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The 7 Worst Foods to Eat When You are Sick

The coughing, sniffling, body aches and stuffy nose has arrived. For most people, eating well is not high on the priority list of ways to get better when they are sick. Instead, just make sure you avoid the worst foods to eat when you are sick, and you’ll be on your way to feeling better in no time.

The 7 Worst Foods to Eat When You are Sick

The 7 Worst Foods to Eat When You are Sick

Researchers agree that somewhere between 60% and 80% of immune function is isolated within your digestive tract. This little-known fact makes watching what you eat when you are sick is a must, and taking steps to support your gut health a necessity, even when you are not sick.

1. Alcohol
With the exception of a hot toddy (tea, lemon, honey and a dash of whiskey), alcohol definitely makes the list of foods to avoid when you are 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.

2. Olestra
This fat-substitute found in a handful of diet foods usually passes through your GI tract undigested, and pulls a lot of essential vitamins out with it – like Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E. These are not vitamins you'd like to miss out on, since both vitamins D & A are required to help your immune system function. Specifically, vitamin D helps keep your immune system from “over-reacting” to pathogens or allergens, and vitamin A helps prevent infection in the moist tissues that line your nose, sinuses, eyes, and throat.

3. Dairy
Most people have heard that dairy is one of the foods to avoid eating when you are sick, and this is largely due to production of phlegm in some individuals following consumption of dairy products. Too much extra throat clearing when you are sick is never a good thing. Probiotics are probably a good idea, so skip dairy products aside from those that contain live and active probiotic cultures, such as yogurt or kefir.

4. Orange Juice
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 affects white blood cell function, by decreasing their ability to fight off infection. 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.

5. Iron
Interestingly enough iron is essential for health, but your body's blood levels of available iron drop as a protective mechanism when you are sick. Bacteria utilize iron for their metabolism and growth, and so by restricting access to host iron, the body is able to reduce the continued spread of bad bacteria when you are sick. So it may be a good idea to skip the red meats and iron-containing multivitamin supplements while you are sick.

6. Fried Foods
Most dietary fats are inflammatory. 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. 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.

7. Penicillin-Containing Foods
This one is for those folks that have an allergy to penicillin. Certain foods contain mold, the starting point of penicillin production. Antibiotic foods like blue cheese, camembert and brie, contain a derivative of penicillin which could cause an allergic response following consumption of these cheeses. Another culprit is Spanish fermented sausage, which has tested positive for penicillin derivatives as well. Researchers suspect that consuming penicillin-containing foods when you are sick could contribute to resistant bacteria as well, through host to resident gene transfer of tolerance to penicillin. This is how something like sausage could make the list of worst foods to eat when you are sick.

Sarah Asay's Photo
Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on September 25, 2017. Updated on October 22, 2019.


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