Even though the sun is shining and the warmth is seeping back into a little bit of the late July calendar, don't be misled that the foibles of the seasonal colds can still strike at this time of casual relaxing of the winter routine. It was interesting that this week I found a whole gaggle of volleyballers being layed down with a gastrointestinal bug that was relentless in its grip. Old adages of feed a cold and starve a flu start to be sprouted along with herbal tonics and home remedies involving onions and boiling water.
So in true spirit I thought I'd release my own Top 5 of cold survival to keep us all on target and all best equipped if we do actually find ourselves at it's mercy.
Top 5 List for Getting through a Cold
1. Avoid Iron – ditch the red meat. When we are fighting an infection, we are fighting a pathogen. This is the little influx of fighter pilots from a different host who are trying to invade your body and take over the ‘mother ship’. We need to make that as difficult as possible for them to opeate and one of the ways to do this is to block their energy source. Almost like taking out their fuel cells. Iron is a vital nutrient for an infection as it fuels its function. By reducing Iron we reduce the ability for an infection to have energy. A big source of iron is red meat. So when we are feeling poorly and lugged up in bed, reducing meat helps with starving iron from the infection. Not only this but when we ingest meat into our bodies it creates heat to enable proper digestion, which is not conducive to any feverish symptoms we may have. Also, digestion of flesh in general robs our system of hydration, again not an ideal scenario when you are trying to feed and create immune function and activation.
2. Rug Up – it’s a pretty obvious call and we all don’t want to sound like our grandma’s but its good advice which is often left wanting. Especially by us in a sub tropical climate. Whilst it is wonderfully glorious to indulge in sun filled winter days which we do get, the reality is that most of us don’t get out of the workplace until after the sun has set. This is where temperatures do drop and all of a sudden that sports jacket isn’t providing any warmth around the neck and preventing cold air from getting inside our torso. When staying warm, you need to keep your torso warm and the limbs will respond to the core temperature of the body. So high collars and vests are the fashion order of the day – think Elizabethan!
3. EAT WELL. It’s not time to be shy about ingesting the calories. It’s time to lay some weight on your body. Whilst extra body weight may not be desirable, it actually helps when fighting other pathogens or infections. The immune system can and does draw on extra energy which is stored in bodyfat! Ensuring you have some extra spare is a great way to ensure that you are ‘healthy’ throughout the winter weather. Fat is also a good insulation. Yes, the seals an whales of the oceans have it right. BLUBBER IS GOOD when you are trying to keep healthy for the long term. This is more a preventative way of looking at eating for winter as it helps to store up energy, rally the forces against infection and makes it harder for illness to take a hold of the system. A lean mean fighting machine is great but it is also prone to injury as it balances on that knife edge of performance ready leaness. Winter is not that time. It’s time to make like a bear and stock up for the cold winters hibernation.
4. Don’t exercise ill. When you are sick, trying to maintain your exercise regime is not only futile but quite possibly dangerous. When you are suffering from runny noses and sweats the body is letting you know that you are fighting something. It’s a signal to be quiet, sloth-like and slow. Stirring up the blood pressure and driving an infection ‘further around the body’ will only serve to elongate an infections cycle. The other consideration is when an infection ‘appears’ to be on the mend and retreats. You start to feel better and able to do activity again. But beware that infections can sometimes ‘retreat’ inside the body. When the body has been fighting on the surface, it goes deep, usually into the organs. Now when you exercise you can ask a lot of your organs and in particular your cardiovascular system, flushing it with fresh blood, waking it up making it work. This can stir a virus back up again as it waits for the body to be weakened through activity and then launches another attack. Going back to exercise (or work for that matter) too early after a period of illness can re-ignite the infection and give it renewed life. So even though you feel better – don’t go for a ‘small ride’ (cough-48kms–cough).
5. Don’t have Dairy. When you are fighting an infection one of the best lines of defence of the body is to create a thick sticky goo that prevents infections from being able to travel freely around the body. Thus, mucous is produced along certain parts of the body to trap pathogens and contain them so that the body can deal with them and eliminate them from the system. With dairy, it’s not so much that dairy produces mucous, but due to it’s ‘thickness’ and heaviness, it can irritate the linings of the digestive tract and thus create friction and irritability in the digestive tract. So having that soy latte may not be the best solution. Dammit. For those who suffer from a lactose intolerance this is a different case as the mucous production can be further stimulated from the milk proteins existing in dairy. This is not true for all people for certain parts of the population it is a consideration. So when mucous production is in full force, consuming dairy may not serve as the best option as you are adding fuel to the fire.
So hopefully this list doesn't need to be used as we edge towards the lovely spring weather with crisp indulgent days in the sunshine. Though if we do find ourselves on the lurgy side of the equation, these little tips may be able to help you back to a healthy state most effectively and with complete recovery.