I haven’t been sick in over 2 and a half years – not even so much as a sore throat or the occasional cold I used to get once or twice a year. I attribute this 100% to my diet. However, last week I had LASIK eye-surgery which, although painless for the most part, and amAZing (I can now see how handsome Sham is without my glasses), it did remind me a tiny bit of what it’s like to be “sick”. Mainly because the Xanax knocked me for a loop, had me in and out of sleep, and pretty much stuck in bed, for about 24 hours. It made me think about what it used to be like to be bed-ridden with a cold or flu. Which then got me thinking about nutrition (yes, everything gets me thinking about nutrition, I’ll admit it)

Which got me thinking about what I used to eat when I was sick and all the various pieces of advice I’d hear in terms of what foods are best. Especially if said illness had any effect on my tummy.
The list mostly included things like saltine crackers, toast, cereal, etc because these are apparently “easy on the stomach”. And why not, even “experts” tell us to eat these things.
But really? Crackers and toast?!

saltines-sourdough-toast

It is a little bit like telling someone who has just had LASIK eye surgery to rub salt in their eyes. Not only will this not heal them, it is going to dramatically halt the healing process and potentially cause a lot of damage.

Very unhelpful and inaccurate advice.

The food we ingest is a source of fuel for our bodies. We eat in order to provide ourselves with nutrients and energy for basic bodily functions – maintaining a heart-beat, movement, brain-function, cell-regeneration and repair etc. Not to mention healing. Every one of these processes requires unique sets of vitamins and minerals to trigger the responses necessary to carry out these tasks. Getting all of these nutrients is thus critical to our survival, and even more so, to returning our bodies to a healthy state in times of illness. And unfortunately, relying on vitamin pills to cover these is not the answer. Vitamins and minerals all work in harmony with other vitamins and nutrients in a delicate balance that is impossible to artificially replicate. Luckily for us, though, we don’t have to think about all these delicate balances of nutrients, except in the broadest sense, because we are supplied with the perfect balance straight from nature itself – ie. real, unprocessed food. Thus, eating nutrient-dense foods becomes even more important at these times, when our body needs reinforcements, if you will. And so we need to choose our foods very carefully.

So, here is why I get so mad at the advice to eat those “foods”. Saltine crackers contain ZERO nutrients that are beneficial to our bodies in any way. Sure, they contain calories (in the form of ultra-refined processed carbohydrates – essentially just sugar to the body), and they will temporarily make us feel “full”, but there is not a single nutrient in them that would be useful to the body and its healing process. In fact, eating them would only exacerbate illness. The concentrated sugar is highly inflammatory (the last thing you want when you are ill), will suppress the immune system, and the gluten and other lectins in the wheat will wreak havoc on an already compromised digestive tract, adding more of an assault to the immune system. Same could be said for cereal, sourdough bread or toast. Unfortunately these are also highly addictive and so are often viewed as “comfort foods” for many people.

This reminds of the time my sister had a doctor who actually recommended she stick to refined starchy foods like bread, in order to “treat” her ulcerative colitis. I cannot tell you how many times I wished I could have met this doctor. Eating gluten with a condition like ulcerative colitis is equivalent to rubbing sand-paper on an open wound. But I digress.

So, you’re sick. Maybe it’s a cold, the flu, or a tummy bug. If saltine crackers aren’t the answer, what advice would I give?

Things that will help your body heal:

  • Avoid toxins and inflammatory foods such as gluten, sugar, industrial seed oils and soy, and instead focus on the most nutrient-dense foods possible – foods like these.
  • Consume bone broth – we’ve talking about how amazing this is for keeping the skin young, diminishing cellulite, etc, but it is also amazing for the immune system because of all the minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur etc. It is also extremely soothing on the stomach and gut-lining, so it’s a great thing to sip on when your tummy isn’t feeling all that great.
  • Take a good cod liver oil supplement like this one. The vitamins A & D are critical to immune system health. Other nutrients such as Vit K2 and E are also essential to maintaining good health.
  • Drink ginger-honey-lemon tea. Ginger acts as an anti-microbial agent and can help with nausea and gastro intestinal upset. Lemon is a great source of vitamin C, and honey also has soothing properties for the stomach and throat.
  • Eat fermented foods. The probiotics present in things like kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc help strengthen the mucosal barrier in our intestinal tract and respiratory system. 75% of our immune system is found in the gut so it’s essential to maintain optimum gut health.
  • Sleep. Then sleep some more. And if you’re not sleeping, then rest – the body needs time to rally its defense systems so it is essential that you allow it a chance to do this while not using up resources on other activities.
  • Finally, once again: AVOID TOXINS AND INFLAMMATORY FOODS. Yes, that does deserve shouty CAPs.
    That means avoid saltines, cereal, and bread of any kind.