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What to Eat When Sick

Tissues and mug of tea

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I spent most of last week being sick with a cold – or maybe it was trying to be the flu. (My symptoms were a bit confusing.)

It got me thinking about the old saying, that you should, “feed a cold and starve a fever.”

Part of the reason I started focusing on this, or thinking in general about what you’re “supposed” to eat when you’re sick, is because I kept being surprised that I was hungry. After all, it’s not like I was doing much, mostly sleeping.

So once I could start focusing again, I did a quick Google search. And I found a couple of interesting things.

According to an article in Everyday Health, this whole idea of starving a fever started in the 1500’s. The idea is that when you’re metabolizing, it can increase your temperature, so you’d want to avoid that if you have a fever.

Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that when you’re sick, your body is working to fight off the illness, and it needs resources to do that effectively.

That’s why I liked what WebMD had to say on the subject: “Starving is never the correct answer.” (In fact, I like that as a general statement, not just about being sick.)

Of course, some people lose their appetites when sick, and it may depend on what’s wrong. Certainly if you have some kind of Norovirus, or other illness where you’re stomach isn’t doing so well, your desire to eat is likely to plummet.

But for less severe illnesses like mine, it’s be important to eat and keep your strength. After all, food = energy, and you want to keep some energy reserves to fight the illness. Given that, in retrospect my hunger (and exhaustion) made sense. It just showed how hard my body was fighting to get me well.

So my takeaway is that, as in general, I need to listen to what my body is telling me. Even if it doesn’t seem logical (how can I be hungry when I’m doing so little, how can I possibly need to sleep 18 hours in a day, etc.), my body really does tend to know what’s best for it.

And as a follow-up, I’m happy to say I’ve now gone two whole days without needing a nap or feeling sick, so hopefully I won’t have to think about this particular situation again for a long time.

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