3

votes

Should I avoid fat when sick?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 08, 2013 at 10:08 PM

I currently have a cold, and I'm wondering...should I make any changes to my dietary fat intake?

I've heard elsewhere that when sick (not just for colds, but for most illnesses), it's a good idea to eat foods that are easy to digest. My understanding is that fat is harder to digest than protein or carbs, hence the question.

Also, based on the same hypothesis, it would seem that favoring cooked rather than raw foods might also be a good idea when sick - with a few exceptions such as ginger, garlic, and other foods that have greater immunity-boosting power when raw.

I realize this is rather similar to http://paleohacks.com/questions/173342/if-youre-sick-cold-flu-what-is-best-for-paleo-eating-and-activity, but since my question is a bit more specific I thought it made sense to start a new question.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 11, 2013
at 03:57 PM

Worse than that - sugar, and most carbs turn off your immune system. Something like a couple of hours per tablespoon.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:52 PM

Thanks for the info. While I generally tend toward things with short preparation time when my energy is lower, these recipes do sound good so I'll try them the next time I'm sick if not before.

C657d176db6f11f98aeb2a89071e3281

(842)

on February 10, 2013
at 08:19 AM

It makes a huge difference. If the stock isn't cooked long enough, the healing doesn't take place. You can make it once a week or every two weeks and just freeze in containers. Of course, if it's not possible, then just do the best you can, even if it means eating health food soup brand.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:38 AM

Thanks, this is a great answer, I'll probably make it the accepted answer, but I have one more question: Do you think there's any general merit to the idea of sticking to foods that are easy to digest? I've read stories from people who were very ill (e.g. with cancer) who said this helped, although I'm not sure if it's relevant to the common cold. I get your point that some fat is good and beneficial, I'm just wondering where the energy needed to digest fatty and other relatively harder-to-digest foods factors into the equation, if at all.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:34 AM

Thanks, this is a great answer, I'll probably make it the accepted answer, but I have one more question: Do you think there's any general merit to the idea of sticking to foods that are easy to digest? I've read stories from people who were very ill (e.g. with cancer) who said this helped, although I'm not sure if it's relevant to the common cold. I get your point that some fat is good and beneficial, I'm just wondering where the energy needed to digest fatty and other hard-to-digest foods factors into the equation, if at all.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:24 AM

+1 for mentioning specific nutrients as well as limiting sweets (which I already do, but a good thing to point out as some may be drawn to sweets when sick). An exception is dark chocolate, which isn't very sweet and contains some great nutrients, and the last time I was sick I found out it can treat coughing.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:17 AM

I enjoy health food soup brands...I'm sure making your own soup or stock is better and fresher...I wonder how much of a difference it makes?

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:15 AM

I avoid refined carbs and sugars and eat a balanced diet so I'm not sure if I need to watch this quite as much but thanks for mentioning the sugar-bacteria connection...do viruses thrive on sugar too?

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:10 AM

It's always important to listen to one's body, hence the upvote, however I would add that sometimes when I'm sick my body needs food but I don't feel it. Later when I eat something I start feeling how hungry I was. Maybe it has something to do the possibility of very slight stomach upset even if it's not a stomach bug. So especially if you have a fast metabolism like me I would say if you're not sure, take a few small bites of something and then decide.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:06 AM

Good point about the nutrients in healthy fatty foods.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:03 AM

I do generally feel better if I'm conscious about eating enough when sick (disclaimer: I have a fast metabolism), other than stomach bugs of course, and when really sick with a fever I don't feel well enough to get up and eat much. This theory sounds quite plausible to me.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on February 09, 2013
at 12:20 PM

Cool man, I always used to eat less when I was sick, lol... Thanks for the links.

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 09, 2013
at 05:12 AM

I think we shouldn't interfere with our body's natural response to get rid of the illness. But my body overdoes it with the asthmatic response. At that point, I need to tamp down the inflammation. Since I've been Paleo this past 18 months, this has only happened ONE time--amazing since it used to happen several times a year.

