I spent the whole weekend wallowing in my misery. I had a cold. While, for others, I always think this is a poor excuse for staying in, I hypocritically let this one take over my life. Picture lots of nasally complaining, garbage pails full of used tissues and general unhappiness for the whole family — I basically channeled my inner man for two days. It has pretty much worked its ugly way out, but I am left with the memory of how intrusive and disabling even a minor cold can be, especially when you are in a whining kind of a mood. It didn’t help that, in retrospect, I did everything wrong. This occurred to me while I was slumped over a bowl of matzo ball soup, wondering how much of my headache was actually from the red wine I used as a sleeping aid. My 6 year old asked me if I was eating the soup because it was healthy. I took the opportunity to teach her about nutrition labels and in doing so, realized matzo ball soup, no matter what your Jewish grandmother says, is probably the worst thing for a cold. One small cup has 1290mg of sodium! That is more than half your daily requirement. Swelling and dehydration anyone?
So, if you have a cold, or feel one coming on, how should you adjust your diet? As there is no cure for the all too common cold, the key is to support your immune system, so it can take care of business.
1. Increase fluids – It is always a good idea to drink 8 glasses of water a day – for your skin if nothing else. But, increasing your fluid intake will also give your immune system a vital boost.
2. Increase fruits and vegetables – Packed with vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables will further boost your immune system. The jury is still out on vit C, zinc and their ability to fight off a cold. Anecdotally though, they do seem to have some effect on the longevity of your symptoms. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are easy to digest, giving your body one less distraction from the task of fighting the virus. It is now thought that the health benefits of Grandma’s chicken soup, actually come from all the chopped up veggies. Mushrooms especially are thought to be immune boosters.
3. Decrease salt and caffeine – Think of sodium as an antagonist to fluid. The more salt in your body, the less water. Caffeinated drinks act as diuretics, further dehydrating and depleting the body’s fluid content.
4. Decrease sugar – Do the kids in your neighborhood Ghost? Where I live, this practice is alive and well. It is basically a PC, Disneyfied version of Ring and Run. You still Ding and Ditch, but you leave a bag of candy at the door with a note reading, “You’ve been ghosted!” My kids love this game, but being strange children, they leave most of the loot to me. This would probably explain the recent cold. I have been gorging on treats and it isn’t even October 31st yet. Sugar is known to decrease the immune response. I was thinking of starting a grown-up version of the game, called “Ghost from the Vineyard”, but then I remembered #5.
5. Decrease alcohol – In addition to its dehydrating properties, it increases stress on the liver. The liver has the difficult job of detoxifying that which ails you. Of course, when what ails you is sobriety, you will need to prioritize.
Spicy foods, warm beverages, garlic and grapefruit are also all said to ease the symptoms of the dreaded cold and potentially shorten its duration. In addition to making you feel better, it can be important to manage cold symptoms to ward off the more serious sequelae to which some are more susceptible — like bronchitis, ear infections and sinus infections. Thank goodness I am mucous free because if last weekend is any indication, my family would have to move out if I got really sick!