Spicy foods like chili peppers contain capsaicin, which causes a hot, burning sensation when touched.

In high enough concentrations, capsaicin can have a desensitizing effect. It’s often used in pain-relieving gels and patches .

Many people report that eating spicy foods causes a runny nose, breaking up mucus and clearing out the sinus passages.

While few studies have tested this effect, capsaicin does seem to thin out mucus, making it easier to expel. Nasal capsaicin sprays have been used with good results to relieve congestion and itching ).

However, you should avoid spicy foods if you already have an upset stomach. Spicy food can cause bloating, pain, and nausea in some people .


Bananas are a great food to eat when you’re sick. They’re soft and bland but rich in nutrients and fast-acting carbs. The potassium in bananas can help replenish your electrolyte stores as well, since potassium is one of the key electrolytes your body needs .


Like bananas, oatmeal is bland and easy to eat but also provides calories, vitamins, and minerals you need when you’re sick.

One study in rats found that beta-glucan, a type of fiber in oats, helped decrease inflammation in the gut. But more research is needed to determine whether it could have a similar effect in humans and be useful for relieving digestive symptoms .

Instead of buying artificially flavored oatmeal with lots of added sugar, consider adding a small amount of honey or fruit to rolled or steel-cut oats for even more health benefits.

What to avoid?

Understanding what to avoid eating with the flu is perhaps just as important as knowing what you should eat. For some people, certain food ingredients may make symptoms such as diarrhea worse. When you’re sick with the flu, stay away from the following items:

  • Alcohol. This lowers your immune system and causes dehydration.
  • Fatty foods. Hard to digest items such as fried foods, pizza, and fast foods.
  • Excess simple sugars. Foods and drinks like candy, sweetened beverages and some fruit juices can prolong diarrhea.
  • Limit dairy intake. Milk and milk products contain the sugar lactose. Some people recovering from viral gastroenteritis may experience problems digesting lactose.
  • Processed foods. Whether from a fast food chain or made from a box, the more processed a food is, the fewer nutrients you’ll get. With the flu, your body is trying to heal itself, so it’s important to support the process with whole, nutritious foods.

7 foods to eat when you sick and which one avoid when you have flu.