Day 16-17: What do you do when you get sick during your Whole30?
Day 16 is when the "tiger blood" is supposed to kick in. I admit, I've been feeling pretty damn good, and feeling like I've gotten past the biggest challenges of these 30 days- all day I had tons of energy and I felt really strong during my workout... but I knew I was getting sick. By the time I got home around 8PM, I had no energy to cook, and luckily didn't need to!
Two pieces of veggie/chicken quiche (not pictured), herbal "coffee" with coconut cream
Leftovers-- baked chicken with mango jalapeno sauce, Brussels sprouts with uncured bacon, 1/2 baked potato
Pre-workout (not pictured):
Justin's Classic Almond Butter pouch
Kettebell Kitchen's Plantain Lasagna (maybe my favorite meal so far!) with extra veggies and mango jalapeno sauce
So you’re in the middle of your Whole30 and feeling invincible... and then you wake up one morning with a terrible cold. That was me, day 17—the time when everything was supposed to “click”— when I woke up barely able to breathe and feeling like a cat scratched my throat. Luckily, I have a flexible job that allowed me to take the day off.
But then it hit me—what the heck am I going to take that is compliant with the Whole30 guidelines? Even my usual go-to natural remedies were out of the question (things like tea with raw honey or slippery elm/maple syrup lozenges). I had told myself I was doing this 100%, and I wasn’t going to let a stupid cold screw me up when I was over ½ way done!
I did a quick Google search, and found this is a pretty common problem among Whole30-ers. And there isn’t much info available that’s specific to a no-sugar, no-grain, no dairy-diet. So I figured, this may make a good blog post… and surprisingly, I came up with a ton of info to post about!
I hit the cold medicine aisle in the grocery store and started examining all of the cold remedies I usually would go for, and was pretty displeased. Every popular cold and flu medicine and cough drop was full of absolute crap. Granted, there are a few health food stores near me that I know I could have found much better options, but: 1) I would have had to drive 20 minutes further to get to one, and 2) I know most people don’t have these stores nearby and/or would rather just drive 5 minutes down the road to the nearest store or pharmacy. So I figured I would make do with what was offered, and try to find the best remedies available.
Without calling out any particular brands, here’s a little sample of the ingredients in some pretty popular cold medicines:
Are you going to die if you take these things? Of course not! But why do these products need all the crap ingredients, if they are "inactive" anyway? Plus, so much is marketed to us as being"natural" when it really isn't. For example:
Although at first glance, these "immune boosting" tablets look to be full off great nutrients and herbs (which it is), the ingredients include artificial sweeteners. Also, the vitamins are synthetic, so your body can't really utilize them as well as vitamins from food!
Plus, when you're trying to stick to Whole30 guidelines, even the most natural products can have sweeteners or even lactose in them, so it can be a challenge to find something! So here I have compiled what I would categorize as the “good” and “best” cold/flu/cough/sore throat remedies, as well as those I chose to use during my Whole30 and my go-to natural cold remedies. Of course this is no where near a comprehensive list, but just some examples of what I found in my grocery store. I am sure if I went to a health food store, I would have much better options and a wide variety of choices.
(Note- I am not a doctor, and therefore none of this should be misconstrued as medical advice or a substitute for medical advice! I am solely giving my opinion and recommendations as well as sharing my personal experience.)
The above two medicines are homeopathic, meaning instead of just suppressing symptoms, they work with your body, stimulating it to fight off whatever pathogen is causing you to be sick. The ingredients lists are fairly natural, but they do include sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (a milk protein).
Although there are still synthetic vitamins in the above drink, there are at least no artificial sweeteners! And your body can use the vitamins... just not as well as vitamins from food. I think a lot of the benefit of an "immune boosting" tea like this one is truly due to the warm apple cider flavor, which is definitely soothing!
The above two brands of cough drops/lozenges are what I usually choose over popular brands. Ricola has many blends, which usually include herbs that support the immune system (just watch for artificial sweeteners in different flavors), and I love Jakemans-- this flavor in particular-- due to the cooling eucalyptus and warming licorice. Both due have sugar, so not Whole30-compliant, but otherwise, I don't sweat it.
I was so pleasantly surprised with this Maty's Cough Syrup that I bought it just to have on hand for future colds. Not only are the ingredients amazing, but the company's story is so interesting and their philosophy rings pretty true to my own. Plus, many of its ingredients are foods and spices I use at home when I'm sick, so I am sure this works great.
Again, another great natural cough syrup with great ingredients. It doesn't seem to have anything in it that would suppress your cold symptoms, but it does have melatonin, which is a hormone made by your own body to regulate your sleep cycles.
