Things to Eat When You Have a Virus

For a mild case of the flu, you may think you should turn to foods that fight viruses. Unfortunately, there isn't enough research to prove that there are any foods capable of fighting off a viral illness. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't other things you can do to fight that virus.

When you have a virus, it's a good idea to eat foods that are full of immune system supporting vitamins. (Image: fortyforks/iStock/GettyImages)

The first step should always be talking to your doctor and following whatever instructions they give you for care. If you're still looking for foods that can help your body in its fight back to health, some foods may be beneficial. These are foods that support the immune system.

Tip

When you have a virus, it's a good idea to eat foods that are full of immune system supporting vitamins. You may want to eat things such as kale, broccoli, almonds, bananas, chickpeas and barley. While you may have heard that there are foods out there that fight viruses, additional research is still needed to confirm those claims.

What to Do for Viruses

A viral infection can be just plain awful — it certainly doesn't leave you feeling like doing much to stop it. That's why the best thing you can do for a virus is not to get one in the first place. So the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting the flu shot annually to protect against common flu viruses.

It is especially crucial for people who are at high risk of complications from the flu to protect themselves through vaccination. Also, if you live with someone who is at risk for flu complications, it's essential to get the flu shot.

Getting a flu shot isn't the only way to avoid catching a virus according to the CDC. The other half of the equation is preventing the spread of germs.

There are a lot of simple ways you can do this, from washing your hands to covering your mouth with your arm when you cough. It's best to use your arm; this way your hands aren't covered in germs as they touch all of the things around you.

If you have a virus, you should stay home from work and other social activities to prevent the spread of that virus. In addition, disinfecting your home will help keep those who live with you from catching your cold.

Stopping a Virus

If you weren't able to stop yourself from catching a virus, then you'll need to seek medical treatment to stop the infection. Depending on the type of virus you have, your doctors will have different recommendations for you, which is why you must see them for a treatment plan.

While antibiotics can be a lifesaver when they're needed, it's unlike you'll be prescribed antibiotics for a virus. Antibiotics only work on certain types of bacteria, and they don't work on any viruses according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. if your doctor prescribes them however, then you need them and need to follow your doctor's instructions.

Just be aware that the CDC warns antibiotics aren't worth the side effects when they aren't needed. They can cause nausea, rashes, dizziness, diarrhea and yeast infections. Instead, you should have a doctor check you out and follow the instructions to fight the infection.

There are antiviral medications that your doctor may prescribe. The CDC recommends starting the medicine within a couple of days of contracting the virus. The best way to achieve this is by seeing your doctor at the onset of symptoms.

Some symptoms to watch out for include a fever, runny nose, body aches, fatigue, headaches and the chills. You may experience respiratory symptoms without a fever, but this is still a sign of a virus in need of medical attention.

Foods That Fight Viruses

You may prefer not to take medications when there are alternative routes. And there are a lot of times when you can safely administer alternative forms of healing. However, when you are ill, you need to make sure you follow your doctor's advice.

Modern medicine has changed the experience of illnesses, but influenza can still be deadly. So while you may be looking for foods that fight viruses, don't rely on unverified methods of healing.

A review on garlic as an antiviral from the November 2014 issue of Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found only one study that met their criteria. This study showed fewer instances of infection in those who used a garlic supplement, but no changes in length of illness or recovery time for those who did fall ill.

However, they noted the limitations of the use of self-reporting of symptoms over clinical examinations of symptoms. The lack of clinical observations means there wasn't a confirmation of the alleviation of symptoms.

In a review from the April 2014 issue of BioMed Research Internal, curcumin was noted for its antiviral properties. Curcumin is a chemical extract from turmeric. It's what gives the spice its color and a lot of the medicinal properties. While it may show promise for antiviral effects, there currently aren't enough studies to verify its effectiveness.

Not only is further research needed, simply eating turmeric wouldn't cure your flu. Standard dietary portions of the herb don't provide enough curcumin for its possible antiviral effects to affect your virus.

A March 2015 review from Nutrients noted some dietary habits that may be beneficial at fighting some respiratory ailments. Some of the diets mentioned included high fruit and vegetable intake, fish and omega-3 intake and the Mediterranean diet. While these diets show promise, they still haven't been proven effective as foods to eat with an upper respiratory infection.

Foods That Fight Flu

What you eat has a direct effect on your immune system according to a May 2015 review from Gastroenterology. In general, food can affect several different aspects of your health from allergies to intestinal issues. The review focused on the interactions of food with the immune system. But this doesn't mean that there aren't other ways the things you eat can improve your immune system.

As you now know, there really aren't any foods that fight the flu. But while there are no foods that fight infection in the body, there are foods full of vitamins that support your immune system. Certain vitamins help your immune system's defense against illnesses according to the Cleveland Clinic. Vitamin C is probably the most commonly known immune system support.

The great thing about this vitamin is that it's found in a lot of fruits and leafy greens. You don't have to stick to citrus fruits either, try Brussels sprouts, kale or strawberries.

Vitamin E is another source of support for your immune system. It's full of antioxidants that can help your body fight a virus. Some sources of vitamin E are broccoli, almonds and peanuts. Another essential vitamin that you can find in foods is B6. It's in bananas, chickpeas and cold-water fish.

Selenium is another immune supporter you can find in the foods you eat, such as Brazil nuts, tuna and halibut. Remember, though, that although vitamins support your immune system, if you eat a well-balanced diet, your immune system should already be getting the support these vitamins provide. Furthermore, having too much of a vitamin can lead to toxicity.

Of course, simply eating vitamin-rich foods shouldn't lead to toxicity. And your body may need the extra support as it's getting healthy. So just because there aren't foods that fight viruses doesn't mean that what you eat can't help you get better.

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