The Truth About Illness: 6 Things to do When You Can't do Much

Image: Nomao Saeki Last week I was taken out by the worst flu I've had in YEARS. For five days I literally couldn't stomach any food or get out of bed.

Those of you who know me personally know that this kind of respite is totally out of character. I tend to get sick about once a year, but generally it's some sniffles, at most a day in bed watching Netflix.

This was not that. I was totally out of commission.

And while I was lying in bed, I came to a few realizations about the best way to deal with being (really, really) sick.

1. When you can't beat it, join it

Even health nuts who eat raw-vegan, exercise daily and get plenty of sleep get sick. It's unavoidable! One of the best things you can do when that bug takes you down is stop, drop, and rest.

Trying to "push through" and keep going won't work: you'll likely end up sicker, for longer.


2. Have faith in your immune system

Much like our body's innate ability to detoxify itself, our immune system has everything it needs to fight off viruses with unpleasant symptoms.

Trust your immune system, and let it do its job. This means stopping, resting, and giving your body a break.

Trying to work through it will divert essential energy from your immune system, short-circuiting its ability to clean that virus out.


3. That being said, show your immune system a little love

Even though your immune system is a superstar, it needs a little boost while fighting off nasty viruses.

Chances are if you're really sick you won't be downing things like green smoothies, or exercising, or doing any of the other things immune-boosting things we do when we're not ill.

However, things like ginger tea with lemon, vitamin C and Zinc are immune boosters that can help relieve symptoms, and are also easy to stomach when you can't stomach much else.


4. Modify the classic "cold & flu" diet

Growing up you were probably told to eat chicken noodle soup and drink lots of OJ when you got sick.

These are actually great guidelines, with a few caveats.

When your immune system is taxed, you want to avoid anything that will tax it further (sugar! caffeine!) and anything that's going to cause further inflammation in the body (wheat gluten! sugar!).

Orange juice is wonderful because it's loaded with vitamin C, but be sure to pick up an organic, all-natural variety without added sugar.

Similarly, a little chicken bone broth is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, but skip the (heavily processed) noodles. Homemade is always best when it comes to broth, but there are some great varieties in supermarkets these days - have your caretaker read those ingredients!


5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

If you have a runny nose, or are experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, it may be pretty obvious why you need to stay hydrated when you're sick.

But other symptoms of colds & flus cause dehydration, too: if you have a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit, your metabolic rate rises about 10%. The primary ingredients in metabolic reactions are oxygen and water - hence the ensuing dehydration.

Stay hydrated with things like natural juices, coconut water, plain water, and perhaps some lemon or cucumber water. If dehydration is becoming a problem you can also have your caretaker pick up electrolyte packs from the drug store.

Avoid sugary juices, sports drinks and especially sodas - the sugar and caffeine combo will do a number on your immune system.


6. Relax

Unless you're getting sick once a month, the occasional cold and flu might just be your body's way of slowing you down for some R&R. Ideally we'd know how to do that without getting sick, but in today's world things move a mile a minute, and it can be hard to unplug.

If you do come down with a bug this cold & flu season, try and go with it. Put on your comfiest pyjamas, curl up with a good book or a movie, and let yourself be taken care of.

It's okay to pause, once in a while - especially when you're body's demanding it.