Zinc and echinacea are great immune system supporters, and this brand is only sweetened with brown rice syrup, which no, isn't the best thing, but I prefer it over high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and pure sugar.
So what did I take?
It is a kid's cold medicine, but it scored #1 with me for a few reasons: 1) It is a homeopathic remedy and 2) It technically is the absolute closest to Whole30-compliant I could find. Citric acid is an acceptable additive and sodium benzoate is an acceptable preservative. Glycyrrhiza extract and vegetable glycerin aresweeteners, but from licorice and vegetables, so I was willing to bend a bit-- there was no artificial junk, gluten, grains, soy, or dairy,and I wasn't chugging the bottle as a replacement for a lollipop, so to me, this was okay. (PS: Whole30 101: The Official “Can I Have…” Guide to the Whole30® is a good place to look up specific ingredients!)
Plus some of my go-to remedies:
The best way to inundate your body with the nutrients it needs to promote optimal function (and return to it when you are sick) is a variety of whole, properly-prepared, colorful food!
Day 17 Meals
Breakfast (at the local diner):
Decaf coffee with coconut cream (I brought my own), egg omelet with mushrooms, tomatoes, & broccoli, home fries (I requested that this all be cooked in butter and not veg oil... the waitress did think I was insane)
Spinach egg drop soup (Add chicken broth, spinach, fresh garlic, and sage to a pot, bring to a boil, drop in 2 eggs and let them cook-- simplest meal!)
Salad with homemade dressing (with, among other ingredients, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice-- two great "foods" when you're sick), grassfed short ribs (from Lowland Farm in Warwick, NY), yucca mash (with coconut milk and spices), and a huge mug of bone broth (that I couldn't nearly finish!)
Just search "why is bone broth healthy?" and hundreds of articles will come up. It truly is the original superfood!
Among the reasons why it's so great when you're sick? It promotes good gut health, which is where most of your immune system actually lies!
Every time I or someone in my house gets sick, a huge pot of chicken soup is started right away!
These foods are prepared in a way that creates tons of good, "probiotic" bacteria, which again, not only positively affect digestion, but immunity as well (among many other things)
One of my favorite ways to get fermented foods is kombucha tea. It's supposedly super easy and cheap to make at home, but I haven't attempted it yet!
Homemade immune-support gummies:
Often, when I'm sick, I make "tea" with herbs, spices, apple cider vinegar, and raw honey. Without the honey, I couldn't stomach it. I was given a recipe for homemade natural cough drops, but they needed maple syrup or honey in order to turn into actual "drops." So I improvised using gelatin (I use Great Lakes brand, since it is from grass-fed animals).
I first made tea (Yogi Echinacea Immune Support), then added it to a pot with lemon juice, cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger until it began to boil, added a few tbsp. of gelatin and stirred until dissolved. Then I poured it into a dish, refrigerated it, and in about 20 minutes, I cut it into cubes. They actually came out pretty good-- and a lot easier to eat a couple than drink a cup of liquid made with the same ingredients!
I'm a big fan of drinking herbal teas to soothe any ailment-- sore throat, upset stomach, cold, & even sore muscles. In particular, I use Yogi, since they are all natural, don't have sweeteners, soy lecithin, gluten, or other unwanted ingredients, and truly work. Cold Season, Echinacea Immune Support, Throat Comfort, Egyptian Licorice Mint, and Ginger are the ones we seem to go through the quickest in my house!
I am a huge advocate for getting all the nutrition we need from food, but sometimes it really just isn't possible-- we may have a digestive issue preventing us from absorbing enough nutrients, we may not be able to get particular nutrients from food due to geographic constraints or changing seasons, or certain organs and systems may need extra support-- which is often the case when you are sick. Certain vitamins and minerals get used up in greater amounts and at faster rates when your body is working overtime. But it's vitally important to know what you're taking, why, and any possible interactions or contraindications.
Pictured above is my arsenal of immune-supporting supplements. All of these are gluten, sugar, dairy, legume, soy, and grain-free.
Prescript Assist probiotics:
Prescript Assist probiotics are different than the majority of probiotics out there. They are soil-based, and contain different strains, so they actually help to repopulate the colonies of good bacteria in the gut
This is a blend of adaptogenic herbs, which help the adrenal glands deal with stress. Since the body is under stress when it is sick, the adrenal glands are affected. I also have low cortisol levels, so under any stress, I make sure I take these.
Chlorella is a type of algae that is extremely dense in nutrients-- especially amino acids, omega 3 fatty acids, chlorophyll, and minerals.
