When you have an infection, it's important to pay attention to what you're eating to make sure that you can heal quickly. There's a strong relationship between food and immunity, so knowing which foods that can keep your sick longer can help you build a better plate, filled with the right choices for greater health. Eating foods that will strengthen the immune system is key, and those can be found in fruits, vegetables, and lots of fluids, and avoiding those that can increase infection symptoms will reduce your time spent being sick.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on finding a healthy, balanced lifestyle to keep immunity high. Unfortunately, it's inevitable that we all get sick at times, and healing through food is a clear method, proven to have fantastic results. What you eat affects your body and mind, as the whole system thrives off of good food and can be stressed and inflamed in the presence of less wise choices. When you're sick, you have to be extra cautious. Here are 11 foods that can make your infection worse and prolong your bug. With a few diet tweaks, you'll be better in no time, and be able to prevent any further damage to your health.
1. Excess Roughage
According to Dr. Partha Nandi M.D., F.A.C.P, creator and host of the Emmy-award winning medical lifestyle television show, “Ask Dr. Nandi” and Chief Health Editor at WXYZ-TV (ABC) Detroit, over email with Bustle, "while you may think regular fiber and roughage, such as that found in lettuce and beans, is good when you have diarrhea, that isn’t the case. Roughage typically adds bulk to your stool, making it easier to pass, but when you have diarrhea, it’s counterproductive. These foods are difficult to digest, make your stomach and bowels work harder, and will likely keep you suffering longer."
2. Dairy Products
Nandi advises ditching dairy when sick, such as cheese, yogurt, and milk products, as it can "worsen your symptoms," as well as lead to greater diarrhea, if you're dealing with a stomach condition. It can also increase mucus and make you feel stuffy.
3. Orange Juice
According to Dr. Caroline Cederquist, founder of bistroMD, over email with Bustle, "in addition to other fruit sugar beverages, it’s a good idea to hold off of super sweet drinks like orange juice. The sugar can actually affect white blood cell function by decreasing their ability to fight off infection."
Nandi advises to not drink soda, as soda can make you more inflamed and is loaded with sugar. It's best to decrease inflammation in the body, as the levels are already high from just being sick. Instead of grabbing a cold soda, reach for lots of water and herbal tea to calm the body and boost hydration.
5. Ice Cream
Unless you're getting your tonsils taken out, it's best to back away from the soft stuff. "Sugar can actually weaken your immune system and prolong an illness. When sick, avoid foods and drinks like soda and ice cream," says Cederquist. "Instead, I suggest that people eat whole fruits to get their vitamins and minerals because the whole fruit will also have some fiber in it," says Cederquist.
Gluten can cause inflammation, especially from wheat, so limiting gluten when sick can help you feel better faster. By avoiding gluten, you might be able to lower your inflammation and improve bowel movements, as some people can also not tolerate gluten due to stomach complications.
8. Fried Foods
"Most dietary fats are inflammatory, which means that means that when you eat fried foods, for example, your immune system is going to respond with inflammation. Too much inflammation can aggravate and overstimulate your immune response, resulting in an immune system that is overworked," says Cederquist. "Skipping fried foods is also a good idea to avoid taxing the GI tract with difficult-to-digest foods. Fried foods are definitely among the worst foods to eat when you are sick," Cederquist adds.
9. Unhealthy Oils
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, on his website, eating bad oils, such as vegetable oil, can lead to inflammation. It's high in Omega 6 fats, which can be troublesome when sick. Instead, have Omega 3, found in salmon, olive oil, and walnuts for better sources of anti-inflammatory fats.
Cederquist advises against skipping alcohol when sick. "Alcohol intake, especially intake that occurs on a daily basis, can actually change the number of T-cells that make up a vital part of your immune system, making it more difficult to fight off infections. So skip your brew of choice and have water or hot tea instead," says Cederquist.
11. Baked Goods
Cederquist recommends ditching sweet foods, as they can promote inflammation in the body. Cederquist explains, "Bacteria also like to feed on excess sugars, and this includes the harmful bacteria that can be partially responsible for making you unwell. Starve those suckers by keeping your sugar intake low and avoiding sugary foods when you are sick."
If you have any of these foods and drinks when sick, try eating healthier fats, lean proteins, and a rainbow of fruits and veggies for better health and decreased inflammation. You'll be better in no time.
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