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Top Tips for Managing a Routine Virus or Cold

Posted Feb 11 2012 4:04pm


Thank you all for the kind, kind comments yesterday! I was nursing a mild fever for most of the night, but Valerie sweetly came all the way out to the outskirts of Georgetown (after a long day of work no less) to sip some licorice tea with me, keep me company, and watch me eat rice cakes. After a little bit of Orgo review (we have an exam Monday), I made it to bed early, and woke up feeling much, much better.

Today, I’ll be taking it easy as I study for my test, and I’ll be trying to dive back into some normal food. For the last 24 hours, the only things I could really stomach were this:


and this:


With a little coconut oil/butter, or a little bit of this:


I haven’t had an appetite for my beloved bananas (maybe it’s because one of them came up the wrong way yesterday), but I did feel fine after eating half of one of these this morning, along with my toast:


Later today, I hope to have one or two of these for a little freshness and sweetness:


And hopefully, by tonight, I’ll be able to have a slightly heartier dinner of whole grains, yam, and maybe even some vegetables. But we’ll see. When I don’t feel well, I try really hard to listen to my body, and obey instinct. I hate going a day or two with no greens, but if the very thought of them is turning my stomach, that’s a very good reason not to eat them. On that note—the importance of intuition—I thought I’d share some of my top tips for managing a routine virus or cold.

1) Don’t force yourself to eat anything that feels plain wrong. Yes, we all love to talk about how important it is to eat many cups of vegetables every day, but all bets are off when you’re sick. If you’ve been felled with a fever or stomach bug that is simply making you cringe at the thought of green vegetables, then heed that feeling, and don’t eat them. The illness will be very short, and life is very long: you have plenty of time to eat your greens, but now is not the time.

2) Traditional wisdom isn’t always right for you. Soup: it’s one of the main suggestions for feeding a cold. Personally, there’s nothing I find more off-putting when I’m under the weather than the idea of a piping hot bowl of liquid (tea is a different story). Instead, I obey my cravings, which are usually for things that are dry and bland and starchy (bread, crackers, etc.). If I can manage a green soup once I’m a little better, that’s great, but I won’t force it until I’m ready.

Of course, if soup is what you crave when you’re sick, go for it: my point is simply that there’s no need to eat what’s typically “prescribed” for healing if you know for a fact that your body says otherwise.

3) Do stay hydrated. It’s really hard to drink enough liquid when you’re not feeling well—especially if you’re queasy. But it’s really important. I find it a lot easier to stay hydrated if I drink through a straw, so the first thing I do when I’m sick is to grab one of my glass dharma straws and keep it in a cool glass of water by my side, sipping as often as I can. I also rely heavily on coconut water, especially if my stomach has been upset, to replenish electrolytes, sodium, and simple sugars.


My fave OTC coconut water brand – image source

4) Squeeze in a little zinc. Many vitamins and minerals are celebrated for boosting immunity, but zinc is one of the more proven supporters of the body’s own capacity to manage and fight disease. People have traditionally relied upon sirloin, beef, oysters, and eggs for zinc, but vegans are not at a disadvantage when it comes to getting this nutrient: good sources include black eyed peas, cashews, oats, lentils, tofu, wheat germ, and green leafy vegetables. Pick whatever source suits you during your illness, and try to squeeze a little in: I find it easy to nibble on cashews or eat simple oats when I’m not feeling well.

5) Take a probiotic. Healthy bacteria will help you to ward off whatever unhealthy virus or bacteria is making you feel poorly. And if you’ve had a stomach ailment, there’s a good chance that you’ve had irregular elimination or digestive upset, so these bacterial strains will help to set you straight. There are many vegan probiotics in varying price ranges: do a google search and make sure to check the label carefully for dairy, shellfish, gelatin, or eggs. I know that some of the Jarrow varieties, as well as at least one Garden of Life probiotic, are vegan friendly.

6) Do not be a martyr when it comes to OTC meds. I’m no different from any health/wellness enthusiast in that I try not to take drugs when I don’t need them; instead, I look to proper hydration/nutrition/natural remedies to help me heal. With that said, I understand that certain drugs exist for important reasons, and that we’re lucky to have them. I may not pop a Tylenol every time I have a mild headache, but I will not refuse an antibiotic for bronchitis, pinkeye, or a galloping ear infection. I won’t endure days of raging fever all to avoid taking an ibuprofen. If you know that a simple, well established OTC drug is likely to help ameliorate your symptoms, don’t feel that you need to suffer for the sake of being “natural.” Instead, think about what’s necessary to you in terms of allopathic medicinal support, and what’s not; have a sense of the situations in which you do want the aid of an OTC pill, and those in which you don’t. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

7) Try to drink some tea with lemon and ginger. Both of these foods have anti-bacterial properties. On top of that, the drink will help you stay hydrated and the ginger will soothe your stomach. For an extra kick, try adding some cinnamon, which also has antibacterial properties and compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation.

8   ) Don’t panic because your eating habits have changed. Illness, lack of appetite, and reduced consumption can be very triggering for people with ED histories. Not only is it triggering to eat less and lose a few pounds while you’re ill, but illness itself may evoke a deeper part of your ED story: many people’s EDs began when an illness compelled them to unintentionally lose weight, and then they couldn’t stop. If your recovery is very recent, you may feel that you have to keep eating “proper” amounts of food in spite of how sick you feel, or you may feel panicked by the reduced appetite.

Don’t worry. This illness is not the norm; it is the exception. As soon as you’ve been restored back to your normal self, you can continue to eat plentifully and in keeping with your healthy, recovered habits. And if you have lost a pound or two, you can rest assured that proper diet will help you to restore the weight as soon as you’re well. But right now, don’t add ED guilt and worry to your already anxious period of feeling sick; simply eat what you can, when you can, and remember that any routine bug is sure to go away soon.

Hope these tips are useful! What are your favorite tips for managing a little sick spell?

And now, speaking of wellness, I feel energized for some more flashcards. Can’t wait to report to you with some real food tomorrow and Monday!


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