Foods to Eat & Avoid When You're Not Feeling Too Hot

| Food

If you've got a headache, CNN says not to grab a hot dog at lunch, because it will just intensify your headache. But how are you supposed to know what foods are good and bad for you, depending on what ailment you're suffering from? Here's a list of ten common ailments, along with what foods will help and hinder your recovery.

sick woman at office

You've got the runs: For diarrhea caused by a stomach virus or a meal that didn't agree with you, try the BRAT diet, says James Lee, MD, gastroenterologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. "Many different things can cause diarrhea, such as Crohn's disease or colitis," so see your doctor if symptoms continue for longer than two weeks or sooner if signs of dehydration appear, or if diarrhea is accompanied by fever, blood, severe pain, or severe nausea and vomiting.

  • Best foods: The BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Also oatmeal, boiled potatoes, saltine crackers, and baked chicken or turkey without skin are safe bets.
  • Worst foods: Sugarless candy and gum containing sorbitol or other artificial sweeteners, which aren't digestible and can trigger diarrhea. Other foods that can cause gas and bloating include onions, apples, broccoli, cabbages, and beans. Dairy may also aggravate diarrhea, as well as alcohol and caffeine.

>> Recipe: Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Bars

You're constipated: Constipation can occur when not eating enough fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and veggies, which stimulate digestion. "Adults need between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day," says Dr. Lee.

  • Best foods: High-fiber whole grain breads, nuts, beans, prunes, oatmeal, flaxseed, broccoli, pears, and apples. (Here are 15 foods full of fiber.) Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day also helps get things moving, says Dr. Lee.
  • Worst foods: Chocolate, dairy products, iron supplements, narcotics (pain medications) and some blood and anti depression medications may worsen constipation.

protein and fiber beans and seeds

You're feeling nauseous: Feeling queasy makes all foods sound unappealing, but the right ones can ease symptoms by calming stomach acids, says Dr. Lee. "In general, keep food portions small and odors to a minimum."

  • Best foods: Saltine crackers or pretzels can help, says Dr. Lee, as does small quantities of dry toast or cereal. Ginger or lemon tea, fresh or frozen lemon slices, and peppermint also work.
  • Worst foods: Greasy, spicy, or oily foods, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks can make nausea worse.

It hurts to swallow: When you have a sore throat, several foods can coat your throat and soothe the pain, says Lauren Slayton, RD, founder of Foodtrainers.com and author of The Little Book of Thin (Perigee 2014).

  • Best foods: Combine peppermint tea (lukewarm, not hot) — which has analgesic and anesthetic effects — and Manuka honey, which is known for its wound-healing properties. Soft, creamy foods such as cream soups, mashed potatoes, yogurt, scrambled eggs, and custards are also soothing.
  • Worst foods: Avoid hot liquids and hard, scratchy foods such as potato chips, nuts, and granola. The acidic juices from raw fruits and vegetables, as well as orange juice, grape juice, and lemonade can also irritate a sore throat.

Your entire body aches: Foods that ease muscle aches depend on the specific reason for the body aches, says Kristine Arthur, MD, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. "For general muscle aches, food containing magnesium or calcium may help ease soreness," she says.

  • Best foods: Magnesium-containing foods include nuts, bananas, beans, leafy greens, and avocados. Foods high in calcium such as canned salmon, yogurt, dark-green leafy greens, and orange juice fortified with calcium also lessen muscle cramping and pain.
  • Worst foods: Anything that dehydrates you can worsen muscle aches, says Dr. Arthur, particularly alcohol and caffeine.

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