Health Q&A

Eat These Immune-Boosting Foods If You’re Sick

January 29, 2019

Feed a cold and starve a fever – is only a half-truth

When you’re sick, your body requires energy in the form of nutritious calories to support your immune system, which is combatting the illness. Many people may lose their appetite when they’re ill. Unfortunately, reduced calories will interfere with your body’s ability to heal quickly and could even make your symptoms worse. So, it’s important to nourish your body with the right foods to help you heal.

What is the immune system?

The immune system is the body’s natural defence system, which comprises a network of cells, tissues and organs that defend the body against harmful invaders like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungus. All these invaders have the potential to make you sick and it is the immune system that produces white blood cells to destroy the foreign substances.

Staying healthy and hydrated when you’re ill

Topmed recommends staying hydrated and eating small portions of the right food when you’re ill. This can aid in a faster recovery and will help reduce discomfort.

The best and worst foods to eat when you’re sick

1.Colds and flu

The best foods to eat when you have a cold or flu are those with phlegm-fighting properties that can ease congestion and fight inflammation. Some of these include:

  • Broth-based soup, like chicken soup, which contains the cysteine amino acid. This helps thin mucus in the lungs and keeps nasal passages moist. In addition to replenishing the body’s lost fluids and electrolytes, it also offers an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, calories and protein.
  • Herbal teas, like black tea or green tea, contain natural compounds like polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins that boost the immune system, keeping the body hydrated and easing discomfort. Echinacea tea is renowned for its ability to combat colds and flu, so keep some close at hand if you have the sniffles.
  • Honey is a powerful antibacterial agent that can help clear an infection and stimulate the immune system. Just remember that honey should not be given to infants under the age of six months.
  • Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons and grapefruit, contain high levels of vitamin C, which can help decrease inflammation.
  • Spicy foods, like chillies, wasabi and horseradish, will also help with decongestion as the capsicum contained in these foods breaks down mucus. Take care not to eat spicy foods if you have stomach flu as this could cause bloating or digestive irritation.
  • Garlic contains allicin, which can help fight-off bacteria. Try chewing on some raw garlic or add it to a meal if you find the taste a bit strong.

Some foods to avoid if you’re suffering from a cold or flu include:

  • Dairy, like milk or yoghurt, as this could increase mucus production
  • Caffeine or alcohol as these substances dehydrate your body

2. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

The best foods to eat if you’re suffering from nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea are the following:

  • BRAT foods (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) as this combination is bland and gentle on the stomach and also rich in nutrients, providing the body with both starch and soluble fibre. Other excellent sources of starch and fibre are plain crackers, oatmeal and boiled potatoes.
  • Keep hydrated and stay healthy with plenty of water if you’re suffering from an upset stomach.
  • Ginger is renowned for its ability to reduce the effects of nausea or vomiting. Try some ginger tea to ease your symptoms.
  • Coconut water contains natural glucose and electrolytes, so can rehydrate the body and manage your blood sugar levels.
  • Yoghurt and those foods with a live culture are packed with probiotics and can help replace good gut bacteria.

Some foods to avoid, or eat in moderation, if you’re suffering from nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea include:

  • Greasy, fatty foods that are high in trans-fat or saturated fats, like deep-fried food, baked goods or salty snacks. These foods are low in nutritional value and are difficult to digest.
  • Refined sugar, found in sweets and chocolates, can suppress the body’s immune system and cause inflammation.
  • Spicy foods, like chillies, can irritate the stomach further.

3. Constipation

The best foods to eat if you are constipated are those that have an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fibre. This is because fibre traps water in the stool, making it easier to pass. It also nourishes healthy gut bacteria. Some of the recommended foods include:

  • Wheat bran or raw oats as these are great sources of natural fibre.
  • Dried fruit, like apricots, figs and prunes, as they contain sorbitol, which is a natural laxative.
  • Flaxseeds, as these are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which support regular bowel movements.
  • Water is an excellent way to combat the effects of constipation. Read more about this with Are You Drinking Enough Water? Stay Hydrated & Healthy.


Some foods to avoid if you’re suffering from constipation include:

  • Processed foods that have high salt levels or a high fat content as these remove moisture from the stool, making it difficult to pass.
  • Processed grains, like white bread, rice or pasta, as they are low in fibre.
  • Caffeine or alcoholic drinks, as these dehydrate the body.
  • Red meat, as it lacks dietary fibre.

Following the right diet, which is nutritious and energising, can have a direct impact on the speed of your recovery from an illness. At Topmed we encourage a healthy lifestyle, so make sure you’re getting enough immune-boosting food to keep your body in peak condition. Get in touch today and get cover for yourself and your family.


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