion. Add in the "feel-good" element that is included if it's homemade by a friend or Mom, and you are as close to a cure as you can get :)
If your soup came from a Campbell's can and you feel you might need a bit more of a boost, you can try some of the anti-oxidant super foods and other ingredients that boost your immune system and help your system fight back to health. Most research says these are best used at the first sign of a cold but many can be continued afterwards if you feel they help:
- Vitamin C - those fizzy pills were what Mom gave me as a kid - the fun of the fizz helped me feel better. Citrus juices work well too.
- Fruit juice - helps keep you hydrated and has vitamins and nutrients - look especially for anthocyanins (in grape and elderberry juices) and vitamin C.
- Garlic - here's your excuse to have all those recipes you often avoid! Remember it's at its most potent when it's raw.
- Apple cider vinegar - a tablespoon in a glass of water will help to make your body more alkaline which improves your ability to fight infection.
- Tea - hot broths ease a sore throat and hydrate you and the type of tea can add more relief as well: ginger relieves congestion and sinus troubles, cinnamon and honey ease coughing and congestion, and chamomile eases nerves and can help reduce inflammation.
- A cuddly animal - it might be a dog, or even a cat. If you can't have a live animal where you live, consider getting a plush toy to cuddle; it really does help!
Of course, one of the biggest things to remember is that if you're sick, you should adjust your schedule and try to get better. Get more sleep, drink lots of fluids, wash your hands often... take a day off work if you can, because you'll get better faster and you're less likely to pass an infection to others. Mom was the one who always told us we should be careful - "bundle up", "eat your fruits and vegetables"... when we get sick often it's because we were running at mach speed and we pay for it. That's when I use some of my Dad's advice to try and get better: "Slow down, it goes faster".
Oh, and if you need a quick and easy but hearty chicken soup recipe, I've added one on my Happy Gourmand blog recipe archives.