A Health Guide to the Holidays

Ah, the stress of the holidays! Running in and out of shops looking for the right things to buy for all the fabulous people on our list. Sweating while in the subways and then having that same sweat freeze on our bodies when we finally emerge out of the station. Staying up late nights writing all the Christmas cards that we so dutifully send out every year. And finally, all those holiday parties where we end up eating and drinking way too much… It’s enough to make anyone sick! Well, all that and the unusually cold weather we have been experiencing here in the Northeast, really tested my immune system and – this past weekend – gave me a high fever, paired with aches and pains, a sore throat and the sniffles… But that is no news, and not even that interesting. So, you wonder, why is Nina writing about this on her blog? Because I want to share with you my health tips, for getting over this thing in nearly 24 hours and for allowing my body to recover without dragging on a sinus infection or even losing my carefully toned body in the process. OK, so maybe “carefully toned” is an overstatement, but it helps me in making my point! Read up, it could come in handy this winter, when the big bad bug might end up getting you too.

At the first sign of a sore throat, which is how mine started, buy some Oscillococcinum which is a homeopathic remedy I strongly believe in. It manages to give your body a little miniscule dose of the same toxins which might end up making you sick, and works on the same principles as a vaccine. I like it because it’s not invasive, doesn’t make me drowsy the way some of the other “cold & flu” medications do, and really, it has always worked for me. Once, a couple of years ago, I had flown to LA for my friend Jessica’s wedding and got sick the day before her big day. I couldn’t believe I could be that unlucky and had spent all that money to get out there, rent a car and stay in a hotel, just so I could spend the day in bed! So, after a nice little cry on my own, where I asked the powers that be why they were being so mean with me, I picked myself out of bed and stumbled across the street to Erewon, a local health food market. There I picked up some Oscillococcinum, a gallon of orange/strawberry juice mix – both antioxidants as well – ten packets of Emergen-C soluble vitamin C with minerals, and a cup of instant oatmeal. I retreated back to my hotel room, used my coffee maker to make the oatmeal and had a breakfast of that and half the container of juice. Then I took an Emergen-C packet in water, and waited the required 30 minutes before taking the Oscillo homeopathic pebbles. YES, this is very important, the pebbles need to be placed under your tongue on an empty mouth, which means drink nothing for at least 15 minutes, not even water, before and after, and eat nothing for 30 minutes before and after. Then, once the thirty minutes had gone by, I took two Extra Strength Tylenols and got under the covers. Slept a bit, cried a bit, and then, right about mid afternoon, I started to sweat and feel like a human being again. Seriously, not only did I got to Jessica’s wedding, but had a blast and danced up a storm in the process. You do the math!

So, follow the above directions of no liquids – hey, you can’t even brush your teeth – for 15 minutes before and after taking the Oscillo and then no food for 30 minutes before and after. Then, if you haven’t done so already, get some Emergen-C, which is a soluble and pleasant tasting multivitamin, very high on vitamin C. I keep a double box of 72 in my apartment at all times, and take it with me wherever I travel. It’s a good pick-me-up if you need an extra boost of energy in the afternoon, a good post-workout drink and a great way to take one’s multivitamins. I find that Whole Foods consistently has the best price for the stuff, at $15.99 for two boxes of 36 baggies. But some drugstores like Rite Aid and Duane Reade in NYC do run sales on it, so check around where you live.

Another fantastic vitamin, when your upper respiratory health starts to falter, is Zinc. It is best taken in lozenges which taste a notch better than raw chalk – hey, I tried it when I was a kid, and I’m not kidding! – but usually come flavored with all kinds of berries and vanilla, still making them pretty nasty once the overcoat melts away. But they do wonders for the mucous membranes, which means they are fantastic in case of a cold or sore throat. Up to six a day, in serious cases, are OK. But make sure to let them melt in your mouth only after a meal, or having eaten something, as they can be quite upsetting to the stomach. While still on the Zinc subject, I would like to introduce you to a special cure than has been called, officially, the “Russian Penicillin” – raw GARLIC. At the first signs of soreness or even exhaustion, garlic is a great cure. The way I like to ingest it, since I do wish to retain my friends and I am NOT looking to chase off vampires with my breath, is to dice a clove of garlic quite small, then place about a third of it in a large spoon, sprinkle with lemon juice, a dash of salt and olive oil, then swallow it, without chewing it. Repeat this action until all garlic is gone and do this about three times a day. Again, best not on an empty stomach, as it can be hard to digest. Seriously, between the lemon juice, the garlic and even the olive oil, it’s a cure-all! I know people who do this every evening and their skin, their hair and even their blood pressure are enviable.

When I get sick, the one drug I allow myself is Tylenol. I have grown up with the stuff, which has helped me through many a cramp, muscle pain and fever. But if that is not your choice, by all means, go with an aspirin – I am personally allergic to the coating in Bufferin for some strange reason – or even Motrin. All are valid, but I do recommend taking something to help break the fever. As much as I love natural remedies, the complete combination is what truly works. Whenever you can, climb into bed, turn on your heating pad and try to sleep. OK, I can hear the critics saying “It’s not healthy to fall asleep with a heating pad!” What I meant, is when you are not sleeping, use the heating pad to induce some sweat. Sweating is what will break the fever eventually. Sleep is the cure-all and if you feel like sleeping the whole day away, by all means do it! Your body is trying to tell you something. Listen to it. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid sweets and caffeine. Of course, do have a cup of tea or coffee here and there, as I am the first to become a total beast without it! Eat light small meals as often as you feel hungry, avoiding milk and dairy products which only produce more phlegm. Try a good vegetarian lunch of red lentils, boiled with garlic, onion and salt and with some turmeric added for color and taste, steamed broccoli sprinkled with lemon juice and olive oil and a small piece of bread, or even crackers. A good chicken soup is also good, if you eat meat. You are trying to keep your body functioning since all our normal bodily functions do help in cleaning up the system of the infection, so try and stay away from rice, starches and sugars. If you really crave something, by all means have a little of it, like I just HAD TO HAVE a bowl of pasta, and knew that my body would keep craving it until I ate it. So, instead of eating a whole bunch of other stuff before finally satisfying my craving many meals later, I went straight for the pasta and avoided a lot of unnecessary calories. Every few hours, do take an Emergen-C packet in water. And don’t forget to continue taking the Oscillococcinum at least three times in the day.

After the first day – which will hopefully be the last day of the illness, if you follow this guide – take your old toothbrush and either throw it out or place it in hydrogen peroxide for an hour, to disinfect it. This will prevent your old germs from re-infecting you again. When you get up in the morning, do some yoga, since your body will feel sluggish and tight. For a simple routine to do every morning – I try to be pretty good about it as I can truly tell the difference between the days I do yoga and the days I don’t – check out Sun Salutation. It gives a step-by-step approach with photos. Well, all that is left for me to say is to take it easy when you first feel better. Your body still went through hell and what it wants of you is R & R – rest and relaxation. Try to read, watch a good, positive film and stay home as long as you can afford to. Sleep truly is the best medicine. SO, here’s to a healthy holiday season and a positively glowing New Year! N-joy!

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