I’ve just spent a couple of days at home with a cold/flu (what’s the difference? A lot – ‘real’ flu knocks you out for weeks, whereas a cold can be horrible but is unlikely to kill an old person. Trust me, I’m a doctor ;-)*. I’ve done basically what I do every year – gone into cold/flu season totally unprepared. Every year I think I’m going to be a super fit healthy freak who glows all through winter, whose skin doesn’t dry out and flake, who doesn’t get the sniffles like all the commoners do, and doesn’t need a single day off work. Bollocks. My usual pattern is a day or two sick at home earlier in the season, then I battle through considerably under-par until, say, August, then it’s down like the sack of proverbial excrement for several more days.
It’s not like there’s a shortage of information out there, especially online, about how to protect ourselves and boost immunity. I ‘try’ but what that really means is remembering to eat well for about a week… and pop the occasional vitamin C.
I don’t know where that expression ‘starve a fever, feed a cold’ came from, but something that I do swear by is a wicked combination of garlic and ginger. Not in pill form – who can remember to take those every day? Actually probably most people, just not me. But there’s been a couple of occasions where I’ve felt a cold coming on – you know the scratchy throat, aching eyes, just generally feeling crapola. Recently, January actually, I was in NZ for a week visiting family and was about to set off on a three day hike, which was already going to be a challenge for my sugar-fiend, non-gym-going former self. I felt the cold coming on and really didn’t want to be sick for the duration of the hike (plus this was during NZ’s odd patch of really foul weather and hiking in it was going to be gruelling enough), so I took myself down to the nearest thai restaurant, ordered a satay or something and asked for extra chilli and extra ginger. Worked a treat. By that evening I was totally fine and was symptom-free for the duration of the hike.
Tonight I’m having one of my winter favourites for dinner – Lemongrass and Ginger Chicken. Super easy to put in the slow cooker on a weekday. Basically you chuck chicken drumsticks, or lovely legs or fillets if you’re rich, into the base of a slow cooker, add 2 sliced onions, as much chopped garlic and ginger as you can manage (MUST be fresh) and one or two chopped sticks of lemongrass.Over this you sprinkle any other spices you want – chilli, peppercorns, maybe a star anise for something different, 2tbls of oyster sauce, 1/4 cup of soy sauce and a cup or so of chicken stock (I only ever use home made stock but that’s up to you). This is what it looks like in the morning when you leave for work:
And this is what it looks like when you get home 6, 8, 10 hours later. Enjoy with rice and any green veg.
Yum! I feel better already.
So, I do definitely stand by the garlic, ginger and chilli solution, but as for the rest I’m yet to be convinced. I used to take a general Immunity pill – vitamin C, zinc and echinacea. I’m not entirely sure if it did much good but no doubt my inconsistency would have derailed any control study, making it impossible to draw any conclusions. I’ve decided to buy some more, and see if that, in combination with my supposedly stronger (sugar-free) immune system does any good. I’m sceptical, partly because of research that found that neither echinacea or vitamin C are any help in avoiding a cold (study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005 – you can read about it here).
The other things I MUST do is buy some slippers and be a good girl and wear my scarf when walking to work (or anywhere else). Beyond that, I’m open to suggestions. What cold-busting tricks do you swear by?
* Not a Real Doctor. Obviously that’s crap – but it’s something to do with society that people generally associate the Dr with medical doctors and most PhDs have heard that ‘not-meant-to-be-insulting-but-totally-is’ expression many times. When asked what sort of doctor I am, I tell them, and usually add ‘not a medical doctor’, just so we’re clear.