Will eating while sick make you recover faster?

Many people believe the saying ‘feed a cold and starve a fever’. Conditions like the flu make us unable to move or think. When we are sick, going to the kitchen and preparing some food becomes an impossible task. Our bodies are able to live on liquids alone when stricken with the flu, but is it a healthy course of recovery? 

Several years ago, the whole nation was panicking from the 2009 flu pandemic.  Many people got sick with fever, chills, aches and fatigue. There are also other bunches of flu virus strains out there waiting to make you or your loved ones sick. Aside from the flu, we face the risk of having common colds and gastroenteritis every day.

The truth is, you cannot avoid getting sick forever. The difference is having a good and uneventful recovery. 

We will explain what works to hasten recovery. We will teach you everything you need to know about recovery and prevention of sickness; what works and how to apply it. This can be used for your entire family. Improve your knowledge and the next time you or someone gets sick, you know exactly what to do.  

Understanding how the immune system works

The immune system is a big and remarkable multi-tiered organization with only one aim: to combat all disease-causing pathogens in the body. To do its job, the immune system relies on a diverse set of organs in the body. 

The first set of defenses are the skin and mucous membranes, which trap pathogens and clear them out of the system. The stomach contains highly acidic substances to kill pathogens in food before they reach the intestines. Millions of white blood cells are produced in the body every day that actively hunt and kill suspected and confirmed pathogens. 

Only the intestines have a moist, food-rich and fairly neutral environment in the body that can be considered ‘safe havens’ for pathogens. It is good to know that there is a population of bacteria, called probiotics, in the intestines that crowd out pathogens and prevent them from rooting and entering the bloodstream. Probiotics prevent the intestines from becoming a breeding ground for harmful microbes.

If the probiotic population becomes too low, an imbalance exists that allows pathogens to penetrate intestinal walls and enter the bloodstream. Probiotic populations in the body are greatly affected by the food we eat. High-fiber nutrient dense food items promote probiotics. Processed foods with high fat or sugar content stimulate growth of pathogenic bacteria and cause an imbalance.

Bad eating habits always lead to poor health

Bad diet means more illnesses.  As mentioned earlier, the immune system is huge and particularly diverse, and it requires a lot of nutrients in order for it to do its work. Aside from promoting growth of disease causing microorganisms in the intestine, unhealthy diets also cause deficiency of nutrients that the immune system needs and therefore makes us more vulnerable to sickness.  

Eating prebiotics and probiotics

Prebiotics are substances that serve as food for probiotic bacteria. To increase or maintain probiotic populations in the body you have to eat more foods with prebiotic. 

So what are prebiotic foods? They are food items that are nutrient dense and rich in soluble fiber. Probiotic bacteria live soluble fiber using fermentation. 

Here are some examples of foods that contains prebiotics:

  • Psyllium husk
  • Beta glucan
  • Acacia gum
  • Whole plant vegetables, like asparagus, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes and onions
  • Apples, bananas, berries, kiwifruits and citrus fruits
  • Flax and chia seeds

Probiotic foods are foodstuffs with significant populations of bacteria beneficial to the body. Foods that are probiotics are the following:

  • Live and freshly made yogurt
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Miso and tempeh
  • Soy sauce
  • Wine

Now you see the marked difference between prebiotics and probiotics. When sick or convalescing, try to eat two or more servings of probiotics and prebiotics. To maintain good health, eat one or two servings every day.

Should I eat when sick?

According to what we have read, it is really important for us to eat when we are sick. By not eating, we are depriving our sick bodies the nutrients it needs to recover. 

However, there are studies saying that moderate calorie restriction may improve immune system activity. There is evidence showing that periodic fasting has beneficial effects on metabolism and immune responses. 

To clear up confusion, it is up to you to listen to cues from your body. It is normal for a person to have poor appetite when having conditions like gastroenteritis and flu. Lack of appetite can be due to the body’s effort to save energy to fight pathogens. 

