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13 December 2006

on recovering from a pernicious flu, gluten-free

The raging sore throat has settled into a dusty patch at the back of my throat. Malaise has given way to a modicum of energy. The pounding earache is only a little pulse of pain.

I might just be on the mend.

Last week, besieged by a miserable flu, I relented. Frayed along the edges of flu for four days, I finally faced the truth — you’re sick, you silly Shauna. Give in to it.
And yet, I had to let out a little sad sigh before I collapsed, letting you know why I wouldn’t be offering up words every day here.

You saved me.

I’m serious. I’m so moved by this community.

The doctor helped, and he seems to be right. This was a bad virus, and I just needed to rest it to the ground. However, when I asked him about treatment for my piercing earache and the lymph nodes in my neck swollen to the size of kumquats, something beyond ibuprofen and sleep, he shrugged and said, “Anything your grandmother might have recommended.”

Um, my grandmother, sadly, never offered me a single helpful word. What to do?

Ask you.

Here is what has been nursing me back to health, from the best of your comments and suggestions, in case anyone reading might be fighting that creepy feeling in the back of your throat and along your muscles:

hot baths with lavender
. Ah, yes. I love the delicious thrill of extending my toes into soapy water, then slowly lowering the rest of me in. Somehow, when I’m busy, baths feel like a distant memory. When I am sick, they are a necessity.

Hot lemon water with ginger and cayenne pepper. There’s something soothing about lemons and heat. Fresh ginger (I pulled out the dried one for the photograph, because I had run out of all the fresh ginger from using it this week1), a touch of honey, and a dash of cayenne pepper for a kick. I must have drunk twenty-two cups of this in three days.

Gargling with salt water. Old trick, I know, but a good one. This works. Just don’t swallow.

Reed’s ginger brew. The Chef brought back a bag full of bottles of this, the first morning I finally admitted I was sick, after a trek to the store for healing supplies for me. I love the spicy carbonation, and it makes me feel like I’m drinking beer again!

Oranges and satsumas and kumquats — oh my
! Citrus fruits rock. I love peeling them and stripping the pith and feeling the squelch of juice in my mouth. Vitamin C, of course, helps too.

Sleep and more sleep. The first day, when I finally gave in, I slept all day long, with little feverish waking periods rapidly followed by more sleep. When the manuscript is due and I have a hundred things let to do, this felt decadent. But the next morning, I awoke feeling halfway to human again. To that end, I was happy to discover that Nyquil is gluten-free. Yeah!

Chicken stock
. The Chef made me quarts and quarts of it. I drank it hot and turned it into soups and slurped up more until my throat started feeling not so sore.

Sex and the City and Law and Order: SVU.
Someone suggested, wonderfully, all six episodes of the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, in a row. If I had not watched that, just before meeting the Chef, I would have indulged again. Besides, I could only watch in little bursts before I fell asleep again. The Chef, however, has hooked me on SVU, which I had never seen before. Beware: if you watch it before going to bed and taking Nyquil, you’re going to have weird dreams.

Comments from my readers. When I would wake up and see that several more of you had sent in suggestions, I felt loved. And when I could start writing again, I felt a fervent urgent desire to write, for you. Thank you.

The Chef’s love. Sorry, everyone else, you can’t have this one. But hopefully, you have someone equally tender and solicitous. My entire life, since leaving my parents’ house, when I have been sick, I have done it alone. This time, I woke to him kissing me, walked into the kitchen to find breakfast made, answered the phone to tender questions and silly jokes. I have never felt so loved. That has to build the immune system too.

Saying yes. About the middle of the first day, when I was feverish and fretting about losing a day of writing time, I looked down at my wrist and say it again: yes. Yes, I have the flu, it seemed to be nudging me. And, what are you going to do, fight it? Part of the reason I had that tattoo emblazoned on me is to remind me: say yes to every moment as it arises, even if you don’t like it at first. Here I was, perniciously sick. Would I make myself any better by shouting no, no, no — I can’t be sick?! Silly Shauna. Say yes. Accept. Surrender.

I think, in the end, that made the biggest difference.

Well, that, and the hot toddies.


