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What Do You Eat When You've Got the Flu?

Are you a "feed a fever, starve a cold" person? Or do you "feed a cold, starve a fever"?

In reality, you shouldn't starve either a cold or a fever. To the extent that you can, you should try to keep eating (and drinking) nutritious foods and beverages while you're sick.

As I write in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, there is no single food or set of foods that specifically boosts immunity and thus helps keep you from getting sick in the first place. (No, not even orange juice -- though it is important to get enough Vitamin C.) The best thing you can do is to maintain a generally healthful diet, which in turn supports a healthy immune system.

But once you are taken ill, there are culinary ways to help make yourself feel better: According to research published early this year, consuming hot beverages made a dramatic difference in how cold and flu sufferers felt. The heat made people feel that their airways had cleared, and the liquid helped combat dehydration, which can easily occur when you're sick. Moreover, drinking hot beverages "provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness, whereas the same drink at room temperature only provided relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough and sneezing," according to the British study.

As for that ultimate hot beverage, chicken soup, occasional studies over the years have suggested that it may tame inflammation, a common culprit in both colds and the flu.

What do you eat to get you through the flu?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  September 22, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , General Health , Influenza , Nutrition and Fitness  
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I follow my body's lead. Some illnesses (colds, mostly) leave me ravenous; others leave me with zero appetite. If I'm hungry, I eat; if I'm not, I don't force it, unless it's been so long I'm starting to get shaky. I do make myself drink liquids and take a lot of vitamin C.

Posted by: laura33 | September 22, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

First, I agree with a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep and washing hands. In addition, my doctor recommends Flew Away preventively and Andrographis and a supplement called Olivirex if I get the flu. These are recommended by my holistic family M.D. who is knowledgeable about nutrition.

Here are Dr Weil's suggestions from his website: or Additionally he recommends astragalus.

Dr Mercola's site recommends "following these simple guidelines, which will keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you're far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with. Optimize your vitamin D levels. As . . previously reported, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency is likely the TRUE culprit behind the seasonality of the flu -- not the flu virus itself."

Posted by: dlkhoward | September 22, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Having just come through the worst flu I have ever had, once I was able to keep anything down, all I felt like was very diluted peach juice -- about 1/4 juice to 3/4 water -- and weak low-sodium broth. I eventually progressed to weak noodle soup and weak peppermint tea, then to dry toast or crackers and the occasional hard-boiled egg for protein. Now on the road to recovery, it's still all bland foods, mainly fruit and soup with some lean turkey or chicken and hard-boiled or scrambled eggs. Veggies don't sound good just yet.

I, too, just do what my body tells me and mainly make sure to keep taking in lots of liquids.

Posted by: Californian11 | September 22, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm a big fan of chicken soup. Real made from scratch soup with chunks in it, not canned. Electrolytes, protein, vegetables and liquid, all in an easily consumed and tasty package.

Whenever I make chicken soup, I freeze a bucket of it in case I get sick. Then all I have to do is pop it in the microwave, and I have an easy, healthy meal.

Posted by: theGelf | September 23, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

From the Post web site this past May: Mushroom Ginger soup..yummy, therapeutic and easy to make..

Posted by: sarahbonnie1 | September 24, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

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