Sometimes, a box of soft tissues isn’t enough to wage war against stubborn and clogged sinuses. During cold and flu season, one of these pesky symptoms is a runny nose. It can happen when you’re sick — and hopefully staying home from work — or just when you’re experiencing annoying seasonal allergies. A runny nose is the worst.
You’re tired of loudly blowing your nose and you’re tired of washing your hands every time you do. You want to stop turning heads when you wipe your nose on your sleeve and just go back to not feeling gross. You might know that some foods can help stave off any future infection — and some can help you at least feel better during your obnoxious bout with germs. On your sick day, you probably can't wait to whip up a warm bowl of soup to heal you from the inside, out.
However, not all foods are a good idea to snack on when you’re sick. There are foods that can help your body to produce more mucus, worsening the problem. Others are inflammatory and can make your clogged breathing even more congested. If you have a runny nose this winter, consider cutting these foods from your diet — they could make your congestion worse.
The only exception to this rule might be the hot toddy — some studies say it could be as beneficial as a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup. A glass of wine or other sugary beverage, however, is a terrible idea. The combination of sugar and alcohol is both dehydrating and inflammatory, and is likely your worst nightmare if you’re trying to overcome a stuffy nose. Stay hydrated and sober to keep your cold symptoms at bay.
If you’re feeling blue, you should absolutely grab a banana. But if you’re feeling congested, you might want to save it for another day. The yellow flesh of the fruit triggers a histamine response in some people, which increases the production of mucus in your body.
It normally has its health benefits, but cheese is also a dairy product. You’ll learn more later about why milk is a bad choice for anyone who’s feeling under the weather. We know it’s a classic comfort food, but trust us when we say to save the mac and cheese for a day when your nose is less obstructed.
Nothing like a strong dose of caffeine to keep you productive when you’re feeling under the weather — but you should probably consider getting your caffeine kick from a source weaker than coffee. Coffee and other coffee-based beverages can leave you feeling dehydrated. When you’re fighting off sickness, fluids are one of the most important parts of your recovery process. Dehydration can worsen cold and flu symptoms considerably, and lengthen the duration of your illness.
When you’re sick, all you might want to do is watch a move under some blankets with a big bowl of ice cream. But this is a really bad call. Ice cream has lots and lots of dairy and sugar, both of which can irritate your stuffed nose. If you opt for a dairy-free alternative, the dessert might not be as caustic — but the sugar could still cause some inflammation.
Whether you’re lactose-intolerant or not, your congestion and a glass of milk just won't mix. This dairy product contains casein, a mucus-forming agent. The substance has a glue-like texture and histamine-creating properties, making it the perfect storm for mucus build-up in the body. It both thickens and increases the production of mucus. For the time being, stick to a dairy-free alternative like almond, soy, cashew, or even banana milk.
Even if you don’t know it, there’s a chance you’re allergic or intolerant to MSG. When someone is allergic to a substance, it triggers a histamine response and a swelling of mucus-producing membranes. To flush the irritant out of its system, the body produces an excess amount of mucus and swells your sinuses even more. We bet you didn’t know that not-so-fun fact about MSG.
Unless you’re making your own tomato-free, dairy-free version at home, pizza is not a smart choice for dinner. You might not be feeling up for cooking, but consider ordering in a cuisine that won’t be so tragic for your nasal cavities. Dairy and tomatoes, two of the main ingredients in your cheesy, carb-loaded favorite, both cause mucus build-up and congestion. So does refined sugar — and unfortunately, your pizza sauce might be full of it.
While natural sugars, like the kind from fruits, are absolutely fine for your consumption, refined sugars from soda, candy, and other processed products are less ideal. These sugars can cause inflammation in the body, leading to an inhibition of your immune system and mucus buildup in your sinus cavities.
Moderate amounts of salt are actually good for you, and can help keep you hydrated. However, excess sodium in your bloodstream can leech water from your lungs’ airways, making the mucus in your respiratory tract thicker and more obnoxious. French fries and other obviously over-salted foods are good to avoid, but keep in mind that foods you consume regularly have more salt than you’d think.
You might be tempted to crack open a can of ginger ale when you're down with the flu, but you'd be better off opting for ginger tea instead. Soda is essentially made from sugar and a carbonated blend of chemicals. Both refined sugars and the other artificial ingredients in a can of cola can contribute to harmful bacteria growth and an increase in damaging inflammation in the body. These effects combined increase your immune system’s production of mucus, making for a messy outcome. Stick to hydrating liquids such as water and these other nourishing beverages instead.
One of the most common ingredients in processed foods, soy is also one of the most common undiagnosed food allergies. A food allergy is about so much more than just hives and swelling. There are many sneaky signs of food allergies, as well, including a buildup of mucus or nasal congestion. If you find yourself frequently down with the sniffles, try evaluating your diet to see if soy is the cause.
Though they’re really good for you and contain cancer-fighting compounds, save the tomatoes for a time when you’re feeling better. The juice inside a plump tomato can trigger histamine production in your body — essentially, making your allergies worse. The histamines instigate your nasal cavities to produce mucus to fight the perceived allergen.
It might be loaded with protein and probiotics, but yogurt is also loaded with casein — the compound in milk that instantly stuffs up your nose. Swap your yogurt for chia pudding or another snack replacement, at least while you’re feeling sick. If you’re sick but aren’t congested, however, we recommend you eat some yogurt. Its probiotic properties are perfect for flu season. Next time, though, try and avoid the flu altogether by getting a flu shot. Before you do, here are some things you should know.
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