I heart fall. Jeans. Sweaters. Jackets. Pumpkin-flavored everything. The list goes on. What I do not love about this time of year, however, is that cold and flu season is upon us. My family was illness-free the entire summer, and the minute school started up again—WHAM! My husband had a two-week-long stomach virus (during which he dropped 10 pounds. Figures. I would get the same virus and manage to somehow gain weight. Stupid men and their metabolisms.) followed by a horrible cold that both of my kids are still getting over. And wait until you hear what illnesses befell me … oh, wait. None. While the other three were going through rolls of toilet paper and boxes of tissues at an alarming rate, I was sitting on the couch wondering why both of these super-attractive illnesses were just passing me by. With a list of chronic conditions and prescription meds that looks like that of an 85-year-old, 800-pound man, you would think that my immune system would be welcoming these bugs to our already crowded party, but I was able to steer clear.
Let’s take a minute to ponder this, shall we?
• Do I wash my hands a) any more often or b) with considerably more chutzpa than my family? I’m thinking no, but the fact that I do so enjoy the smell of the Mrs. Meyer’s hand soaps in the bathrooms may make me rub ’em and scrub ’em (as I say to my kids) just a little bit longer.
• Was I following the three of them around with Clorox wipes, ready to disinfect any and all surfaces that they came in contact with? Nope. I am hardly what you would call a germaphobe. We all share drinks. Snuggle up in bed. Rub our faces all over one another. You get the point. If someone is sick in the house, odds are, no matter how much you clean and/or avoid them, you will get sick, too.
• Has my formerly faulty immune system gotten a reboot from all of this healthy stuff I’ve been doing? You mean eating well and exercising can do more for me than just help me drop jeans sizes? Who knew?
In actuality, I am chalking this victory up to one thing: probiotics. For the unenlightened, probiotics are microorganisms, found in some foods and supplements, that are believed to improve health. It seems like probiotics are making their way into everything these days, but can always be found in things like yogurt or fermented foods like pickles. I started taking a probiotic supplement a few years ago during an ulcerative colitis flare-up. My doctor said that they can’t hurt and they may even help with my symptoms—a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one. I started on them immediately and never looked back.
Knocking on every piece of wood in a one-mile radius, my stomach has been a-okay for the better part of five years. And, as I explained above, colds and other illnesses seem to skip right over me when they afflict everyone else in my house. (Other than the bout of strep I had last year. That shit is no joke and knocked me flat on my ass. It must be probiotic-proof.) While my kids do eat their fair share of yogurt, after running it by our doctor, I’m starting them on probiotic supplements to see if my theory flies with them too. Olivia has already been the lucky recipient of one set of ear tubes and, if this cold and flu season is anything like last year’s, she might be in for another set. If I have to get all Dennis-Quaid-in-Innerspace and crawl inside of Liv’s ears to straighten out her obviously kinked ear canals to avoid having to go through that all over again, I will. And after I’ve returned from that journey, you will find me bundled up in my fall finest, sipping some sort of pumpkin-ized drink, all hopped up on probiotics, smiling the smile of someone who is about to fall victim to the Titanic of colds. Because I wrote this blog post. And karma is a bitch.
Last time you strolled by Mommy’s Corner, I told you all about the problems I’d been having with my shins and hip during and after my runs. I was hoping that the new pair of Brooks I scored would help to alleviate all of my pain. It didn’t. Actually, my hip was better, but the shins were still a problem. I decided to give myself a break from running and try something that I haven’t done in years, a Spin class. I’d been really nervous about taking Spin again since the last time I tried it, when I was 28 and in horrendous shape, it did not go so well. I had all kinds of questions: Do I need cycling shoes? Do I need those freaky padded shorts or a seat cover, and is my ass going to kill if I don’t have them?
Walking into the class I felt like a fraud without my gear, since the rest of the ladies in there seemed to have their shit together in that department. Trying not to be too conspicuous about my Spin virginity (rumor has it your Spin Hymen will grow back if you haven’t spun in at least five years), I turned all sorts of knobs and dials trying to adjust the seat and handlebars to a somewhat comfortable position. Then I hopped on and starting pedaling because that’s what everyone else was doing. The instructor hopped on her cycle, the lights dimmed, the music started pumping, and we were off and pedaling through Hawaii’s Big Island (that was the destination of the day up on the video screen).
In the end, I did not need any fancy gear to enjoy this class. Once I got the lingo down (“back in the saddle,” “increase to about a 6,” etc.), I was able to keep up with the others and get some major sweat on. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I went back two days later for another class. Until I can/will run again, it’s nice to have something new in my repertoire!
>> What are your stay-healthy tips and tricks during cold and flu season? Share ’em in the comments!
Robin Raskin lives with her family in Bucks County. She blogs Thursdays on Be Well Philly. Catch up with the series here.