This fantastic article was written by Gwendy Taylor, a mother of two who researches and writes about various health and wellness topics. We encourage you to check out some of her work on Diabetes Daily and Twitter!
There are lots of tips and tricks out there for what to eat when you’re feeling sick. From natural “flu shots” to increasing your vitamin C intake to boost your immune system, there is a lot of information out there about what to consume when you’re sick.
But there are also a lot of foods to avoid that are harmful to a weakened immune system. Below are some of the worst foods to consume when you’re sick, with the reasons why.
Foods to Avoid that Lead to Immunosuppression
Your immune system is what fights off disease and keeps your body in a regular state of health. When your immune system is weakened or is responding to attack, you’ll see symptoms of illness. Certain foods inhibit your immune system’s ability to function. These include:
Not only are fried foods often fried in unhealthy oils, that can clog your arteries and raise your bad cholesterol, but they also trigger inflammation, which has an immediate effect on your immune system.
Even ignoring the sugar (which targets and weakens the cells that fight bacteria) and other sweeteners, soda is also high in phosphoric acid, which depletes calcium and magnesium sources. Since soda has no nutritional value, you’re depleting your nutrient stores without adding any benefit.
Carnivorous animals (not humans) produce sugar, Neu5Gc, which helps them break down animal protein. Since our bodies don’t produce this sugar, it triggers an immune reaction and causes inflammation.
The reason inflammation is such a big deal is that it in itself is an immune system reaction. If your body is busy fighting the symptoms of the food you eat, it can’t focus on other bacteria and illnesses. By avoiding foods that weaken your immune system, you allow your cells to focus on getting healthy again.
Foods to Avoid that Cause Mucus Production
Dairy products contain casein, which requires strong stomach cells to digest. Often, there are leftover, undigested particles, which the body covers in mucus to prevent putrefaction. Too much dairy means excess mucus.
The human body does not digest corn. If you’ve ever changed the diaper of a child fed mixed veggies, you’ve seen the whole kernels right there. Since corn is not digested, it leads to excess mucus production. With the rising use of corn syrup in processed foods, many daily staples are rendered semi- or indigestible, leading to mucus buildup in the digestive system.
Gluten, like casein, is very difficult for the body to digest. If you’re already ill, consuming food with gluten will only enhance your mucus production and prevent your body from efficiently fighting off illness.
Soy causes almost as much mucus production as dairy products. Fermented soy is more easily digested, but the sodium levels in fermented soy products promote dehydration, so it’s a good idea to stay away from soy if you feel your immune system has already been weakened.
Foods to Avoid that May Cause Headaches or Migraines
As cheese ages, proteins break down to form Tyramine. Tyramine is associated with increased headaches and migraines. So even if you don’t want to avoid dairy altogether, you should at least consider cutting out aged cheeses when you’re prone to headaches.
The tannins in red wine combined with the dehydrating effects of alcohol make red wine a common trigger for headaches and migraines. Though red wine does have some health benefits, if you notice that your headaches are more frequent after imbibing, it may be best to find other refreshments.
MSG does occur in some foods naturally, but it’s also commonly found as an additive in processed foods. Most of these are also full of salt, so avoiding MSG can lead you to better foods in general that don’t encourage headaches. Be sure to pay attention to ingredient labels!
Processed soups and broths, which are marketed towards illness, are often full of MSG and sodium. Best to stick with homemade versions. Find out more about misleading labels and other psychology tricks grocery stores and manufacturers use.
Nitrites and Nitrates dilate blood vessels and are common in processed meats like bacon and sausage. Dilated blood vessels lead to tension headaches.
By avoiding these foods, you can focus on eating healthy foods that build up your immune system. Planning meals with immune-boosting ingredients can also save you money. You can also give your body the time and nutrients it needs to get healthy again.
For this reason, caffeine, even though it helps headaches, is not encouraged when you’re ill, as it energizes your body and does not promote rest. Share your immune system boosters in the comments below!