I never get sick…or, so I thought…
Since drastically changing to a whole food, plant-based diet nearly 10 years ago, my immunity has went up and my occurrence of illness down. Pre-diet change, I was sick all of the time. Colds, flu, you name it, I got it. But after cleaning up my eating habits, one side effect is that I have seemingly become immune to catching the office bug or succumbing to a sick strangers sneeze on the subway…until a couple weekends ago, anyway.
I attended a 4-day Tony Robbins conference, jam-packed in an arena with 5,000 other people, whom I was ordered to high-five, hug, yell at, and dance with seemingly at least once an hour. Sitting there, I just remembered back to a college microbiology class, where we put on rubber gloves, one person was “infected” with a glow in the dark powder “pathogen” and then we just stood in the circle and went around in an orderly fashion shaking hands with the person on either side of us. At the end, half the class was infected.
How I Got Sick
Towards the end of day 4, on Sunday, I started to feel a little strain in my throat. Must be all the yelling and talking, I thought. The tiny bit of soreness lasted throughout the week, and I managed to make it through flying out to Houston on Tuesday and back on Wednesday, relatively unscathed, My body was in overdrive fighting it, and seemingly winning, until Thursday evening, anyway. You see, on Thursday, I made the decision to eat 2/3 of a pint of chocolate ice cream (dairy-free, of course, but sugar-y ice cream, nonetheless).
Now, I can’t say with 100% certainty that this was the cause of my downfall, but I’m 99.9% sure that the massive amounts of sugar depressed my immune system enough to allow the virus to take hold and make my following weekend miserable.
That evening I went to bed around 10 and officially got up at 6, but woke up every two hours in between as I was in so much pain. It felt like someone lit a blow torch in my throat. I got so desperate I found myself at 2am chomping on a piece of garlic and rubbing it on the back of my throat to try and kill whatever ickies were invading.
During the day on Friday, I was able to function but was feeling like crap. My voice was hoarse, my nose was running, and I cancelled a few of my afternoon appointments, hoping rest would help. My throat was sore and it hurt when I swallow.
That evening I went to bed, and the same thing happened as the night before. And when I woke up on Saturday, I had no voice. Zero. So then I started freaking out, as I was supposed to speak at the New York Vegetarian Food Festival later that afternoon.
I went to the doctor and she confirmed my fear: I had caught the flu, was highly contagious, and had to rest my vocal chords. She said it usually lasts 1-2 weeks (1-2 weeks!) and that I would just have to let it run its course.
Unfortunately I had to cancel the speaking gig, which I was super bummed about, but was determined to fight the flu the natural way, and get rid of it faster than 1-2 weeks!
The Moral of the Story
So the moral of the story here: DO NOT EAT SUGAR WHEN YOU FEEL YOU MAY BE GETTING SICK.
Studies show sugar suppresses the immune system quite drastically. Just stay away and let your body do it’s job. If you do come down with a cold or flu, which are caused by viruses, you should load up on anti-viral foods.
Before even going to the doctor, I had a feeling I had a virus, so made an 8 am run to Whole Foods to pick up every natural remedy I could think of, which I outlined below.
Personally, I felt the raw garlic is what got rid of my sore throat fast. I also felt the spirulina, chlorella, and aloe played the biggest role in my recovery.
Following this anti-viral meal plan, I was able to get rid of the sore through completely by Monday (3 days), although the mucus and cough persisted another full week. If you try any of the below, please leave a comment below and let us know how these natural remedies worked for you!
Laboratory tests show garlic is a powerful anti-viral, and is also effective against many types of bacteria and parasites. Garlic’s medicinal benefit comes from allacin, a compound that is formed only when garlic is chopped, minced, or crushed. So to get the most benefit, chop or mince garlic 10 minutes before eating it. I put 4-5 minced cloves on a piece of toast with coconut oil, and ate that 2-3 times a day. (meaning on both Saturday and Sunday, I literally ate an entire bulb of garlic…apologies to anyone near me at that time).
Virgin Coconut Oil is often referred to as something like a cure-all, as studies have found it to exhibit antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, making it the food as medicine of choice to treat a wide variety of ailments. You could add it to smoothies or use it as “butter” on toast, as I did.
