Being sick just plain sucks no matter how healthy you usually feel. For chronic illness sufferers who are already always feeling sick, even just having a common cold on top of everything else can make you feel like the world is falling apart around you and you're going down with it.
Right now, I am at the tail end of a sinus infection. Over the past couple of years I have found that the dietary restrictions that go along with having interstitial cystitis make it especially impossible to find comfort when I'm sick. Old remedies like chicken soup, Gatorade, and cold medicine are not options for me, and I imagine they are not for most other ICers out there either. It's not like it's smart to cheat on the diet just because I'm not feeling well, because in the end, it will cause a flare and just make me feel even worse! I'd like to share some suggestions of products I have found are safe for me to use to deal with being sick.
As always, remember that what works for one ICer does not work for everyone. I have discovered these remedies through trial and error, and you will probably have to do the same.
Low Acid Orange Juice
One of these days, I am going to sit down and write Tropicana a long thoughtful thank you note for actually producing low acid OJ. It feels like a personal win to know that when I am sick I can have a small glass of orange juice to help my throat. Now, when I say small, I mean small. Low acid orange juice still has acid in it, but it is certainly a better option than no juice at all. I usually stick with about 1/4-1/2 cup of OJ with 2-3 Prelief pills once a day when I am sick, or when I feel like I am getting sick. I am also always sure to chase it with lots of spring water. It's actually quite a treat though. I hope that one day I will be far enough along in my healing process to have a small cup of it everyday. But for now, I save it for when I need some vitamin C.
If you have any type of infection and are on antibiotics, probiotics are an absolute necessity for you. Antibiotics kill all the bacteria in your system. Probiotics help replace the good bacteria that you are losing from the antibiotics. Without probiotics, you leave yourself more susceptible to other infections. For ICers, it is common to develop a yeast infection during the course of antibiotic treatment. Limiting sugar intake and taking probiotics while on antibiotics can really help reduce this risk. Please note that eating yogurt instead of taking probiotics is not usually a good idea for ICers.
I actually take Culturelle probiotics everyday to help with my IBS symptoms and keep my pH levels high, so while I am on antibiotics I take extra, just to be safe. If you are sensitive to dairy, make sure you buy lactose free probiotics. I would also like to note that I had to try several different brands of probiotics before I found one with a coating that didn't irritate my bladder. If you'd like to give Culturelle a try, there are some printable coupons here. There are definite benefits to taking them everyday if you have IC, IBS, chronic yeast infections, and many other chronic illnesses.
If you're feeling sick and you want some hot tea, nettle tea will not only help soothe your throat, it is actually an anti-inflammatory that specifically targets the urinary tract! It is believed to help kill both viruses and bacteria and acts as a natural antihistamine as well. You don't have to save this tea for when you're sick with a sinus infection or the flu, I suggest drinking some everyday. Some ICers even report that it helps with managing flares!
Tip: I add a little bit of local honey to mine to sweeten it.
I normally only drink spring water, but when I am sick I will also have about 8-16 oz. of smartwater each day as a substitute for Gatorade because it contains some electrolytes. I can't overdo it though, or I will end up with a flare.
I have yet to find a store-bought soup that doesn't cause me to flare up, but read my recent recipe post for homemade IC friendly soup here. I keep some frozen in my freezer for when I need it.
Buffered Vitamin C
Desert Harvest makes a vitamin C capsule that is buffered with Aloe, which is meant to coat your bladder so the vitamin C doesn't irritate it as much. I have to limit my use of this product or I will get a flare. I actually prefer the Low Acid OJ approach, but I know that some ICers find this to be more tolerable.
Sudafed, Dye-Free Benadryl, & Motrin
Sudafed Sinus Headache, Dye-Free Benadryl, and Motrin IC are the only three OTC medications I am able to tolerate.
I can't take Sudafed Sinus Headache or Motrin for extended periods of time or they start to cause discomfort and spasms. But for short term use to help with headaches especially, they can be very helpful. I am always relieved when i can take just one and it knocks out the problem without causing a flare.
Benadryl, on the other hand, I could take every single day if I had to! Since it is an antihistamine it actually helps my flares, since they are definitely allergy related, and of course, it knocks me out and helps me sleep better. I absolutely have to take the dye-free kind though. I'm not really sure why anyone wouldn't use the dye-free option since it is available.
Interestingly, before I was diagnosed with IC, I used to take Benadryl every night to help the pain and let me sleep (a tip my husband read about on the internet). Once I was finally diagnosed I started taking prescription Hydroxyzine HCL (Atarax) for the same purpose.
Blueberries, Pears, & Watermelon
I eat a pear a day, blueberries almost everyday, and watermelon several times a week. I try to step it up even more when I am sick to get all the nutrients I need to fight off whatever illness is ailing me. Blueberries have the highest level of antioxidants of all fruits, help the urinary tract, help prevent cancer, and are just plain delicious. Read about more benefits of blueberries here. And quick, go buy some!
Finally, if you're sick, you need extra rest. This cannot be avoided. I know how hard it is to call into work or cancel plans when you're not feeling well (since you're probably never feeling well anyway and you're used to pushing yourself as it is) but getting rest is our best defense against being sick. Our bodies need rest to heal. When I have to call into work because I am sick, it is always awkward because my boss knows I never feel well, so I usually emphasize that I am contagious when I have a cold, the flu, etc. and that's why I am staying home. The truth is that most managers don't want sick employees coming to work and getting everyone else sick. As long as you are not abusing the process, your boss will probably know. Just remember, the last thing you want is to be sick, so there is no reason to feel guilty. Get some rest. It will be good for your body and your co-workers will be thankful that you didn't spread your germs.
Do you have any good tips or products that help you deal with being sick and having IC? I'd love to hear about them!