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 09, 2013
at 05:11 AM

I don't know about immune suppressing, but I tend to get asthma flare ups with upper respiratory infections. Omega 3's are anit-inflammatory, and asthma is clearly an inflammatory response. So for me, I think Omega 3's are a good idea. Maybe they are two sides of the same coin? The immune response is pretty inflammatory--that's how your body gets rid of the interloping virus or bacteria. My lungs just tend to overdo it. I'm not a big believer in suppressing your body's response to an upper respiratory infection like decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressants, and the like.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on February 09, 2013
at 03:31 AM

Yeah, here are two: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20534876 http://cvi.asm.org/content/8/5/1003.short Just for the record I don't think fasting will never be helpful, depending on the infection.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on February 09, 2013
at 02:42 AM

"As to the idea to fast when sick, for however applicable this is, a number of calorie restriction studies performed on animals have shown they develop worsened immune function." +1 if you can link one of those studies.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on February 09, 2013
at 02:19 AM

I thought omega-3's were generally immune suppressing. EPA often seems to be.

C657d176db6f11f98aeb2a89071e3281

(842)

on February 09, 2013
at 02:01 AM

I would eat healthy nutrition and not worry about changing how much fat you eat.

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6 Answers

3
A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on February 09, 2013
at 02:13 AM

It doesn't really make sense to me to avoid fat when sick. For some it may be hard to digest, but I think for most we can digest it just fine. Furthermore, I think a lot of nutrients found in fatty foods (like vitamin E, vitamin A, and arachidonic acid) are beneficial during an infection.

As to the idea to fast when sick, for however applicable this is, a number of calorie restriction studies performed on animals have shown they develop worsened immune function.

There are probably exceptions, but I think best diet approach when sick is to eat nutritious food and not getting too hung up on avoiding calories or really any of the major macronutrients.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on February 09, 2013
at 02:42 AM

"As to the idea to fast when sick, for however applicable this is, a number of calorie restriction studies performed on animals have shown they develop worsened immune function." +1 if you can link one of those studies.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on February 09, 2013
at 03:31 AM

Yeah, here are two: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20534876 http://cvi.asm.org/content/8/5/1003.short Just for the record I don't think fasting will never be helpful, depending on the infection.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on February 09, 2013
at 12:20 PM

Cool man, I always used to eat less when I was sick, lol... Thanks for the links.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:38 AM

Thanks, this is a great answer, I'll probably make it the accepted answer, but I have one more question: Do you think there's any general merit to the idea of sticking to foods that are easy to digest? I've read stories from people who were very ill (e.g. with cancer) who said this helped, although I'm not sure if it's relevant to the common cold. I get your point that some fat is good and beneficial, I'm just wondering where the energy needed to digest fatty and other relatively harder-to-digest foods factors into the equation, if at all.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:06 AM

Good point about the nutrients in healthy fatty foods.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:34 AM

Thanks, this is a great answer, I'll probably make it the accepted answer, but I have one more question: Do you think there's any general merit to the idea of sticking to foods that are easy to digest? I've read stories from people who were very ill (e.g. with cancer) who said this helped, although I'm not sure if it's relevant to the common cold. I get your point that some fat is good and beneficial, I'm just wondering where the energy needed to digest fatty and other hard-to-digest foods factors into the equation, if at all.

3
Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on February 08, 2013
at 11:16 PM

Feed a cold starve a fever, you guys can call me crazy but it works.. At least for me, here's an excert:

However, research by Dutch scientists suggests that eating boosts the type of immune response needed to fight off the common cold virus, while fasting promotes a different type of immune reaction necessary to overcome the bacterial infections that trigger most fevers.

Source

Edit: I realize I may not have been clear enough, so to be more precise, eat fat, eat carbs, eat whatever you're body says it wants to overcome this nasty cold.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:03 AM

I do generally feel better if I'm conscious about eating enough when sick (disclaimer: I have a fast metabolism), other than stomach bugs of course, and when really sick with a fever I don't feel well enough to get up and eat much. This theory sounds quite plausible to me.

