Rick, from TopStretch.com has really saved my bacon this week. He’s swooped in to offer some brilliant advice on what foods you can eat to avoid getting sick. A huge issue at this time of year!

He’s also,  very kindly, included a guide on foods to eat whilst you’re ill. Something I had covered previously but before my nutritional training (so no clever food advice from me!). My beat the bugs guide is a general guide for staying healthy. Rick has gone into detail this year with his nifty guide!

Before we get into it, who is rick?

Rick is a 15 year veteran of the health & fitness industry who spends his free time travelling the world. He has a B.S. in Natural Health Sciences and is a certified personal trainer. While travelling, he enjoys meeting new people in local yoga circles and spending time at local outdoor cafes. Currently, he blogs on his person fitness and wellness site, TopStretch.com, focusing on mobility, flexibility, and general fitness.  Rick also enjoys sampling local craft brews each night.

Best foods to eat before illness.

As wintertime temperatures drop, people end up stuck inside together for more hours of the day. This means sharing more germswhether its at the office, at school, or at home. Its no wonder we see a spike in illnesses like colds, the flu, and stomach viruses during the cold winter months.

While getting sick isnt 100% avoidable, the good news is that you can stock your fridge and pantry with foods that will help boost your immunity, as well as soothe and even shorten common illnesses once they occur.

Food 411

Before illness strikes, its a good idea to arm yourself with knowledge about how foods work (and dont work) to keep us healthy.

Weve all heard the old adage Feed a cold and starve a fever.Not true. (Sorry, Grandma.) No matter what bug has you feeling under the weather, your strategy should be to eat. Why? Your body needs fuel to fight the illness!

Starving your body when its sick means starving your immune system, too. This can make your cold or flu last longer. Dont feel like eating a big meal? Try to eat several smaller meals or snack throughout the day.

Drinking lots of fluid is also key to feeling better faster. While studies are inconclusive regarding the oft-repeated advice that fluid helps loosen mucus and heal your body faster, experts agree that remaining hydrated is important.

When youre sickwhether youre stuck in bed with a cold or miserable with a stomach virusyou often lose bodily fluids due to a runny nose, vomiting, or diarrhoea. Becoming dehydrated will only add to your misery, so keep a water bottle or mug at hand and sip, sip, sip!

If you constantly think 'there's not enough time in the day' or you're worried about an upcoming meeting or event. Take five minutes. That's all you need!
Pamper yourself happy.

Eat and Drink These to Target Whats Ailing You

If you do need to constantly eat and drink the entire time youre sick, what foods will pack the most healing punch? Check out the following lists to customise your menu in a way that will have you on the road to recovery in no time.

Keep These in the Cupboard for a Cold or the Flu

When youre wracked with icky, sniffy, body aches and sneezing, its tough to imagine that youll ever feel better again. Dont despair! Snacking and sipping on these will help your body heal faster.

  • Decaffeinated Hot Tea
    No matter how horrible you feel, you can sip a hot drink. Hot tea is a multipurpose illness tonic that provides multiple benefits. Obviously, it helps hydrate you. If its green or black tea in your cup, you will reap the rewards of L-theanine, an antioxidant that can boost your immune system. Mix in a spoonful of honey to soothe your sore throat.
  • Chicken Soup or Broth
    For generations, mothers have fed their sick loved ones chicken soup to help them feel better. Today, it turns out that Mom really knows her stuff. Chicken contains cysteine, an amino acid that can help thin mucus. The steam from the broth helps moisten nasal passages. Broth is also a liquid, which helps (say it with me, folks) prevent dehydration. Drink up!
  • A Bit of Whiskey
    Note that we said a bit of whisky. While getting drunk may help you momentarily forget your cold, youll feel much worse for it once you sober up. That doesnt mean a total prohibition on alcohol when youre ill, though. Sipping a hot toddy (made with whiskey, lemon juice, honey, and hot water) can actually help ease congestion by dilating blood vessels in your nasal passages.
    Make sure youre getting plenty of nonalcoholic fluids, though, because alcohol can dehydrate you.

Nosh on These When Youre Nauseous

The last thing you feel like doing when you have a stomach virus is eating and drinking. However, if youre losing nutrients and fluid due to vomiting and diarrhea and not replenishing them, youre going to feel weak and dehydrated rather quickly. As soon as you can hold something down, try the following suggestions.

  • Ginger
  • When I was a kid, my grandmother used to keep candied ginger on hand for when I had a stomachache. Science proves grandma right, as ginger works wonders with issues such as nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Brew some ginger tea to soothe your stomach and rehydrate. Although flat ginger ale does seem to help, keep in mind that most brands of ginger ale have very little real ginger in them, so youre probably getting more of a benefit from the hydration than the ginger itself.
  • Bland Carbs
  • While it may sound unthinkable at first, at some point during your stomach illness, youre going to need to eat a bit of food. When you do, stick to bland carbs such as unbuttered toast, saltine crackers, and plain rice or pasta. These will help ease the lining of your stomach and will give your body much-needed strength.
  • Bananas (Bananas are awesome for health all year round though)
  • When you lose bodily fluids during a battle with a stomach virus, you lose potassium and electrolytes. This can make you feel weak and shaky. Bananas can help replenish these important nutrients in the way that sports drinks canminus all the processed sugar.

Stay Away From These When Youre SickThe best foods to eat (and what to avoid) when fighting illness

Some of the foods and beverages we reach for most frequently when were sick can actually make us feel worse or even lengthen the duration of our illness. To speed along your recovery, avoid these items.

Sports Drinks

While sports drinks do contain important potassium and electrolytes, theyre also packed with huge amounts of processed sugar. This can increase inflammation and reduce your immune responsetwo things you dont want while your body is fighting an illness.

Caffeinated and Carbonated Drinks

Youll note that when we suggested tea above, we specified decaffeinated,and when we mentioned ginger ale, it was flat ginger ale.This is because caffeine and carbonation are not your friends when youre not feeling well. Why? Caffeine is a diuretic, so it will encourage your body to shed fluids as youre working to replenish them. As for carbonation, bubbles can be irritating to an already-shaky stomach.

Spicy Foods

Turning up the heat in your food can wreak havoc whether you have a cold or an upset stomach. If youre dealing with nasal congestion, spicy food can exacerbate it, causing your nose to run more freely. In the case of a stomach virus, the last thing your already-shaky stomach needs is for you to spice things up.

I hope you are all armoured up for this years winter bug invasion! Not to worry if you’re already under the weather this might help you too – Do we need to exercise when we’re ill and how do we work out when is safe to exercise when you’re ill?


Amy-May Hunt

13 comments on “Best Foods to Eat (and What to Avoid) When You Get Sick”

  1. Thanks Amy (and Rick) really great write-up! I just fended off my first cold – I usually get 1-2 per year and they are usually during the big temperature swings. I avoided the whiskey this time but I didn’t realize that we should avoid sports drinks too – as long as I can remember everyone always recommended them!

    Nothing beats hot tea, lemon and honey tho!

  2. I find natural yogurt with some mild fruits like bananas and blueberries helps during recovery too. Fingers crossed I manage to avoid the bugs my children will invariably bring home from school this winter!

  3. Very interesting read even though I don’t get colds and I think it’s because I’m active and I eat a healthy diet. For me, an paracetamol twice a day if I feel a cold might settle in is enough.

    • Oddly enough that’s why I wrote this post. My family suffer with colds frequently where as I only get them perhaps once or twice a year. It’s all down to being healthy, increase your white blood count. Eat a proper diet and live positively!

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