Managing Your Health During and Post-Flu


by Jukka Valkonen, RN, PHN, and World Class Athlete

We're well into flu season and it's no joke this year. Last month, the CDC issued a high alert for a particular variant of H1N1 that packs a powerful respiratory punch. Children and adults had been hospitalized and deaths had been reported. While the CDC states that this year's flu shot is a 60% match to the strains going around, not everyone gets the vaccine. This article won't get into that controversial topic. Instead, we'll learn about ways to manage your health once you have the flu, and how to get yourself back to your usual life once the flu has run its course.

First, let's consider the affects the flu has on your body:

  • Fever, not just a low grade "I feel warm" fever, rather, one where your body is on fire, eyeballs too, heart feels like you're chasing Usain Bolt, and emotionally you may even feel scared.
  • Body aches, you never thought that old broken wrist could hurt so much.
  • Chills and Shakes, if the body is burning up, how come it feels like the AC is cranked up? And with these shakes, who needs CrossFit, the body is getting a full workout.
  • Stomach and GI Distress, you aren't hungry but it's like having Montezuma's Revenge.
  • Head and Chest Congestion, amazing how much stuff keeps coming out the sinuses.
  • Hallucinations, the fever, poor sleep, low nutrition, and unbalanced electrolytes can all contribute to these.

Because we feel so bad when we have the flu, many seek medical attention, either at the medical office, clinic, or emergency room. As a nurse who has worked in the ED, trauma, critical care and office settings, I've seen and treated many flu patients. So what did I and the physician do? Not much. With severe cases, IV fluids may be necessary. Antibiotics aren't effective. However, as a 30 year multisport veteran, I apply those experiences to how I manage my health when I get the flu. Here's what I do:

  • Fluids: Just like in an ultra event, fluid management is critical. Even if your stomach doesn't feel good, frequent small sips of fluids are necessary. Since I've added Kaqun water to my regimen, this was great when I recently had pneumonia and the flu. The fever and flu scenario create an acidic situation with your body. Your microbiome is really disturbed, so having an alkaline water with minerals and electrolytes is perfect. I was able to drink smoothies. Frozen berries, some kale, some celery, a scoop of Perfect Food Energizer from Garden of Life, and Kaqun water was my go-to nutrition. When you get up at night, small sips of water to stay hydrated. Most likely you'll have night sweats. When you get up in the AM, have about 20 oz of water with some electrolytes mixed in to start re-hydration.
  • PerfectAmino: In the hospital, patients unable to eat get their protein through aminos via a central line to the heart. When you're sick with the flu and the stomach doesn't feel good, PerfectAmino is great. I kept my daily dose at 10-15 tabs. The fever is driving up your metabolic rate, and your overall nutrition is poor during the flu. The tabs are readily absorbed, so there's nothing heavy for the gut to process and use precious energy on.
  • Complete + Detox Multivitamin: Your kidneys, liver, and mitochondria are working really hard to process the metabolic wastes. Cellular cleansing allows cellular energy storage and activation to happen.
  • Probiotics: The gut bacteria will be ravaged. It will really be wiped out if for some reason you're placed on an antibiotic. While you're sick, getting your probiotics from various foods may not be feasible. I've tried many products, and really like the Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra.
  • Coconut Oil: a teaspoon at bed time after brushing, allowing it to melt in the mouth is a great way to reduce oral bacteria, give yourself a little energy, and a natural antibiotic for the gut.

I've also used a SleepTracker watch for many years. The most accurate device uses a sensor that picks up fine tremor of the long tendon in the wrist when you're having an almost awake moment. When you're sick, your sleep cycles are totally messed up including having very short durations in deep, restorative sleep. As you begin to feel better, your sleep cycles will also begin to balance. Having a device like this allows you to anticipate when you may be ready for some light activity like a short walk. I believe walking is the best form of activity for recovery. It doesn't kick in your stress response, thus no cortisol release. It moves the body, gets the cardio-respiratory system engaged, and gives you an indicator whether you're ready for other activity like biking, jogging, and even swimming. For those of us who train for and compete in events greater than an hour, walking an hour without feeling fatigued is a great test to see if we are ready to resume training.

Having the flu isn't fun but it's part of life. By learning how to manage your health while you are sick will teach you things you can do to manage your health during extended training and racing. This confidence will help you get past those dark moments during training or racing where you think you may want to quit. Just like the doctor's office, quitting is an option, but all it gets you is a pat on the back with "you'll feel better."