For the past few weeks, the urgent care clinics I work in have added a third provider to their usual two provider shift. Most of the patients I or the 3rd provider would see came in for the common cold, flu or stomach virus. These are illnesses that can actually be treated at home, rather than dragging yourself to the clinic, waiting for hours and possibly being exposed to other sickness while you’re there. We’ve forgotten how to take care of ourselves and our health that we depend on a well-trained stranger to tell us to rest and drink lots of fluids. So since this whole Shiny Healthy People website and movement is to put the power and resources back in the hands of patients, I wanted to write a piece that did just that. Here is my usual solution to the sick season.
Bonus: If you do these things regularly or right when you feel the sickies creeping up, you can prevent getting sick too!
1) Drink lots of fluids
Many of my patients believe that certain electrolyte drinks are necessary for treating illnesses and turns out they can actually do more harm than good. Those brightly colored drinks have corn syrup or sugar added to them and sugar decreases the ability of your immune system to operate optimally. If you have a cold or the flu, drinking filtered water is best as long as you’re still eating. If you’re not eating or you have a stomach bug, then add some sea salt or fruit to make it pass through your stomach lining easier and not cause irritation. Fill up a big jug or glass bottle with filtered water room temp, add some fruit or herbs, a pinch of sea salt and keep it next to your bed, and drink plenty of it. You can also warm up some water and squeeze some lemon and honey and sip that all day. Here is a really easy recipe I give out often:
-1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
-1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
-1 ½ to 2 cups of fresh water
-1/8 teaspoon of sea salt
-3 cups of coconut water
-1 cup of strawberries
-1 cup of fresh water
-1/8 teaspoon of sea salt
This is kind of a no-brainer, but I’m constantly shocked at the amount of patients who request a quick-fix and a rapid return to work. When you get sick, you’re body is talking to you, listen to it! Rest is so important when you’re worn down and your immune system is begging for it so it. Get plenty of sleep at night and when you’re sick, take naps and really just relax and be present. There have been numerous evidence-based studies on sleep and the immune system and they all have the same results: sleep rules for a robust immunity and also helps you increase your resistance to infection.
3) Boost With Supplements, Herbs and Oils
Earlier this year, I attended a conference with a big wig doctor who used to work with the Oakland Raiders. He recommends 3,000 mg of Ester-C at the first sign of infection for two days, then 2,000 mg for two more days. If you have any history of kidney stones, don’t take the high dose. Ester-C better tolerated, because it is not an acid and is more bioavailable (more gets into your system). So that’s usually the first thing I have people do as it shortens their illness or stops it dead in it’s track all together, especially if you do all these other tricks in combination.
Peppermint oil for stomach bugs, just mix with some coconut or olive oil and rub on your belly. You can also make a tea with it if you have the leaves.
Chamomile is good for all viruses, especially stomach ones. It can help with inflammation and reduce fever as well.
Garlic, 2 cloves crushed up and put in water, drink quickly.
Echinacea in form of a tea or a tablet.
Clove or clove tea as written about here.
Probiotics, which you should be taking regularly unless contraindicated or causing you issues
4) Nix White Foods and Increase The Rainbow
This means taking out breads, pastas, grains, sugar, milk, and dairy products, because they suppress the immune system and slow healing. Your body has an amazing way of healing itself if you just give it the right tools and this sometimes includes eating less while you’re sick. The body has to utilize energy to digest foods, so it’s better if you focus on keeping hydrated and eating high nutrient, immune boosting foods in small amounts. If you have a slow-cooker, just put all the colors of the vegetable rainbow in the pot, add some water or vegetable broth, some chicken if you like, salt, pepper, ginger, garlic and onion and 5-6 hours later, you have a delicious remedy!
5) Breathe and De-Stress
If you can’t breathe, this allows for another suggestion I make often, which is a neti-pot. This is an amazing invention that helps clear out your sinuses like magic. It’s not comfortable, but it works. I recommend a net-pot if you have a cold, sinus pressure, lots of mucus, productive cough. The less mucus you allow to just sit there, the faster you’ll get better. Also, steamy showers and baths are good while you’re sick. If breathing isn’t a problem, then I want you to try to practice some relaxing breathing exercises that allows you to de-stress and focus on the present. Many of my patients freak out when they get sick because it takes them away from work, which they say they can’t afford to do. The fact that they’re sick is usually because they’re overworked, which suppresses your immune system. Mind over medicine is a real thing and if you’re focusing on deadlines and getting back to work faster, which isn’t possible, most viruses have to run their course, then your mind can’t focus on healing. Thoughts become reality, make them healthy ones and you’ll be healthier.
Hope you’re already feeling better just by reading this. 🙂 Usually if you’re otherwise a healthy human being, you’ll start to feeling better with these suggestions in 2-4 days, but the lingering symptoms can last up to two weeks. If you feel like you’re not getting better after 2-4 days or start feeling worse or have fever after feeling better, then perhaps it’s time to visit your medical provider.
Image courtesy of MisterGC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net