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What to eat when you're sick

What to eat, what to avoid, and how to help your body get well faster. A doctor can give you medications, pain killers and advice, then after that, it’s down to you to feed your body the best fuel to put you on the path to wellness. Of course, what is best to eat will depend on your personal preferences and needs, and on the type of illness you’re experiencing. When you have an appointment with one of our doctors they will guide you with specific advice. In the meantime, we’ve compiled some general rules of thumb here that will apply with many common ailments like the cold or flu.

General rule: go unprocessed

Whether you’re well or sick, generally avoiding overly processed or unnatural foods is a good choice to keep your body and your immune system healthy. Natural foods tend to be high in nutrient density and give you the wide range of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function well along with good fibre for digestive health.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Most important of all, drink water to stay hydrated, which is vital for cell function and aids healing processes in the body.

Eat light - save your energy

Try not to overeat when you are sick. You want to give your body enough energy to aid healing but without focusing all the body’s resources on digestion. Because keeping yourself hydrated is most important, foods high in water (like fruits and vegetables) are great, and also easy to digest.

Broths – not just good for the soul

A timeless classic when sick, chicken soup or broth is loaded with nutrients, and many of its common ingredients all benefit us, in a myriad of ways. It’s not just a placebo effect with this traditional comfort food – its fame appears to be well backed up with real well-researched nutritional benefit.
Let alone the comfort aspect of a nice bowl of warm fresh soup, the hot vapours (and attributes of several key ingredients) can relieve sinus pressure and support your respiratory system, while the warm liquid soothes your throat.

Common vegetable ingredients like onion, carrot and celery all offer a good range of vitamins, minerals and fibre, with garlic offering an additional boost of phytonutrients and supporting your immune function.
The hero ingredient meanwhile delivers a range of benefits, from the most obvious, protein to help you feel full, to other benefits less well known. Chicken contains tryptophan, which helps stimulate your body to release serotonin, the feel-good hormone that can help improve your mood, while another substance called carnosine has been shown to support good respiratory function. What’s more, boiling the joint tissue of chicken releases a number of good nutrients into your broth including gelatine, glucosamine and chondroitin – which all help to reduce inflammation in the body, support your digestive system, and support our bodies build and repair functions, meaning we can get well faster.

This nutritional powerhouse is good for you whether or not you’re sick and could help you ward off ills before they happen by supporting your immune system. Perhaps it’s time to get cooking?

Spicy foods – it’s personal

Many people swear by spicy foods when they are sick. If you have a flu or cold, spicy foods help you enjoy flavours when you might otherwise find your sense of taste dulled to a point where nothing is enjoyable at all. Spicy foods like chilli also contain capsaican, which is a natural decongestant, which can help to break up mucous and clear up your airways. However, others find this unpleasant as it can irritate their respiratory system and also gastric system at a time they’re already feeling sensitive. We’ll leave this one up to personal choice.

Greens are great

Greens are known for their nutritious properties including plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Some such as broccoli, kale and parsley also contain vitamin C so are top choices when unwell. Try adding them to a broth and simmering until tender for a warm comforting nutrient boost.

Fruit’s your friend

Fruit is easy to digest, easy to eat and has plenty of water content to support hydration. Find fruits high in Vitamin C to boost overall wellness and reduce inflammation in the body – such as Kiwifruit, strawberries or citrus fruits. Citrus also has flavonoids in the white pithy part that is great for your immune system. Banana is another popular choice with delicate texture and flavour that’s easy to eat, and high in soluble fibre to keep your digestive system happy.

The no-go zone

When you’re unwell, here are a few tips on what to avoid:
Try to steer clear of foods high in sugar and fat. Fat is harder to digest, and sugary foods are known to cause inflammation and suppress the immune system. Alcohol should also be avoided, it suppresses your immune system, can cause dehydration, and may also contraindicate any medications that your doctor has prescribed.

If you’re feeling really unwell and bed rest and healthy food just isn’t cutting it, it might be time to chat to a doctor. You can learn more about speaking to a doctor online here