Why Do I Crave Bad Food When I'm Sick?

Why Do I Crave Bad Food When I'm Sick?

It's that time of year and common colds and the flu are running rampant. But don't use a cold as an excuse to eat whatever you want.
We've all been there before,


this time of year comes around, we get a cold or start to feel like we're coming down with something and the next thing we know,
we're bundled up on the couch eating crackers, salty foods and hot chocolate
like it's going out of style.

Unless it's the flu, whenever we start to feel sick and run
down, one of the first things that makes us feel better is something comforting
like a warm, calorie laden meal; but why?

 "Stress" is
stress...regardless of the kind.  Our
bodies react to physical stress, mental stress and emotional stress in much the
same way. Hormone levels change and certain glands in our endocrine system
either adapt to the stress or succumb to it. Sometimes when our system cannot
handle the stress appropriately, our immune system is weakened and we get
sick...a cold, the flu, whatever the viral or bacterial "strain du jour".  This happens because elevated cortisol
(stress hormone) levels decrease lymphocytes present in your blood and make it
harder to fight off infections, colds, etc.

This combination of elevated stress hormones, decreased
immunity and an imbalance in our hormone levels creates a dangerous cocktail
that can send us into a nutrition nightmare. 

One particle example of how this occurs is when our adrenal
gland function is not operating properly. A portion of our adrenal glands
produce hormones that balance our fluid and electrolyte balance, when the
adrenal gland is not functioning properly we may crave salty foods like potato
chips or fries. If this is the case, we should be careful in giving into these
urges, although the initial feeling of satisfaction releases some endorphins,
the guilt and regret of eating the whole bag of potato chips will cause another
release of stress hormones and start the cycle all over again. A better way to
try and balance out our electrolytes would be to drink an electrolyte drink
like the Hammer Heed....or a low-sodium broth-based soup like low-sodium chicken noodle or low-sodium vegetable soup. But note, even the low-sodium versions are about 20% of your daily totals of 2,400mg of sodium. So make sure you are drinking lots of water if you go the soup route.

I know it's hard to fight urges, especially when we're not
feeling well but we need to control these urges during these times to make sure
we give our bodies the best chance to recover from our sickens and avoid
placing other "undue stress" on our system.

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Leave a comment
  • Great article. I have been sick for 3 weeks and all I have been doing in munching and munching and munching!
    Thank you.

  • In reply to DavidWallach:

    Thanks David, you're welcome! As I was writing it, I was fighting off the first cold in about a year and a half and I really wanted a cheeseburger and fries! Stress is a wonderful thing! I won't make it the 5K this weekend but I want to hook up with you and Dan Malinksi sometime soon. Be careful in this blizzard!

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