As someone with a generally wonky immune system who's gotten sick every month for the last six months, I know a thing or two about being ill. Colds, bronchitis, head colds-- it feels like I've had them all. I'm on a new regimen that seems to be warding off any further illness (*knock on wood*) but, in the mean time, here's what I've learned works to get me back up and running.
Vitamins: These vitamins are all now part of my daily routine, but, if they're not part of yours, you should certainly consider popping them when you're under the weather.
*Vitamin C: The water-soluble Vitamin C and the antioxidants it contains assist in the maintenance of bones, muscle and blood vessels. Although studies on the effects of vitamin C once you're already sick have yielded conflicting results, it nevertheless contains antioxidants that your body needs to perform reparative functions. Can't hurt!
*Vitamin B-Complex: Vitamin-B Complex covers the rest of the known essential water-soluble vitamins. While I take this for its preventative properties (it's known to aid issues with anxiety and low energy/fatigue), it may also stimulate the immune system.
*Zinc Supplement: Zinc deficiency impairs immune function, so this is another great supplement to take as preventative care. In addition, zinc may reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms (which is why it's often found in over-the-counter treatments such as Cold Eeze).
*Echinacea: Echinacea increases the number of white blood cells and boosts the immune system. The jury is still out on whether or not it actually shortens the duration of colds, but, again, can't hurt!
*An immunity booster: "Immunity boosters" such as this spray are chock full of things your body needs when you're fighting a cold. I start taking this as soon as I feel something coming on and continue throughout my cold if I end up actually getting sick. Disclaimer: It tastes horrible, and I add it to orange juice to tone down the taste.
*Umcka ColdCare: My discovery of the homeopathic Umcka was quite the gamechanger, and I've recommended it to countless friends and family since it helped me recover from bronchitis in half the time my doctor estimated. I was drawn to Umcka because it contains South African Geranium, which has been used as a natural remedy for upper respiratory infections for hundreds of years. What's more, it tastes great! The cherry flavors tastes more like Dr. Brown's soda than medicine.
*Advil Cold & Sinus: When I've got a raging head cold, Advil Cold & Sinus (or the generic brand, pictured here) is the only medicine strong enough to clear the pressure and fog in my head. This super dose is kept behind the pharmacy counter (and you have to sign your name to promise you're not going to make meth with it), so be sure you head there to get the good stuff.
*Water: Of course, water is essential when you're sick. Chug away all day long to keep yourself hydrated and to flush the yucky stuff out of your system.
*Tea: Hot tea is especially great if you're dealing with a sore throat. Here are a few of my favorites when I'm feeling ill:
*Organic Throat Coat: The only tea I've found that makes my throat feel better for an extended time. Bonus: vitamin C from lemon and a boost from my favorite, echinacea.
*Yogi Cold Season: Another disclaimer: this, like the Immunity Booster, tastes pretty terrible--almost exactly the same, in fact, but I suppose that means it contains the same healthy things. A spoonful of honey will help with your throat AND the taste.
*Yogi Green Tea Triple Echinacea: Hands down, my favorite tea for when I'm sick. I've got boxes of this stockpiled in my cupboards. Antioxidants from the green tea + echinacea make for one healthy, tasty tea. With some sliced lemon and honey, you're well on your way to recovery.
*Drinks with ginger: Ginger is believed to have many healing properties and plays a big role in alternative cold remedies. Pictured here is the "Amazon Immunity" smoothie from Earth Bar, which contains pineapple (Vitamin C! Some doctors argue that pineapple juice may be even better for you than OJ when you're ill), goldenberries, lemon, banana, hemp milk and ginger. A friend recommended it to me, and it's been a must when I'm sick ever since.
*Turmeric Milk: This is an Ayurvedic remedy for colds and sore throats. A mug of this is warm, soothing and perfect for just before bedtime. The recipe I use can be found here.
*Soups with clear broth: When you're sick, regular rich foods can be overwhelming for your stomach. Soups with clear broth provide nutrients and calories you need but are easy to keep down. My go-to is matzoh ball soup (it's called "Jewish penicillin" for a reason!).
*Bland foods: Bland foods like toast, rice and bananas also provide nutrition without overwhelming your tummy. Some of my favorites are more Jewish deli foods: kasha varniskhes (bowtie pasta with buckwheat) and potato knishes.
*Sleep: When you're sick, STAY HOME! Seriously, everyone in your office or your classes hates your sneezing. Sleep as much as possible. I know this can be tough with hectic work and school schedules (says the girl who thought she could work through her cold, which turned into bronchitis and nearly pneumonia), but it's what your body needs. A great thing to do is close the blinds, plop down on the couch, turn on the TV and watch while you're able to and fall asleep as needed. A loving, attentive nurse and nap buddy like my dog Mona is also highly recommended. While she may not speed up the healing process, she certainly makes me feel a little better.
This cold & flu season has been particularly brutal, so be sure to take all of those annoying preventative steps that your doctor harangues you about. If you're already sick, however, I hope that these tips help to put you on the road to recovery and that my pain was your gain. Feel better soon!