No this isn't a liver-support supplement, it is actually liver. I actually have been taking it daily for about a month and am feeling such a positive difference. Organ meats from healthy animals (this is from grassfed cows) are one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat-- but I, like many, have trouble getting healthy organ meats in my diet. Therefore, this is a simple and cost-effective way to get 3g of liver in my diet every day. Liver is rich in amino acids, minerals, B vitamins, vitamin A, and iron-- but since it is a food, the body digests and absorbs the nutrients much better than if they were from a synthetic vitamin supplement.
Zinc is one of those minerals that the body uses up quickly in times of stress, but it also helps with digestion (it's needed to make stomach acid) and helps the body heal by assisting in tissue repair. I also know I don't get enough of it in my diet (our soil is not as rich in minerals as it once was!)
Vitamin D is actually more of a hormone than a vitamin, and has tons of immune-supporting benefits. Along with the other fat-soluble vitamins (A,E, & K), it was one of the nutrients founded by Dr. Weston Price to be crucial to our health. (Read this if you have more interest!)
We have all heard about vitamin C being able to prevent and lessen the severity of colds. We see tons of "immune boosting" supplements, drinks, and foods that are high in vitamin C. There's a lot of conflicting information about if it really helps, but this is what I know: the adrenal glands love vitamin C, and they use it rapidly when they are overworked. Sick = stress = need for more vitamin C.
Lastly, essential oils & balms:
There has been a huge increase in the sales of essential oils, and recently tons of multi-level marketing companies have entered the essential oil market with all these different blends.. but I stick to the basics when I'm sick: eucalyptus oil and camphor oil. In a diffuser or a burner, or in a balm-- I make one with coconut oil, Shea butter, beeswax, and eucalyptus, camphor, and peppermint essential oils. I apply it to my chest and neck, temples, and even under my nose since it helps to open my nasal passages.
On day 18, I woke up feeling about 50% better! My sore throat is gone and my congestion has mostly cleared. I’m still keeping up with the homeopathic, herbal tea, supplements, gummies, and good food (especially bone broth). At this rate, I think I will be feeling back to my usual self by the weekend!
Real, whole, nutrient-dense food is the best source of the nutrients your body needs to get well (and stay well).
For those nutrients you can’t get enough of, or certain immune-supporting nutrients (like zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D), supplements can help—but always read labels and see just what you are getting… and do your research on doses and interactions (better yet, get guidance from someone who knows these things!)
Rest. When you are sick, your body is stressed. Your immune system has the petal to the metal, doing all it can to get whatever foreign pathogen out, and get you back to health. But its not just your immune system working! All of your body’s systems are connected, and when one is stressed, all get involved—especially the endocrine system, which controls your hormones (including cortisol, your stress hormone). Skip the gym (you can’t really “sweat it out,” although I am guilty of using this line too). Take the day off work and actually take the day off. Nap. Go to bed early. Sleep in. Do whatever your body is telling you to do. It’s pretty smart.
Hydrate! Every single process in your body needs water in order to take place. And water helps your body eliminate toxins and wastes, so it’s especially important when you’re sick. Avoid diuretics like coffee and juices, and make sure to not drink too much (your urine should always be a pale yellow). Also, make sure to get proper electrolytes (adding a pinch of sea salt to your water is a great way to hydrate while also providing your body with a wide array of minerals!)
Don’t fall for all the marketing on popular cold and flu products. Nothing is going to magically make you better overnight. Medicines that hinder or eliminate symptoms do just that—treat symptoms. They do not treat the root of the issue, but they do have their place! Being sick sucks, and its uncomfortable, especially when you have obligations and can’t just lie around the house all day. So don’t just go for the big guns when you don’t need them. Your body does need to work through whatever is ailing you!
As with anything you put in your body, read your labels—it is pretty shocking what some of these medicines, teas, and cough drops actually have in them. If you wouldn’t eat a food containing Choose the most natural products available,
Be realistic. Sure, when you’re doing the Whole30 and get a cold, of course you want to be super picky about your ingredients. And it makes sense to avoid certain things like artificial sweeteners and food colorings all of the time. But when you’re sick, you’re sick… and sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do. Don’t tough it out if it’s something serious. If your doctor prescribes a medication, take it (if you are doing a Whole30, or have an allergy to gluten or dairy, just ask what’s in the pills or capsules!). If you take an antibiotic, get the good bugs back in with probiotics and/or fermented foods. If you need to take a cough medicine, take it. And as long as you aren’t eating cough drops like they are candy, a little sugar is not going to do you much harm. Weigh out the costs vs. benefits of anything you take!
Natural remedies/support work. Supporting your body (particularly your immune system) does work. Think about it—your body wants to be healthy. It has all of these systems in place that work every single day to keep you healthy, and return you to health when you’re sick. But, they need support—and that means tons of nutrients, hydration, and rest.