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Healthy Eating When You're Sick

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Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common symptom and a side effect of some medicines. Eating soft, bland foods and avoiding greasy foods can help. Drink plenty of water or other fluids, since diarrhea can quickly dehydrate you. One way to replace electrolytes is to drink a sports beverage diluted with water.

Constipation

Opioid pain medicines and certain other treatments often cause constipation. To help prevent and treat constipation, eat foods high in fiber, such as apricots, prunes, applesauce, and whole grain breakfast cereals. Getting up and walking can also help get your digestive tract moving.

Unwanted Weight Loss

"If you're losing weight when you shouldn't, your top priority is taking in more calories," says McLymont. Help yourself to foods you love, including high-calorie foods like milkshakes and desserts. Eat as often as you can throughout the day. Snack on high-energy foods such as nuts, seeds, cheese slices, and hardboiled eggs.

Unwanted Weight Gain

Some commonly used medicines can also make you gain unwanted weight. These include:

  • Alpha-blockers and Beta blockers for regulation of blood pressure
  • Anticonvulsants for epilepsy or other neurologic symptoms
  • Antidepressants, certain ones such as Elavil, Endep, (amitriptyline), Eskalith, Lithobid (lithium carbonate), and Zyprexa (olanzapine)
  • Insulin
  • Steroids like prednisone for arthritis and similar conditions

Falling Short on Nutrients

If you're having real trouble eating a balanced diet, you may benefit from taking a vitamin and mineral supplement. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian before taking dietary supplements, especially if you take medicines for a serious health condition. Some supplements can impact the effectiveness of medicines.

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Reviewed on August 20, 2012

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