Friday, 7 December 2012

The sniffles and beyond.

Buuurrrgghhh. I've been informed it's cold season. It seems like everyone around me is coughing or sneezing. I'm not impressed. I am one of those people who tries probably too hard not to come down with colds or flus at this time of year, which is, of course, damn near impossible. It's practically inevitable that at some point I am going to get a tickle in the throat triggering the dreaded...

duh duh duhhh... SNIFFLES. (It sounded far more menacing in my head...)

Come winter, I baton down the hatches and wait for armageddon.

When chronically ill, I guess hiding away from the world becomes second nature when you literally are feeling too unwell to leave the house but becoming gradually more active, naturally going outside and actually interacting with other people, well that's great... in SUMMER. In winter; not so much. Personally, I think we should bring back hibernation. Actually, was hibernation ever in? Well, if not we should start it. Honestly, squirrels have it good. They get to gather food and then they effectively "go to sleep" for the majority of the colder days. No squirrelly flu for them.

ok... tangent.

Anyway, I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself for avoiding anything so far. That was until last weekend. I had a lovely time at the Birmingham Christmas market with some close friends but the morning after returning home... let's just say it wasn't pretty.

The sniffles lost all their menace as they paled in comparision to my new nemasis. Unfortunately I have no idea what it was. Food poisioning came to mind but I didn't eat anything particularly suspect. So I'm going to go with virus.

Why on earth am I telling you this?

Good question, and back when we were talking about squirrels I almost forgot myself... but I'm telling you this because I thought it might be useful to talk about the types of foods/ drinks you might be able to eat in this sort of situation. I don't want to start eating rubbish just when my body is struggling and needs good quality nutrients more than ever. Having said this, I am also acutely aware (out of said recent experience) that during the period of time where your muscles have decided that strike is the only way forward, you're dreading getting up to pour a glass of water, let alone stand there cooking up a nutrient dense broth (if you can even stomach that!).

There is also, in my opinion, a big difference between feeding a cold and what to eat/ drink during a flu/ bad virus/ food posioning scenario or basically anything where food is attempting to abandon your body in unconventional and unpleasant ways (subtle enough??).

So I will split this into two catergories - but please remember, as with most things on this blog, this is purely my experience of what works/ has worked for me and you shouldn't take my advice over that of a physician or medical professional.

Here we go;

COLDS

When you have a stuffy head, your nose feels like it's going through fumigation and your muscles have become confused and decided to tense constantly just for the fun of it all, this is when I reach for nutrient dense foods. You want warming foods packed with nutirtious veg to get you through.

I stick with foods high in vitamin C, with orange veg such as roasted butternut squash (a firm favourite). I also drink a lot of lemon juice in hot water - though drinking this with a straw may be sensible as the acid from the lemon juice can be damaging to the enamel of your teeth when consumed regularly, so to keep your dentist happy, use a straw.

Lots of water - mostly in the form of hot water (again, with lemon), especially if my throat starts feeling scratchy.

Soups - mostly soups filled with green leafy vegtables such as the nutritionally dense kale, spinach, chard - my mum is the Queen of green soups and with the right sesasonings (eg using enough good quality sea salt) you can make some wonderfully tasty and healthy green soups.

Garlic; in my opinion, the King of cold foods due to its anti-microbial activity, garlic seems to be a powerful aid in combatting evil winter pathogens (or for that matter pathogens at any other time). Garlic adds so much flavour, an especially good component for soups and stews.

Spices such as ginger, chili powder, cinnamon, turmeric... Also brilliant in, yes, you guessed it, soups, stews or even drinks. I occasionally adda pinch of ginger to my hot drinks.

*I love garlic and other herbs and spices however I am not able to eat very much of these, as for me this produces a potent Herx reaction. Overall, this is a good thing and means that there is a bacterial die-off occuring in the body but as I am chronically unwell, this means that whether I have a cold or not, any extra effects of bacteria being killed produce powerful effects for me and embody the essence of the phrase; "feeling worse before you feel better" - I will discuss the Herx in another blog post soon.

WHAT'S OFF-LIMITS?

Sugar. I don't want to give fuel to any roaming pathogens or dampen my immune system when I need it firing on all cylinders so sugar is off the cards. (Not that I eat sugar normally anyway but the few bits eg dark chocolate and misc. that I would have eaten normally are out).

As usual, grains are off the table. There are more important foods to look to and I can't be doing with the extra inflammation and tummy troubles.

Dairy. One word; Mucus. Second word; Bleurgh.

FLU/ VIRUS etc...

When you feel like the world is trying to escape from inside you, you probably won't feel like eating so that's pretty easy. Staying hydrated is incredibly important so when I am able to I take tiny sips of water. With my recent experience I didn't eat anything for the first day. Just water when I could. This wasn't forced, I just wasn't hungry. The body needs time to heal too and it can't do this if it's contantly digesting food. So it's usually a case of fluids, followed by very easily digestible foods.
 
Then there usually comes a point with me when I need to settle my stomach. Water just doesn't do the trick and eating? That is most definitely still off the cards. So what's a girl to do? Years ago, ribena and lemonade would have been my go tos. The next best thing I can think of is some kind of carbonated apple juice, so please give a hand to appletiser! *silence for applause*
Unfortunately I didn't forsee getting ill and wasn't able to buy appletiser beforehand but we happened to have some diet lemonade leftover from a previous bug. So that had to do until I managed to get my hands on some appletiser.
If it's too sugary for you, no problem, just dilute to your taste with water. Sometimes I find that it's just the added flavour that can help ease the stomach a little.

After the purely liquid phase you would normally search for a dry, bland food - one thing grains are very good at providing. Instead I looked to ready salted, plain, potato crisps. On occasion I have some veg crisps lying around but they have a little too much flavour for this purpose so normal crisps it is. It helps get a bit of salt on board (I get sea salt crisps for this purpose because I'm a little in love with sea salt and has a much better nutrient profile) and the potato provides a dry, bland, starchy component without all the negatives of grain based products.

Again, when starting to eat again, remember small bites and chew really well before thinking you can eat normally again.

Watery soups are next. Stocks such as chicken stocks may work for you but for some reason my stomach wanted something with as little flavour as possible and chicken stock would have been a step too far but it's a nutritous option if you can handle it. Now when I say watery soups I mean watery soups. In a small saucepan in went water, two small new potatoes, one stem of broccoli (not one head, one stem) and one carrot, blended with sea salt and a little white pepper. That's it. Remember, this isn't gourmet cooking. It's just enough to heal.

I eat as much as I need to, based on how hungry I am. Making sure that I drink enough water or other liquids to stay hydrated as this is important if you're losing a lot of fluids.

It may be basic and it may be boring but it's not exactly a riot being ill, there's no need to rush your body, you'll have plenty of time to eat the more decadent, enjoyable foods when you're able to cope with them again. Just eat as cleanly as you're able and if that means, for example, reaching for a little lemonade to get you through because it's all you have at that moment then it's better to stay hydrated than to go without.

I'm glad to be feeling a lot better now and am getting back to eating normally, my stomach will let me know when it's ready for a big meal.

I hope some of that was useful and just as a side note, if anyone does want to start a hibernation trend, I'll be happy as a squirrel in winter :)

P.S. It isn't a squirrel but it has David Attenborough and it's pretty cool :D Plus it may help with the hibernation campaign. Here's hoping.