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Feed A Cold, Starve A Fever? What To Eat When You're Ill

Posted in General Health 30 Apr, 2015

When you feel ill, it's tempting to stay in bed surrounded by comfort food. But while they may taste good, do any of these foods actually aid your recovery, or do they exacerbate the symptoms? Is it true that you need to 'feed a cold and starve a fever', for example? Let's take a look at some of the myths and facts surrounding this.

'Dairy will make your cold worse'

There is a widespread belief that dairy products can increase mucus production, aggravating cold symptoms. While some people report an increase in phlegm after they drink milk, it's most likely that these people are allergic to milk. A set of studies published in 1990 found no clear connection between milk consumption and the worsening of cold symptoms. However, if you do feel more congested after a glass of milk, you may wish to stick to water or other healthy fluids.

'Vitamin C cures a cold'

Many people rush to eat more oranges or take a vitamin C supplement at the first sign of a cold. However, studies suggest that, despite various claims, there is virtually no proof that vitamin C has any effect on the common cold and the findings have been inconsistent. While taking vitamin C supplements is safe, the research indicates you may be wasting your time if you expect it to make a significant difference. The best way to treat a cold is to eat healthy food, exercise - as this may enhance immune function - and get plenty of rest.

'Chicken soup will aid your recovery'

When you're ill, a bowl of chicken soup is often the go-to food for it's comforting and healing properties. But is this genuine or just hearsay? The steaming hot liquid can help to ease congestion but there's also a substance in chicken soup that may help alleviate symptoms of cold and influenza. It's thought to inhibit the movement of neutrophils, a kind of white blood cell that initiates the inflammatory response. The result is fewer sore throats and lowered production of phlegm.

Dodgy tummy?

A stomach virus often results in symptoms like fever, nausea, pain and vomiting. The best foods to eat if you have a stomach condition are bananas, oatmeal, boiled potatoes and baked chicken. Anything that causes gas or bloating should be avoided, and this includes broccoli, onions, apples, cabbages, beans and dairy products. It's also recommended to avoid anything containing artificial sweeteners as these aren't digestible and may trigger diarrhoea.

Tackle nausea

If you feel sick then eating may seem unappealing, but the right type of foods can nourish your body and calm down nausea. Crackers or pretzels are good choices, while drinking ginger, lemon or peppermint tea may also help. The worst things you can eat or drink if you feel sick are anything greasy, spicy, oily or caffeinated. Alcohol and fizzy drinks can also make the nausea worse.


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