No one prays to fall ill, but we do take ill, nevertheless. And it happens that when we are ill and the physician prescribes drugs, it is almost always that we must eat first before we take most drugs.
Family doctor, Femi Awoniyi, says more than ever, when we’re ill, the body needs more calories in order to function optimally. This is because the body must now work harder than normal when you are sick to enable it to fight infection, especially when you come down with fever, which is usually attended by higher body temperatures.
“All these put pressure on the body’s defence mechanism,” Awoniyi explains.
Indeed, experts warn that if your diet is lousy, you’ll get sick more often than someone who eats a healthier diet. They say viruses and bacterial infections will hit you harder and keep you out for longer.
Worse still, they say, eating poorly while you are sick will only make you sicker. “Only good nutrition allows our bodies to respond to bacterial invasion quickly and efficiently. And in order to function well, the cells of our immune system need plenty of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids,” experts say.
“So, for the body to fight infections effectively, it needs to maintain higher energy levels, hence the need to fuel it with good nutrition right from the outset,” Awoniyi adds.
In essence, food plays a big role in our healing process whenever we are ill. But then, experts say while you need to eat immune-boosting foods at all times and especially when you’re ill, certain foods are no-go areas if your recovery must be fast and total. What are these foods?
What to eat, what to avoid
Depending on what ails you, if you’ve come down with stomach upset, Awoniyi counsels against eating spicy foods such as hot peppers or extremely hot and spicy foods, because they can be rough on the stomach and cause more pain and discomfort. In fact, spicy foods when you are sick can send you to the bathroom more frequently, thus weakening you the more physically.
If you come down with mouth sores, dry mouth, or if you have trouble swallowing, then you should avoid foods that require a lot of chewing. This is because in general, sickness virtually takes away your appetite; and when you have to eat food that requires extensive chewing before you can swallow, then you may be too tired to do it. That’s why many people avoid foods such as eba, fufu, pounded yam, amala, etc., when they are ill.
Awoniyi says diminished appetite has negative effects on recovery when you are ill. That’s why your illness may take longer to heal because your body’s defense mechanism is now using its meagre reservoir to counter the illness. So, eat soft foods, especially fruit and vegetables, fish, rice and soup, etc.
Carbohydrate-rich foods such as beans, oats, wheat, potatoes, and yams; in addition to fruit such as apples, bananas, berries, orange, etc.; are also encouraged.
Awoniyi warns that if you have cold and you desire to take fruit juice, you should ask someone to make the juice for you at home if you’re too weak to do it yourself.
“Drinking the factory-made fruit juice that we have all over the place won’t cut it. This is because average juices are loaded with extra sugar and the sugar can reduce the ability of white blood cells to fight illness. As such, any benefits you might get from the vitamin C are nullified by the sugar that is present in these factory-made juices,” Awoniyi warns.
Again, the physician says when you are sick, one of the worst things you can feed on are the fast foods. He says, “Fast foods and most processed foods are void of nutritional value and they don’t boost the immune system or amplify your health.
“And because they are mostly made from genetically modified foods, they contain immune-suppressing ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, MSG, artificial colours, and much more, hence the need to avoid them.”
In the league of fast foods are fried foods. Awoniyi urges you to stay away from fried foods when you are sick. This is because fried foods have excess fats, and foods high in fat produce inflammation; while inflammation weakens the immune system.
Therefore, when you are ill, eat home-cooked foods that are wholesome, the ingredients of which you can control.
If you’re afflicted with diarrhoea, experts at online portal, webmd.com, counsels intake of soft, bland foods and avoiding greasy foods. They also advise that you drink plenty water or other fluids, since diarrhoea can quickly dehydrate anyone.
If you are constipated, you may need to avoid hard stuff such as eba, fufu, pounded yam, yam, etc. Rather, nutritionists say, eat foods that are high in fibre, especially fruit and vegetable.