Feeling congested? Here's what to do. - Culinary Therapy

Feeling congested? Here’s what to do.

While I’d love to tell you I’m completely immune to life’s seasonal colds and viruses, the truth is that while I work to keep my immunity strong through my diet, I still get knocked off my feet by a virus or two. The November chill, an outdoor festival at our local farm, and a busy month both at home and in the office left me feeling a little off…

Then my 10 year old woke with sneezing, teary eyes, and gooey congestion, and pretty soon we were on the couch together with two boxes of tissues, a book, and the Harry Potter series to pass the time.

Crazy as it may sound, congestion is actually a sign of indigestion. A weak digestive system may be at the root of your icky, gooey cold virus.

Avoiding foods that are mucus forming and “sticky” will help to alleviate your symptoms and promote a speedy recovery. These foods are dairy (both milk and cheese) and bad fats. Bad fats are the trans fats, also known as partially-hydrogenated oils, used to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life of processed foods. Be sure to check ingredient labels if you’re concerned (look for the words “trans fat” or “partially-hydrogenated”).

Because trans fats are inexpensive, they’ve become the cooking oil of choice for many restaurants here in the United States with the exception of New York City, the first city to strictly limit their use. If you’re frequently eating out, try home-cooked meals to aid in your recovery.

Revisiting my family, I realize that we’ve chosen restaurants less carefully this month. And, we enjoyed local goat’s milk cheese at the farm festival a week earlier (we eat high quality dairy occasionally). Hmm… At the very least, be aware of these seemingly small coincidences.

If you or your kids are struggling with a seasonal cold virus, here are 5 natural remedies to unblock your congestion:

1. Drink plenty of water to dilute and flush out toxins and congestion.
My favorite upgrade is to add 1 freshly juiced lemon to 16oz of water

2. Cook your food
Cooked food is easier on your digestive system, giving it a chance to rest (and your body a chance to focus on recovery). And warm soups are great for clearing the nasal passageways.

3. Remove sticky foods from your diet
If you find your congestion lingers, try removing the dairy and bad fats and make note of how you feel.

4. Eat salty whole foods
Many autumn vegetables naturally contain a higher concentration of salt, which prevents water from getting into your cells. Water in your cells causes gooey nasal passageways and watery eyes. Try carrots, sweet potatoes, and celery. You can also add a piece of kombu (a sea vegetable) to your soup.

5. Try a netti pot.
I recommend seasonal use of a neti pot to prevent sinus pain, congestion, colds, and flus. It’s a great way to keep your nasal passageways clear and irritant-free.

Of course, remember a cold, flu, or virus is your body’s way of telling you to take a break and relax. Taking the time off to slow down, rest, and watch Harry Potter with your kids (or your favorite couch activity) is the most important ingredient for a speedy, restorative recovery.

Be Well!

Your Simple Action Plan:

What’s one thing you can do to support your family through the seasonal cold and flu season? It could be as simple as having fresh lemon in the house or maybe you’d like to try something new like the neti pot or fresh kombu (found in the Asian section of your grocery store).


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