C657d176db6f11f98aeb2a89071e3281

(842)

on February 09, 2013
at 02:01 AM

I would eat healthy nutrition and not worry about changing how much fat you eat.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:52 PM

Thanks for the info. While I generally tend toward things with short preparation time when my energy is lower, these recipes do sound good so I'll try them the next time I'm sick if not before.

C657d176db6f11f98aeb2a89071e3281

(842)

on February 10, 2013
at 08:19 AM

It makes a huge difference. If the stock isn't cooked long enough, the healing doesn't take place. You can make it once a week or every two weeks and just freeze in containers. Of course, if it's not possible, then just do the best you can, even if it means eating health food soup brand.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:17 AM

I enjoy health food soup brands...I'm sure making your own soup or stock is better and fresher...I wonder how much of a difference it makes?

1
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 09, 2013
at 01:27 AM

It makes sense to me to eat plenty of healthy fats when you are sick, because that's where you're going to get your omega 3's and your Vitamin D which both help bolster your immune system. I agree with the idea of limiting sweets, you want to keep your blood sugar in a normal range, too.

If your appetite is down or your stomach is "squinchy" you may not feel like having a lot of fat, but otherwise, I wouldn't skimp on fat. When I make bone broth I leave a little bit of fat in it--coats the throat and tastes good. My other go to comfort food when I'm sick is soft boiled eggs.

And ice cream, although these days it's paleo-style made of coconut milk.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on February 09, 2013
at 02:19 AM

I thought omega-3's were generally immune suppressing. EPA often seems to be.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:24 AM

+1 for mentioning specific nutrients as well as limiting sweets (which I already do, but a good thing to point out as some may be drawn to sweets when sick). An exception is dark chocolate, which isn't very sweet and contains some great nutrients, and the last time I was sick I found out it can treat coughing.

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 09, 2013
at 05:12 AM

I think we shouldn't interfere with our body's natural response to get rid of the illness. But my body overdoes it with the asthmatic response. At that point, I need to tamp down the inflammation. Since I've been Paleo this past 18 months, this has only happened ONE time--amazing since it used to happen several times a year.

3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 09, 2013
at 05:11 AM

I don't know about immune suppressing, but I tend to get asthma flare ups with upper respiratory infections. Omega 3's are anit-inflammatory, and asthma is clearly an inflammatory response. So for me, I think Omega 3's are a good idea. Maybe they are two sides of the same coin? The immune response is pretty inflammatory--that's how your body gets rid of the interloping virus or bacteria. My lungs just tend to overdo it. I'm not a big believer in suppressing your body's response to an upper respiratory infection like decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressants, and the like.

1
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on February 08, 2013
at 10:17 PM

It is more a matter of appetite. Do you feel hungry? If not, don't eat.
Fasting is likely the most natural response to illness.

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:10 AM

It's always important to listen to one's body, hence the upvote, however I would add that sometimes when I'm sick my body needs food but I don't feel it. Later when I eat something I start feeling how hungry I was. Maybe it has something to do the possibility of very slight stomach upset even if it's not a stomach bug. So especially if you have a fast metabolism like me I would say if you're not sure, take a few small bites of something and then decide.

0
D87cf7bb07cfc85acf7203c17065d239

(268)

on February 08, 2013
at 10:39 PM

Hmmm...I thought you are not supposed to eat a lot of carbs when sick, because they turn into sugar and thats what bacteria eat?

Abbd78d1a92349bb4ad791d6b3ca485c

on February 10, 2013
at 02:15 AM

I avoid refined carbs and sugars and eat a balanced diet so I'm not sure if I need to watch this quite as much but thanks for mentioning the sugar-bacteria connection...do viruses thrive on sugar too?

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 11, 2013
at 03:57 PM

Worse than that - sugar, and most carbs turn off your immune system. Something like a couple of hours per tablespoon.

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