(Last Updated On: February 12, 2019)

Winter is almost over and we are looking forward to spring. It is very common to get cold and flu during this seasonal change. For serious weight watchers, the question arises, should you be fasting or doing keto when you are down with flu?

Appetite Loss during Sickness

It is not uncommon to loose appetite when you are sick. The same is true for other animals like dog, cat, mice or fly. This appetite loss is set of responses for body towards sickness collectively known as sickness behavior.

When you get sick, there are two ways your body gets damaged. Firstly, the pathogen (bateria, virus, fungi) itself causes the damage. Secondly, the collateral damage caused by the immune system to fight the infection. Our immune system makes toxic substances like ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) or unfolded proteins as a response fight the foreign body.

Research on Sickness Behavior

For nearly 50 years, scientist and doctors have wondered, how sickness behavior affect the course of disease.

To understand this, researchers at Yale State University infected some mice with virus and others with bacteria. They were then fed food. Mice infected with bacteria died where as mice infected with virus survived.

When investigated which food cause this, it was found that glucose made bacterial infection worse. On the contrary, mice fighting viral infection prospered on glucose coming from food.

Food and It’s affect on body

Cells need right nutrients to perform certain tasks. During an infection, what you eat defines what nutrition is available to the cells and in turn governs what defense strategies they can employ. The researchers found that during bacterial infection, cells need ketones to reduce toxic ROS accumulation. During fasting ketones become available. Ketones are also readily produced for someone following a ketogenic diet.

In viral infection however, cells need glucose to properly respond to unfolded proteins. Eating a carbohydrate rich diet provides cells with enough glucose to fight off a viral infection.

This research suggests that different metabolic programs are co-ordinated with different types of infections in order to promote tissue tolerance.

Next time you are sick and don’t feel like eating, listen to your body as it may be signaling that it is a bacterial infection. It is best not eat during bacterial infection (e.g. diarrhea). Conversely, if you are fighting an influenza ensure that you are eating enough carbohydrate, protein and fat (from good sources) to provide your body with enough arsenal to fight off the infection.

It was just last week that I came down with flu. Normally, I easily fast for 18-20 hours, even when working out in the morning. But, for last few days, my body has been craving for food all day in particular – carbs and protein. I remembered what my grandma used to serve me when I was down with flu in childhood – Chicken Soup with bread. That’s exactly what I have been eating. Chicken Hot and Sour Soup with Tandoori bread (Whole Wheat) has been my go to meal for last 5 days.

Today, I feel that my flu is gone and I feel energetic like before. You will be surprised that I didn’t take any medication apart from Crocin on first 2 days to fight the flu.

References:
  1. Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5555589/
  2. Original Article on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYxDuTfrP2Q
  3. Image attribution – https://www.flickr.com/photos/akellogg/115926305 license by CC2.0 – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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