After all the partying this past weekend, Cecilia came down with a cold that kept her out of school the past two days. She was back at it today, but I started feeling crappy yesterday afternoon.
Michelle and I have very different reactions to feeling a cold coming on. She will try to bull her way through it. I basically go the opposite way. At the mere tickling of symptoms, an errant sneeze, I throw all the switches and do my best to head off any cold before it can get started.
With my Addisons’s it’s a little more critical than the average joe to try to avoid sickness. A mild cold isn’t going to do me in, but I do need to take extra meds during any sickness. A strong infection, like the flu, has the potential to dehydrate me and land me in the hospital. I don’t mess around with sickness, but with 2 kids in school and day care it’s inevitable that I catch something at some point each year.
Here are my 5 (mostly common sense) steps to fighting a cold so I can get back to running.
It’s not just about sleep. If you are sick, the best thing to do is sleep. As much as possible. I try to aim for an additional 1 or 2 hours on top of what I normally get at night. I also try to nap.
But beyond extra sleep, it’s about rest. Just trying to take it very easy so all of your body’s energy and attention goes toward fighting off whatever is ailing you.
So, of course, the next tip is completely opposite of rest. Depending on the type of cold and where you are in the life cycle, you might be able to help your body fight it off by working out.
You shouldn’t push yourself to workout and it should not be up to your normal intensity, but if you have enough energy, increasing your body temperature with exercise will help to kill many viruses.
This is a fine line. If you have any doubts, don’t push it. Exercise can also stress your immune system and prolong your illness.
3. Try some zinc
There is not a lot of consistent research on how much both OTC and herbal remedies work to reduce cold symptoms, but a recent study found zinc lozenges helps at least reduce the duration of the common cold
The researchers found that the average length of a cold was seven days, but when participants took the zinc acetate lozenges with a dose greater than 75 mg per day, the cold symptoms only lasted about four days. but otherwise just keep eating well. Food be thy medicine.
While I mostly try to eschew the common medications if I can with a cold, due to the side effects, I believe the basics still work.
Along with rest, I think staying hydrated is the biggest aid. I lay about and drink liquids like a fiend when I have any sort of cold symptom.
While I drink a lot of water in a typical day when I’m not sick, I try to supplement that with even more liquids when I feel a cold coming on. I aim for at least 4 cups of herbal tea and a green smoothie to get me on the road to recovery.
In general I don’t change my eating habits much. I just try to eat clean and healthy, maybe up the antioxidant in take a bit with more fruits, but generally just make sure my body has the whole foods and nutrients it needs to fight off those pesky germs.
Here is my current favorite cold-fighting smoothie reicpe:
Cold and Flu Green Smoothie Recipe
- 1 banana
- 1/2 cup mango
- 1/2 cup pineapple
- 1/2 small lemon, peeled
- 1 knuckle-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 -3 handfuls of spinach or kale
- 6 ounces of coconut water if needed
Finally, watching your stress levels can definitely have an impact on how well and how quickly your body can respond to and fight off an illness. A 10-20 minute meditation session can help keep your adrenals charged up and ready. A recent study confirmed the effectiveness of mindfulness in helping keep the body healthy. Is there anything that mindfulness can’t do at this point!
Lab tests confirmed that the self-reported length of colds correlated with the level of antibodies in the body, which is a biomarker for the presence of a virus.
If you have trouble fitting in or sticking to a mindfulness practice, I found the Headspace app to be really effective for me in forming the meditation habit.
I think the basics are the best medicine. If you feel a cold coming on, ratchet back or stop the exercise, get as much rest as you can and stay hydrated.
You will get better. Be patient. Missing a few days of training is not going to derail your training plan. If you need science, studies have shown only a 3-4% loss of fitness over 10 days. So take it easy and get better. Trying to train through a cold might prolong it or lead to a more serious injury.