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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lifestyle: Making it Through Flu Season, Sanity Intact.

It's been more than suggested that stress and anxiety can take heavy tolls on health. Not only do they carry with them their own ever-growing lists of related disorders and diseases, but they also lower immunity, making those who suffer from them more susceptible to everything from the common cold to much more serious infections. Anyone with undue stress and anxiety is already far too tightly wound to throw another problem into the mix, therefore a severe cold or a bout with the flu can cause life to because very overwhelming very quickly.

This topic stands near and dear to my heart today, as I had a touch of a sore throat and a few sneezes Saturday afternoon, and by that evening was so sick I could barely move. I spent Sunday and Monday sleeping, sneezing, coughing, and generally feeling like death, and it is only today (after sleeping another eleven hours and taking copious vitamins) that I can think somewhat straight...at least straight enough to type up a blog. Needless to say, I got hit pretty hard, which I suppose is my penance for avoiding H1N1 and any of the other nasty strains of flu that were floating around last season.

Interestingly enough, no one else in my household has felt a touch of the symptoms...lucky ducks. Nevertheless, I come from a family that always used a blend of the homeopathic with the more traditional medications, and it is my opinion that my swift offensive kept me from making a visit to a doctor that I can't afford. So, how does one avoid the flu? And if you do come down with it, how do you fight it? When should you go to the doctor, and when can you safely stay home? I'm not a doctor, but I can offer my opinions...and tell you what worked for me.

Avoiding the flu is best, of course. No one wants to be ill, and contracting it can cause you to miss work and other important functions. This bout with it cost me a day's wages and a blog update on Monday...I was lucky I didn't lose more! We all know the basics...wash your hands, avoid exposure if possible, etc. But what else is there to be done?

First of all, relax. Stress and anxiety will lower your ability to resist bacterias and viruses, so do what you need to do to remain calm. Make sure that you are keeping up your exercise routine to strengthen your body and relax your mind, and above all, make sure you are getting your eight hours of sleep per night. Taking these steps allows your body to keep it's strength while keeping your mind as stress-free as possible in our busy world.

Next, you should build your body up with vitamins and nutrients. Eat well, ensure that your meals are balanced and contain vegetables and fruits. Take your multivitamin each day and stay on top of eating your whole grains. Giving your body the tools that it needs to maintain itself is paramount.

Spend time outdoors! Enjoy the gorgeous fall weather and get your vitamin D while you are at it! You can overdose on Vitamin D if you are taking it in pill form, but the good, natural sort that your body makes when sunlight hits your skin is naturally regulated. Just fifteen minutes in the sun is all it takes. Vitamin D will help boost your immunity and health, and you'll feel better for it.

If you've already gotten the flu, the steps are somewhat similar. Rest is still the most important. Sleep as much as you possibly can, and if you can't sleep, at least doze in bed with your eyes closed. Listen to soothing music or a book on tape if you can't stand sleeping any longer, but make absolutely sure that you rest. Sleep is our body's natural way of repair and healing. It's very difficult to get well without sleep, and if you've got the flu, chances are you wont be good for much else. Remember, if you push yourself to get more work done, you'll be much less productive. Sleep can shave days off your recovery time, and it will promote your strength and well being. Sleep!!

As far as vitamins, I've fallen a bit in love with Emergen-C, a powder that dissolves in water and provides a strong dose of echinacea, Vitamin C, and other immunity-builders. When I'm ill, I drink it as often as once per hour. Ester-C is another high absorbency vitamin, and one I highly recommend. If you can't get any sunlight, take a vitamin D supplement, but be sure to pay close attention to the dose recommendation. Don't go too overboard with vitamins! Make sure not to take more than the bottle instructs.

Stay on top of your symptoms. I usually take DayQuil and theraflu in the daytime and NyQuil at night, but everyone has different over the counter remedies that work best for them. The most important thing is to keep your symptoms from getting too out of control!

As far as eating, chicken soup has been shown to improve immunities, and homemade is best! If you haven't got anyone to make it for you, canned  chicken soup will work fine. If you have a sore throat, juice one lemon and add two T of honey and enough boiling water to fill a coffee mug. Drink it down (when it's cool enough!). Don't force yourself to eat when you don't want to and make sure you pay attention to your cravings. I was craving bread a lot...probably because of all the acid from the lemons!

Most importantly...if your symptoms do not improve at all after 24 hours, see a doctor. I took a little over 48 hours to feel "better", but after the first 24 hours I could tell I wasn't getting worse, so I chose to tough it out. Medicines like Tamiflu only work within the first 48 hours, so make sure that you keep that in mind!

In honor of my battle royale with the flu this week, I think the rest of the week should be all about comfort. If you missed it, yesterday we had a recipe for whole grain cornbread...tomorrow will be baked beans. And I'm planning something special for Friday. Stay healthy!

-The Calm Cook

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