1 good-sized shot of Scotch
1 tablespoon sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
enough hot water to fill your cup

Pour the Scotch and sugar into the cup. Stir. Squeen the lemon juice in and listen to it sizzle against the alcohol. Fill the cup with hot water, just enough to cover if you want this strong, all the way to the top if you like your toddies weak. Stir. Drink.
Repeat, every night, until you are rested and wide-eyed with energy.

POSTSCRIPT, literally: Many of you have written to me, in the comments and on the flickr page, to warn everyone reading that Emergen-C is not safe for celiacs. Apparently, the raspberry and mixed berry have sometimes been found with traces of wheat in them. Or is it the other flavors? I've only had a few Emergen-C packets in my life, and one of them on the first full day of the flu. I haven't had a reaction. Then again, maybe I would have been better that day without that one packet. Best to be on the safe side and ignore them completely.


At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

funny that the surrendering can be the hardest thing of all...

glad you're feeling better!

At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a cold, and my love made me a spicy, spicy green curry completely from scratch tonight, and last night I had ginger tea with whiskey and lemon. Now I'm having a satsuma for dessert! Glad to see that you're getting better!

and ditto that about surrending being the hardest thing of all -- especially this time of the year.

At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you're feeling better. May I suggest another remedy, an Ayurvedic drink with ginger and pepper? It's a popular bottled drink sold throughout Sri Lanka and it immediately awakens the body. I happened to write about Ayurvedic drinks on my site today, and in the process came across a recipe for panakam, which I think would do wonders for the wintertime flu. You can read more about it at
Rest up and get well!

At 4:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you're feeling better Shauna.

My 13 year old is suffering from flu. I got him to spend two days in bed but he insisted on going to school today against my better judgement. I wonder is there a girl involved as he's definitely not the studious type.

At 5:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you are starting to feel better! I'm also glad that you found some things to help you recover. I admit that SVU is one of my guilty pleasures. Thanks for the heads up that Nyquil is gluten free:) Keep resting and take care of yourself. Hopefully you'll be 100% in no time.

At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take a hot toddie, hold the flu :)

At 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to hear that you are feeling better again...Hoorah for fighting that nasty flu!!!! I look forward to reading your wonderfully entertaining posts once again...Welcome back Miss Shauna =)

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you are feeling better. After a particularly bad bout with the flu 10 years ago I decided that the old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was the best way to deal with the flu. I get my gluten free flu shot every year.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I really hope you´re getting better with all these remedies :)
Cinnamon is very helpful, it also relives pain I´ve heard.
Love your blog!

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope you get better soon with all these remedies to help you :)
Cinnamon is suppose to relieve pain aswell I´ve heard.
get well soon!

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't take EmergenC if you have celiac as a lot of celiacs have had reactions and the company makes most things with wheat and doesn't seperate the few flavours that aren't. See

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

whiskey has gluten in it doesn't it?? Its made from malted barley.

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you're feeling better! I like teh sound of that hot toddies for the flue. My mom used to make me drink her version of "drink when sick chai" -- black tea, ginger, cinammon, cloves and lots of salt. I hated it, but it did make me feel better.

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad to read that you are on the mend. All my best.

At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Gluten Free Girl,
Just wanted to say that I love Emergen-C too, but both raspberry and mixed berry definitely contain gluten. You should be fine with any other flavor though. I contacted the company and was very sad to hear that these two flavors contained (small amounts) of gluten in the flavoring. I personally have not heard of anyone reacting to Emergen-c on any of the message boards I am on. The company was very nice when they emailed me, so I have a fairly high opinion of them. Very glad to hear you are feeling better!
And re: whiskey comment, it is generally thought that gluten does not survive the distillation process, so it should be fine. Interesting idea- I'd never have thought of a toddie when I'm sick.
-Brenda :)

At 7:56 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


I know! Why do we need to keep learning this lesson, again and again? Thanks for reminding me.


Oh, that green curry sounds magnificent. I'm sure that must have you on the mend.


That drink looks as though it would hit the spot entirely. I had a look at the drink on your site, and I'm desirous! And by the way, you have a marvelous site, which I visit often. Everyone here should.


That's hilarious about your son. 13? Yep, I'm thinking it's a girl too.


