Have you recently found yourself in bed for hours, surrounded by used tissues and realized-- wow I'm sick of being sick! It's never too soon to plan to get better. Once the haze of illness passes and you're convalescing, the first thought is always, "When will I feel back to my old self?" We need to make sure to take it easy for a little bit before doing everything at normal life speed again, but there are some things you can do to recover more quickly than the lady who coughs on you in line at Trader Joe's.
According to the CDC, 5-20% of Americans get the flu every year and even higher numbers get symptoms of the common cold, which means there's quite a bit of of interest in how to recover more quickly.
Here are three things besides a flu shot (most important for the young and immunocompromised folks) you can do today to get your energy back faster and be on your feet in no time.
1. Avoid dairy and sugar. Dairy and sugar are two "mucus-forming" foods which also slow your immune system's response -- which you need in tip top condition to stop new invaders and clear up the dead ones that need to be taken out. No milk, dairy, cheese or products made of these things. Nothing containing white sugar or cane juice and it can't hurt to limit your consumption of honey, maple syrup, etc. Plus, while you're getting better you probably won't want food that is terribly sweet or rich anyway, so this is probably not too hard to do.
2. Stretch your body. So, you've been basically glued to the mattress or the couch while you've been sick, right? Well, your body notices and the lack of physical activity can make you feel more tired than you should while recovering. Take some time to stretch your arms and your legs, your neck and shoulders. Do some gentle yoga if you can to get your body warmed up and your joints moving again. Gentle stretching can also help to wake up your brain and makes things like going out to the store or walking the dog seem much more appealing. You can even take it really easy and do the stretching in bed.
3. Water, water, water. Drinking fluids-- mostly water-- is essential for recovering from everything from a hangover, headache and yes the cold and flu. Your body is mostly water so if you skimp on this one ingredient, you will not recover as quickly. Drink filtered (but not bottled) water that is preferably room temperature. Some sources say that water that is too cold can be upsetting to the body, stunning it into flight or fight mode and it also takes energy to warm it up to body temperature. Also, I'm sure you've heard the controversy over bottled water, but it really is a complete waste of resources (yours and the Earth's), plus the plasticizers in the bottles leech into the water which is pretty counter-productive if you drink bottled to cut down on the chemicals that may be in tap water.
Remember: Don't over-do it. This can mean many different things depending on your lifestyle but I'm guessing you know what it is for you. The first two to three days you feel better continue to take care of yourself as you have while sick. Try to lay low, eat light and focus on feeling better. Your energy can come back quickly, but don't take as a green light for all the social functions on your calendar just yet.
I hope you feel better soon! Have you been sick recently? Leave me a comment and let me know how you're doing!
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Dr. Katie is a next-generation natural medicine doctor and proud dog mom living in the mountain west.