Exercise Routine, Diet Need to Change If You Get the Flu

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • My cell phone weather app includes a flu report. It currently shows that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified a regional outbreak of the flu, but it hasn’t become widespread as of yet. With that said, we all need to take a few minutes to develop a plan to combat the flu if it indeed strikes your area.  Should you continue to exercise if you get sick? What should you eat? Are there supplements that can help speed recovery?

    For advice, I turned to Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, FACSM, who is a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist and expert consultant in nutrition and healthful living. She is the former host of TLC's reality show, "Honey We're Killing the Kids."  Dr. Stoler specializes in integrating behavior modification to influence positive health outcomes. She is the author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes (TM): The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great and also has published numerous articles and chapters on nutrition, exercise, health and wellness.  She is very involved with the American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and serves on the New Jersey Council on Physical Fitness & Sports.  Here’s our interview:

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    Question: Should you exercise when you have the flu? If not, when should you begin again? 

    Answer: DEFINITELY NOT.  One should always defer to assessing their body feels.  If you have a fever, difficulty breathing, haven’t slept adequately and feel achy – definitely wait.  This can be a good time to simply let your body have the time to rest, repair and recharge.  You can do much more harm to your body by working out during the flu than any type of gains you “think” you may have from exercise.   It could potentially extend the duration of your symptoms instead of improving.

    Question: What foods can support your recovery? Why? 

    Answer: Fluids are most important. Adequate hydration allows the body to function properly: body temperature regulation and supplying nutrients in and around the body while delivering waste products out.  Try hot chicken soup, tea with honey, electrolyte replacement beverages and even good old ginger ale.  Ginger has been used as an immune booster in many cultures.  Vitamin C has also been recommended (and) it is great to get it in foods versus just supplements (think orange juice).
    Question: Are there any supplements that we can take that can help us recover more quickly? 

    Answer: My first go-to remedy would be GUNA-Flu. It’s new to the US from Italy – but it’s been used throughout Europe to help reduce the duration and severity of the flu.  It has a unique delivery system – sublingual pellets – which is an effective dose that is rapidly absorbed through the mouth so there’s no need to wait for it to travel through the gastrointestinal tract.  Another product I really like is Sambucol, which is clinically tested black elderberry extract rich in immune supporting flavonoids.  Some people add vitamin C and zinc. Remember, Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and we are very efficient at excreting the excess in urine!

  • Question: How long should you plan to be in recovery from the flu? 

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    Answer: It really varies individually.  The flu can last for a few days to more than a week.  It is recommended that you do NOT go to work for at least 24 hours AFTER a fever subsides.  The flu is highly contagious.  If you are considered “at risk” – contact your medical doctor ASAP to consider an antiviral medication.

    Question: What about recovery tips for senior adults? 

    Answer: Seniors are considered an “at risk” population for the flu because they can be immune compromised.  The flu is a deadly virus, but we often take this for granted.  So, for seniors, if you haven’t gotten the flu vaccine each year (and you should), do contact your health care provider (or visit a medical clinic) to be tested for the flu to determine if you need prescription antiviral medications.  One complication from the flu is pneumonia, which also can be deadly, so pay attention to symptoms.  Take medications to help relieve elevated body temperatures, maintain fluid intake and try to eat as best as you can.
    Question: What additional information would you like to share? 

    Answer: One should seek emergency care if they experience any of the following

    • Difficulty breathing
    • Skin color that appears gray or bluish
    • High fever that does not decrease with medications
    • Dehydration (dark, scant urine)
    • Confusion, dizziness
    • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea
    • Pain or pressure in the abdomen or chest
    • Seizures
    • Also, infants with the flu should be seen by medical professionals if they become lethargic, irritable, listless or not interested in eating.
Published On: December 01, 2014