Studies have found that fresh ginger effectively fights respiratory viruses as it contains antiviral properties that block the virus from attaching to airway cell walls. The same results were not found in powdered form, so use ginger in cooking or teas. I poured hot water over 3-4 slices of fresh ginger, and added other antiviral ingredients to make a Sore Throat Tea.
Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, an essential mineral that plays an important role in immunity. Those who avoid meat, in particular, can be at risk for a zinc deficiency. The recommended daily intake (RDI) is 15 mg/day.
Studies show that adequate zinc consumption, or supplementation, not only prevents the onset of colds and flu, but also decrease the duration of them by a day or more, if taken at the onset of symptoms. Zinc is presently believed to be the most effective remedy against the common cold.
Some foods that contain zinc are oysters, crab, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, cashews, black beans, and shiitake mushrooms.
I put the seeds on the garlic toast and ate on their own as a snack.
I had read studies regarding aloe’s antiviral properties, particularly for Herpes, and figured if it is powerful enough to treat Herpes, it should be powerful enough to fight the common cold or flu as well. You want to buy the full aloe leaf and filet it, removing the green outer skin and only eating the clear gel inside. You can add it to smoothies, or eat it as is. It’s slightly bitter, and definitely slimy, so I was so thankful for one reader’s suggestion on Facebook to chop it into small pill size chunks and swallow it whole. (Thanks Elle Denton!!) I also used a Q-tip to rub some of the gel on the back of my throat when it was on fire, and it offered fast relief.
Spirulina & Chlorella
Two of the most ancient and health giving foods on the planet. These chlorophyll-rich powders are both bursting with nutrients and antiviral properties. (See Spirulina study / Chlorella study). I whipped up a smoothie in the morning with 1 tsp of each. You can add the garlic, coconut oil and aloe in here as well, for an extra anti-viral punch.
Sweet honey serves two purposes- it coats the throat, making it less scratchy and dry, and also exhibits antiviral properties. I put it in tea and also made it into halva.
Black elderberry juice can inhibit the growth of influenza viruses and shorten the duration of symptoms, while enhancing antibody levels against the virus. It helps reduce swelling in the sinuses and reduce congestion.
Elderberry can be taken as a liquid, syrup or tincture, as well as a lozenge and in capsule form. I personally didn’t take any this time around, but wanted to share it, anyway!
Garlic, Pumpkin Seed, & Coconut Oil Toast
Mince 4-5 cloves of garlic, and let sit aside for 10 minutes. Toast a piece of gluten free bread (I prefer Food for Life Millet bread), spread two teaspoons of coconut oil on it, and then top with raw pumpkin seeds and minced garlic.
I ate 2-3 of these a day for 2 days.
Sore Throat Tea
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Slice fresh ginger into 1/4 inch pieces, and place 3-4 of them in a cup. Add 1 tbs full cloves, 2-3 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice, and 2 tsp raw honey. Pour boiling water over everything, and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and sip slowly.
I drank at minimum 5-6 cups of this a day for the first 4-5 days, then tapered down to 2-3/ day.
Clean Green Spirulina & Chlorella Smoothie
Blend 1 tbs. gold and glow clean green powder + 1 banana + 1/2 avocado + 1 1/2 cups water + 1/4 cup hemp seeds
(Optional: add in aloe, garlic, or coconut oil)
I drank one each morning.
I also had my Never Get Sick Soup, which contains turmeric and ginger, and dark leafy green salads loaded with beans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
If you’re feelign sick as you read this, hope these tips help you feel better soon!
Maria Marlowe is a holistic nutrition and wellness coach who uses real food to help her clients improve their health, weight, and skin. She offers a 28-day healthy eating meal plan that teaches you how to batch cook, as well as one to clear up acne. Her most popular program is EatSLIM, a 10-week online group glass that guides participants to develop healthy eating habits that stick – and lose weight, boost their metabolism, improve their digestion, and quit sugar.
She writes healthy and delicious plant-based recipes for her popular blog. She is also the author of the #1 New Release on Amazon, The Real Food Grocery Guide, the most practical guide to selecting the healthiest foods, without going broke, which has been praised by Dr. Oz and InStyle magazines. You can find her on instagram @mariamarlowe.