Have you ever wondered why upper respiratory illnesses like the flu can make you lose your appetite? While your symptoms may be primarily felt in your head and chest, the flu virus affects your whole body, and it could have you eating less while you are sick for a couple of reasons.
Brain changes during sickness
When you become ill, your brain chemistry changes as production of chemicals called cytokines increases. These chemicals can drive down your appetite, which will help you to conserve energy for fighting off short-term illnesses like the flu. Since your body requires lots of energy to digest food, loosing your appetite gives your body the ability to dedicate more energy and resources to fighting off the virus.
Lack of sensory temptation
Another side effect of the flu or a common cold is sinus congestion, which can diminish your sense of smell. Since smell and taste are so closely linked, you might simply want to eat less because you won’t be able to taste anything!
Foods to fight your illness
When you do muster up an appetite during your illness, you should never resist eating to try and “starve out” a fever. Reach for foods that are easy to digest like soup or dry whole-wheat toast, and avoid eating any junk food that could actually fuel your illness. If you really don’t want to eat, you might enjoy sipping on some ginger tea or clear broth to keep your stomach calm.
The most important thing to remember when you’re sick is that your body may respond differently to illnesses, so you should not neglect your needs as your appetite changes.