12/03/2013 12:14 EST | Updated 02/02/2014 05:59 EST

Starting to Get Sick? Treat Your Body Like a Car

This is a low point in my career. I pride myself in walking the talk and lately I feel like I have been treading in a soup of stress and tissue. I was warned that this would happen. I have two kids under two, work full time and frequently trade time with my pillow for a meaningful relationship with my inbox. I firmly believe I am living the dream; I have a beautiful family, a sense of purpose but lately, unrelenting disease.

I work with people everyday, sharing strategies for managing stress, reducing the physiological burden of over-commitment and devising strategies to ensure healthful nutrition in the face of hectic and relentless commitments. I believe in balance, checking-in and listening to your body, so how the heck did I get here? Six words: I took my health for granted!

In the face of a jam-packed Outlook calendar, I have always pushed on with the fundamental belief that my immune system is impenetrable. For as along as I can remember, it has been a consistent ally in my quest to manage it all. Two weeks ago when my slightly runny nose developed into a cough and then a sinus infection and then a cold and then a sinus infection, I was at a loss. This happens to other people, not me. I had failed to execute the most fundamental intervention in my arsenal, good sleep, good food and cuddles. No excuses! If your body is starting to tell you that it needs attention, proceed at your own risk.

We wouldn't ignore our car's gas light for days or weeks at a time. In the very least, we wouldn't be surprised if our ignorance of the warning light resulted in our car being side-lined because we had run out of fuel. So why do we treat our most precious asset, our health, with the disregard afforded to that old clunker, hand-me-down car.

With a little self-care and most importantly, self-awareness, I am back on track. I went to bed at a reasonable hour, took the time to prepare real, green, nutrient dense food and traded an out of office reply for a day of play with my girls. It was a start, and my body and spirit soaked it up.

Here are the other things I did, for best results follow them all, in order. When your gas light is flashing, you WILL run out of fuel without intervention.

  1. Stop, Drop & Roll - Sleep is amazing! Sleep is cheap! Sleep is a pre-requisite for growth and repair. Close your computer, turn off the TV and go to bed. Your immune system needs your support. You will not kick your infection without it.
  2. Add colour to your diet. Your body and immune system need nutrition to help battle infection. Make a green smoothie, kale salad or in the very least, a handful of bright vibrant berries.
  3. Remove the sugar. Sugar is easily consumed by the cells in your body. In particular, the non-specific cells of your immune system that engulf infection require vitamin C for their efforts to be effective. When sugar is consumed, immune cells preferentially select sugar instead of vitamin C. This renders the cells ineffective.
  4. No alcohol. In case this isn't obvious, alcohol is a bad choice when you are sick. Alcohol will dehydrate you and alcohol is converted into sugar in the body.
  5. Immune support. There are a lot of immune products on the market. Most work on the non-specific components of the immune system that help to decreases the presence of infection before it gets out of control. Vitamin C, astragalus, ginseng and mushroom complexes are all options that can be considered in consultation with a healthcare provider trained in the use of natural interventions.
  6. Probiotics. There is excellent evidence that the inclusion of a probiotic will help protect you against infection and in particular, infection following a course of anti-biotics. When the pharmacist suggests you take a probiotic following your anti-biotic, oblige.
  7. Stop palliating. There is nothing I hate more than the commercials advertising cold and flu support that will "let you get on with your busy day." By all means I am a fan on helping people feel better, but not in suppressing the symptoms that remind you that you are running out of fuel. If you are working to sleep, increase your nutrition and support your immune health, then look for 'symptom control' as needed. This should NEVER, be your first line of defense. That would be like putting tape over an annoying fuel light.


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