Healthy Foods to Eat–and Avoid–When You Are Sick

When you have a cold, flu, stomach ache or even just a headache, there are some foods that you should avoid–and some that will help. Some foods can actually make you feel worse and prolong symptoms.

Find out what foods are the biggest culprits and what you should eat instead.

Nausea, Stomach Aches, Diarrhea

If you are feeling sick to your stomach or can’t stay out of the bathroom, avoiding dairy is a good idea. Dairy contains lactose, which your stomach naturally breaks down with a digestive enzyme called lactase. When you are sick, the lactase enzyme can become depleted; therefore, your stomach cannot break down the lactose, which can intensify symptoms including bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

You should also avoid eating bran, granola, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta. These all send food through the bowels faster, which isn’t ideal when you are already visiting the toilet more than you’d like.

Beans should also be avoided, as they can irritate stomach issues due to sugars. They can increase symptoms, including diarrhea, gas and cramping when your body can’t synthesize and digest the gas-reducing enzyme contained in the sugars.

Don’t get discouraged! You can still eat plenty of healthy foods that are gentle on the stomach and will help alleviate symptoms. Eat oatmeal or rice to bulk up your stool and regulate the speed at which it passes through your body.

Eat bananas to balance the amount of water in your system. Bananas are high in potassium, which plays an important role in how much water your body stores. When you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, bananas will aid in keeping you hydrated and you’ll feel better faster.


If you are prone to headaches avoiding aged cheeses and fermented foods can help. Aged cheeses such as Gouda, Swiss and Parmesan contain histamine which can cause blood vessels in the brain to enlarge, worsening a headache or even triggering one.

Fermented foods contain an amino acid called tyramine that many people have difficulty breaking down. When your system cannot break it down, it causes constriction and dilation of the blood vessels in the brain, resulting in a headache.

Eating lean proteins–specifically, ones that contain riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) such as beef and chicken–can keep your body’s energy metabolism in the brain stable, reducing migraines and headaches.

Cucumbers draw water from anywhere it is available, including the brain. When this happens, the brain and the protective covering around it can shrink causing it to pull away from the skull and alleviate symptoms.