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Nourishing your body when you are unwell

Apr 7, 2020

When you are feeling unwell, sometimes the last thing you will think about is the food you eat particularly if you experience poor appetite, fever, cough or cold. However, eating well during this time can help maintain your overall nutritional intake and support your immune system while your body recovers.

1. Why is nutrition important?

Your immune system is responsible for fighting off infection and disease. Our immune system requires key nutrients to help build its strength to avoid recurrent infections.1,2

When you become unwell, you may also experience fatigue and weakness. If you don’t consume your usual food intake over this time, it may worsen your condition due to the lack of important nutrients as poor nutritional status is associated with decreased immune health. 3,4,5 Therefore, it is important to consume a well-balanced diet to help support your energy, recovery and long-term health.

2. What nutrients are important?

a) Carbohydrates

To support increased energy requirements when unwell, consuming a balanced diet is key.4 The breakdown of carbohydrate in the body to glucose is what provides the body with energy to fuel daily activities. A balanced diet should include high quality carbohydrate containing foods such as breads, cereals and wholegrains, legumes, fruit, yoghurt and milk.6 These foods may help manage fatigue and/or weakness during recovery.

b) Vitamins and Minerals

There are several nutrients that help maintain a healthy immune system before, during and after a period of illness.3,4 The intake of these nutrients can be achieved through a balanced diet rich in the five foods groups: fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, meat alternatives and eggs, wholegrain breads and cereals. These nutrients include:

• Vitamin A, B6, B12 and D

• Antioxidants – Vitamin C, E, Copper, Zinc and Selenium

Antioxidants are chemical compounds found in a range of foods that protect the body against free radical damage.3

c) Protein

If you are not consuming your usual food intake, there is a likelihood that you are not meeting your daily protein requirements. Suboptimal protein intake can impact on your ability to maintain lean muscle tissue resulting in some muscle loss.7 This can impact strength and long-term recovery. Therefore, protein intake is an important consideration even if your appetite is poor. Sources of protein include: meats, fish, eggs, poultry, nuts and legumes.7

How can Sustagen® Hospital Formula Active Plus Fibre help me?

Sustagen® Hospital Plus Fibre is a high protein, balanced oral supplement containing soluble fibre for digestive health as well as carbohydrate for energy.

• Antioxidants vitamins C and E

• High quality protein

• A source of zinc, vitamin B6, B12 and D which helps support immune function Learn more about Sustagen® Hospital Formula Active Plus Fibre here.

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  1. Carr, A.C and Maggini, S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov; 9(11): 1211
  2. Better Health Channel. Antioxidants. 2012. Retrieved on 23/3/20 from www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/antioxidants
  3. Macronutrient Balance, Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, Retrieved on 23/3/20 from: https://www.nrv.gov.au/chronic-disease/macronutrient-balance
  4. Childs CE et al. Diet and Immune Function, Nutrients 2019, 11(8), 1933
  5. Bresnahan KA et al. Undernutrition, the Acute Phase Response to infection, and its Effects on Micronutrient Status Indicators, Adv Nutr. 2014 (5):702-711
  6. Better Health Channel. Carbohydrates Retrieved on 23/3/20 from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/carbohydrates-and-the-glycaemic-index
  7. Better Health Channel. Protein Retrieved on 23/3/20 from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/protein

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