Isn't that SVU addictive? Sometimes, they run two episodes in a row, at midnight and one. Sometimes, I just can't resist watching both. Hm, maybe that's why I have the flu?


Tell me about it! That's a lovely evening habit I may just keep!


Thank you, my dear. You know that it would have to be a pernicious flu to keep me away!


Wise woman. Strangely, I did have a flu shot this fall. The Chef and I both did. The doctor said this is a different strain than the shot covered. Figures!

Linda of Brazilian Food Love,

Thank you. I am feeling on the mend, now, almost entirely. Cinnamon? I love it. Why not try it?


Thank you so much for the tip about Emergen-C! It's funny -- I'm incredibly sensitive to gluten, but I've never had a reaction to Emergen-C. But I'll stop taking it now. I'll be sure to let everyone know by putting a postcript on this post.

Anonymous II,

Actually, whisky is gluten-free. Even though it used to be thought of as dangerous for us celiacs, we know now that the distillation process kills the gluten proteins. And so, hot toddies for everyone!

Bengali Chick,

I think your mother's chai sounds delightful. Well, maybe not the "lots of salt" part! I hope that you are feeling better, dear. That first trimester, from what I hear, is really tough. You'll be through it soon.

Lynn Barry,

Thank you, my dear. I'm so grateful for your presence here.


Hooray is right! Thank you for your good wishes.


Thank you for this clear update. As I said above, I am definitely going to put a postscript on this. Why would they need wheat in that? Sheesh. Thank you for your cheerful information.

At 5:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you are feeling better! Yes, salt water works and, believe it or not, it is scientifically founded as to the reason! I also know, secondhand from my roommate, that the Hot Toddy will clear up bouts of laryngitis...just in case you get it when you're in the middle of a play with no understudy! :-) Enjoy the comfort that the chef gives you and get totally well! Hope that the manuscript comes together quickly!

At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Shauna- sorry you are under the weather. My Gluten Free Girlfriend, Melissa also has a nasty cold this week. Next year we are going to stock up on GF cold medicine so I don't have to stand in the grocery store reading labels while she is waiting for some medicine.

Found out that Cold-eeze lozenges are also GF.

Emergen C is labeled with wheat for the raspberry. So we don't buy it anymore.

Going to make hot toddies after work- thanks for the tip.

Feel better and rest up.

My own GF cold remedy is a strong Americano in the morning. When I am sick, that is the only thing I can taste.

Karrie in Denver

At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I checked out your blog because I am trying to avoid gluten to help with my eczema and my stomach troubles. I then read that you too love SVU???? It's highly addictive out!

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Rachael Narins said...

my suggestion for home remedies is lots of wasabi. Clears a girl right up.

And my new addiction, Emergen-C

wow do I love that stuff.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all,
Great news re: Emergen-C. I just got off the phone with the product team person from Alacer Corp (the manufacturer). Long story short, they're in the process of removing 'Contains Wheat' from the Raspberry and Mixed Berry boxes, as none of the Emergen-C products contain gluten! Feel free to call or email them if you're paranoid like me (I have Celiac as well, and I usually don't take chances):


At 7:25 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I've had a few reactions after eating Emergen-C, citrus flavor so I've been suspicious for a while. It's helpful to hear it's not just me. The ingredients don't list wheat but I should take the reactions as evidence enough.

At 11:14 AM, Blogger The Chatty Housewife said...

These comments are a great resource. I just called the company and they said that all of their products are free of wheat, rye and barley products.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Larissa said...

(I drink emergen-c and give it to my 4 yo celiac and my sister the other family celiac drinks it too and we all feel fine. but we all know our mileage all varies with these things!

My favorite cold/flu remedy:

Stockpot of water. towel. essential oils of your choice (lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint all work, tea tree works, others might) put very very hot water in pot. put several drops essential oil in pot. put face over pot. put towel over head. BREATHE.

its awesome.

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Monica said...

I have been miserable since yesterday. I thought that I accidentally ingested gluten and that was the problem. Turns out that the flu is the culprit. Feeling desperate, I looked to you for some advice. Thanks for this story and all of the home remedy ideas.


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