It’s no coincidence that I’m writing about foods to eat when you’re sick. I’m coming off of a 10-day streak of feeling completely rotten. I inherited a virus of sorts from my preschooler that spread like wildfire through our entire house. I was at the top of my game when I got sick, too! Eating all the right foods, getting lots of rest and exercise don’t always make our bodies bulletproof. Sometimes we run into a bacteria or a virus that knocks us down. We’re busy people, aren’t we? Getting healthy faster should be the goal. Here are a few foods that can do your body some good when you’re feeling run down and under the weather.
Eat These 5 Foods When You’re Sick
You can absolutely do everything under the sun to try not to get sick, but it’s never a guarantee. Trust me. I religiously take supplements that I know help to support my immune system. I eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day. I avoid refined sugar. I rest. I exercise. I wash my hands and doorknobs and countertops.
But I like people. And I like to be around people. I have people in my home, including my 5-year-old son who brings home germs from the little people he goes to school with. And let me tell you, no amount of immune-supporting supplements was enough to defend my body from a cold my son brought home about ten days ago from school.
It laid my husband and I out flat. But, in between our tag-teaming runs to the grocery store to try to eat nourishing foods, we kept foods with these nutrients high up on our list.
Zinc has long-since been touted as a nutrient that can help shorten the duration of the common cold. Whether the cold is caused by a bacteria or a virus, cutting out even a day or two of feeling rotten can be a lifesaver. Supplementing with a zinc lozenge, or eating foods that are rich in zinc, even after the onset of a cold, has been shown to decrease the length of a cold by two to four days – which is significant!
I’ve always turned to the brand Zicam, which is essentially a zinc supplement in lozenge form, but you can also eat these foods regularly to buff up on this important nutrient:
- Dark Chocolate
- Hemp Seeds
It’s never a bad time to make sure you’re body is staying replenished on vitamin C as this nutrient will always help your immune system stay strong, but you don’t need to overdo it. Your body can really only use a relatively small amount of vitamin C at a time, so taking 1000mg at a time, for example, won’t necessarily help you any more than taking 250mg. That said – if you’re not supplementing with vitamin C, you can get plenty in the foods you eat.
If you’re ever wondering if a food you’re eating has vitamin C in it, think color. Just about any fruit or vegetable with a rich, vibrant color will have plenty of vitamin C. Here are a few to start with.
- Leafy greens, like kale or spinach
- Bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Chili peppers
Nope, probiotics are technically not a garden-variety food, but a nutrient within foods that helps our gut tremendously when it comes to keeping our immune system strong and healthy before, during and after a cold.
If you’ve ever taken an antibiotic, you’ve likely killed the bad bacteria that caused an infection in your body. While antibiotics can be very effective, they’re not discriminating and tend to obliterate the good bacteria that are trying to help your body stay healthy, too. Without healthy bacteria to help fight off the bad, you could find yourself in a vicious circle sickness. The bottom line is it’s really important to get a reasonable amount of good bacteria daily, not just when you’re sick. But when you are sick, it’s just as important to keep the good bacteria high as a form of defense in your gut – the home base of your immune system.
The exact probiotic you should take is unique to your microbiome – your body’s built-in eco-center. But generally, we should all take a strain of probiotic that covers our large and small intestines and is well researched.
Buyer beware. There are a lot of food products on the market that state they contain a good source of certain probiotics. But in most cases, especially if the specific details are not given, the probiotics are simply added to help digest the protein within the food.
Here are a few brands of probiotics I’ve used and trust.
- Jarrow Jarro-Dophilus EPS
- PB8 Probiotics
- Renew Life Ultimate Flora (if I need extra support)
- Culturelle Kids Chewables (for my kids)
Foods Rich in Sulfur
You may not be thinking, “I’m sick, I need my sulfur,” but if you’re taking something with acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol, Theraflu, Alka-Seltzer, Paracetamol, Robitussin and hundreds of other over-the-counter cold remedies), your liver may be thinking otherwise.
Our liver is a goldmine of a nutrient called sulfur, which helps to produce an antioxidant called glutathione that helps to detoxify our liver. When our liver can’t detoxify, we run into very serious problems.
Acetaminophen works only when sulfur is around. In other words, as soon as you take a product with acetaminophen, that product immediately starts uses your body’s valuable sulfur to activate its pain-relieving capabilities. If you’re taking a product with acetaminophen in it for a very long time and you’re not replenishing sulfur, this could be harmful.
Talk to your doctor about the amount of acetaminophen you’re taking, especially if you think you might be taking acetaminophen in more than one product.
Whether you are or aren’t, eating a diet rich in sulfur can always benefit your body by detoxifying – whether you’re taking an over-the-counter or not.
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
You’re probably not shocked to find that I mention water here. Beyond store-bought juices, sodas and even coconut water, nothing can beat water. Water helps with nearly every metabolic reaction, including detoxification and elimination. The last thing you want to do is hold on to toxins that harbor bacteria any longer than you have to.
Colds also commonly mean the accumulation of mucus – from our lungs to our sinuses. Sugary drinks can actually lead to more mucus, but drinking plenty of fresh water can actually help to loosen mucus.
If you’re not a big fan of water on its own, here are a few helpful add-ins to throw into a glass to sip on all day long:
- Fresh mint
- Sliced lemon
- Sliced orange
- Sliced ginger
- Fresh pineapple
- Fresh strawberry
- Sliced cucumber
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