Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fighting off colds

My household is trying very hard not to succumb to colds right now. I did sort of give in on Monday and took the day off from work. Not so much because I was feeling truly awful, but I was exhausted (more than even a super busy weekend would account for) and my throat was a bit sore. But by Tuesday I was feeling better so it was back to work.
On Wednesday, however, when I got home Shane was still in bed. Not sleeping, just lying there watching a tv show on his newly returned laptop. He said he hadn't gotten out of bed all day except to go to the bathroom. This might not seem worrisome in some people, but Shane is rarely sick. When he is sick, he's almost never this ill. When I got the flu on our honeymoon and had about two full weeks of feeling miserable, he had about two days of not feeling so great. Since he's a grumpy jerk when he's really ill, I appreciate his active immune system. :) Since I was home, he did get out of bed, but only to go sit in the dining room while I figured out what to make for dinner.
Toward the end of the evening last night, my throat was starting to feel sore again. I absolutely cannot be sick right now, with too much going on both at work and with musical stuff. (My boss is out of the office for two days, so I have to be there to open. Then, I have two extra Symphony rehearsals, a "Music Man" rehearsal on Sunday, which I need to leave halfway through to go straight to the Symphony concert. It's going to be packed, crazy, and I cannot even describe how hard it is to play well when you're ill.)
So what am I doing to ward off a cold? Lots of things. First, I exercised last night. This sounds counter-intuitive, and it would have been so easy to skip because "I'm not feeling well", but studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have better immune systems and recover faster when they do get sick. The key is to exercise moderately, because a strenuous workout can actually decrease your immune system and put more stress on your body. (Don't go run a marathon when you're sick.) So while I didn't push myself to exhaustion, I definitely did get in a good workout, enough to break a sweat.
The secondary effect of the workout is that I ended up drinking a lot of water. I tend to drink more in the morning, and my water consumption tapers off toward the end of the day. A good workout in the evening prompts me to drink a lot of water.
I went to bed a little earlier last night. Not much, just about half an hour earlier. But it helps. Even though my nose is a little stuffier, and my throat is a little more sore than yesterday, I feel more rested than I should. A good night's sleep has made all the difference between being miserable and being well enough.
I made a smoothie for myself for breakfast. I love smoothies. But my smoothie consumption has decreased as winter goes on, partly because we're out of our saved frozen fruit and need to buy it (in its plastic packaging) and partly because I find myself wanting a hot breakfast when it's so cold out. Right now, however, upping my intake of fruits and veggies is more important, and a smoothie is a super easy way of doing that.

-1 handful of spinach
-Frozen fruits of your choice (I used strawberries, cherries, and blackberries this morning) measuring about 2-3 cups
-Honey and spices (optional)--sometimes a bit of honey to sweeten can be nice, but we don't have honey right now. Cinnamon can give the smoothie the illusion of being sweeter than it is, and depending on your fruit and tastes a hint of nutmeg or ginger can also work really well.
-Half of an avocado (optional--doesn't add much flavor, but makes the texture smoother and more silky)
-Plain yogurt or milk.

Since blenders don't work so well with frozen fruit, I get the fruits in there the night before and leave it in the fridge to thaw out. In the morning I simply add whatever other ingredients I want and blend it up.
The yogurt in a smoothie like this can especially help your immune system. Not only does it have the good bacteria that your gut needs, but it has protein.
Which is the last thing you should do. Increasing your intake of protein actually helps to boost your immune system when you're ill. (This is one of those handy things I learned in my nutrition class.) For dinner tonight, I've got the Crockpot cooking red beans and rice for us. The rice and the beans combine to make a complete protein, and it has a bit of meat in it as well. Just to make sure it's totally nutritious (and because we're out of white rice, ;) we're using brown rice. I'm trying a new thing today: soaking it. I've heard lots of things about soaking grains and how good it can be for you. I don't know whether that's true or not, I'm just doing it to try to get a better texture. The only reason we usually use white rice is simply because it doesn't end up as hard. Brown rice, in my experience, tends to be a little crunchy and hard, even after being cooked. Perhaps soaking the rice will make it softer.
I'm loving the recipe my friend sent to us. It's cheap, it's very nutritious, and it's easy. All of those things make it perfect for when you're not feeling well.

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