Majority of studies agree that very low food intake can lower active defenses against pathogens and suppress immune system activity. You may not feel hungry but there is a risk of suffering from malnutrition or nutrient deficiency. 

So try to eat something when sick. Make sure it is healthy and supports your immune system. If you feel too tired to eat, rest and try to eat again later. 

Foods that stimulate immunity

Stick your choice to foods that boost the immune system. 

  • Garlic – this popular spice has more than 100 compounds in garlic that kill bacteria, fungi and viruses. You might as well call garlic a broad-spectrum natural antibiotic. In a study, garlic is shown to reduce chances of having colds and speeding up recovery from symptoms.  
  • Chicken soup – this old-fashioned remedy for colds, flu and fever remains effective today. There is a large amount of scientific papers favoring chicken soup for colds, though experts still do not know how it works. Avoid stock pots and mixes. Make your own chicken soup by simply covering chicken with water and simmer with choice vegetables. 
  • Green tea – tea plants contain a substance called Catechins and polyphenol EGCG that work directly with the immune system. EGCG, in particular, is found to greatly increase production of certain white blood cells.
  • Honey – has antimicrobial properties and suppresses coughs. As a bonus, honey is also an easy source of energy that will help your body during sickness.
  • Elderberries – this herb works for immune system conditions including sinus infections, flu and chronic fatigue and allergies. 

Note the things that causes poor immune system performance

This is worth a mention because many of us have no idea that simple actions can result in lowered immune system activity. You might do one or several of these things every day. Try to avoid these things if you feel sick, or convalescing:

  • Reducing energy intake (food) – when energy sources become too low, our bodies automatically reduce activity of organ systems including the immune system in a bid to conserve resources. 
  • Too low nutrient intake – low intake of protein, minerals and vitamins reduce immune system activity. 
  • Over eating – consistent overeating is not good for your immune system. Overweight individuals have high proportions of fat cells, which actually transforms into endocrine glands that continuously secrete inflammatory hormones (a sort of false alarm) that gradually reduces immune response to actual pathogens. 
  • Eating too much fat – Eating high levels of saturated fats and omega 6 fatty acids promotes inflammation in the body that results in dysfunction of the immune system. 
  • Eating too much high sugars and simple carbs – aside from feeding growth of disease causing microbes in the gut, also cause inflammation in the intestines. 
  • Getting stressed out – getting stressed at work, home or school effectively cuts down the activity of the immune system.
  • Addiction lowers the immune system – many cases of addiction result in poor immune responses. This is true to addictions to alcohol, narcotics, tobacco and recreational drugs.

Must have supplements for sickness recovery and prevention

To boost the immune system, eating is not always enough. When you are sick, taking supplements is a good way to improve immune response for faster recovery.

Here is the list of must have supplements for your immune system

  • Vitamin C 
  • Zinc 
  • Elderberry 
  • Ginseng
  • Quercetin
  • Beta-glucan  
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin E
  • Probiotics 

Feeling better and preventing sickness again

Now you feel better, you need to do something to prevent from getting sick. Simple measures, like avoiding little or too much exercise, eating in moderation and having enough sleep keeps your immune system in perfect working order.  Occasional fasting also works to improve your immune system.

You can further reduce chances of being infected with disease-causing microbes by frequently washing hands, managing stress and increasing intake of nutrient dense foods in place of less healthy items. Keep your weight within a healthy range and do not forget to have a daily dosage of prebiotic and probiotics. Start on 3 to 5 billion units, and take 10 billion units a day during times of illness.

What to do when you begin to feel sick?

When you notice signs and symptoms of illness the earlier you do something the better chance of having the upper hand. Getting adequate rest and drinking plenty of fluids like water and green tea. Listen to the cues in your body; sleep if you feel sleepy, lie down and rest if you feel tired, and drink fluids if you feel thirsty. Take your supplements and do not forget to continue to take them. 

Avoid doing tedious work because it only prolongs symptoms and delays recovery. Many times, giving symptoms a rest is the best course. Hope for the best, stay put for a while and wait until you can get back on your feet.

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