Earlier this week, I was hit with what started as a sinus infection but turned into the flu. I know, I should have gotten my flu shot, but being a needle baby, I conveniently forgot and subsequently suffered the consequences. The flu virus causes stuffiness, exhaustion, fever, headaches, muscle aches and pains. The number two cause of these symptoms (after the virus of course) is dehydration. Being too tired to eat and drink, plus sweating out fluids while feverish will leave you dehydrated, causing many of the aforementioned symptoms.
I called my doctor to let her know that my symptoms had gotten worse and I suspected the flu. Her assistant called me back with her treatment plan: Advil for the fever and replace lost fluids with 32 oz of Gatorade each day I have a fever. “That is so not happening,” is how I let the assistant know that I would not be drinking a beverage with more than 4 teaspoons of added sugar. Sugar makes me thirsty and I was already feeling dehydrated. Then, she offered an alternative to the Gatorade: The sugar-free version of Gatorade. “Absolutely not!” was my answer; artificial sweeteners do not act as an effective substitute for sugar in the process of rehydration. She told me that I needed to drink one of them to replace my electrolytes.As a Registered Dietitian, I know that there is a right time and place for sports drinks, but when it comes to having the flu, there are alternative solutions to rehydrating after fever that are added-sugar and chemical-free.
As a Registered Dietitian, I know that there is a right time and place for sports drinks, but when it comes to having the flu, there are added-sugar-free, artificial sweetener-free solutions to rehydrating after a fever.
The theory behind drinking a sports drink is that it contains electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals in your blood and bodily fluids that help you maintain your body’s chemistry and help your muscles to function properly. They leave the body when you sweat and urinate, and if they become out of balance, you can become dehydrated (or over-hydrated, depending on the situation, but not usually the case during the flu). Replacing fluids alone won’t help you to rehydrate when you have had an electrolyte loss; the electrolytes need to be replaced as well. There are many types of electrolytes, the most familiar being sodium and potassium. Sports drinks contain fluids and electrolytes, but also a hefty dose of added sugar. Some sugar does aide rehydration, but it can come from natural sources. Here are some alternatives to the sports drink when rehydrating or staying hydrated during an illness like the flu:
Lots of it. Drink it constantly and slowly so as not to upset your stomach. Drink it cold, or warmed. Our bodies are made up of 60+% of water, and we need to replenish it, even when we aren’t ill.
“Starve a cold, feed a fever” might be an old wives’ tale, but the “feed a fever” part is right on (feed the cold too). Eating foods with a high water content that contain natural sugar and sodium will help you to rehydrate. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that rehydrating with water plus food was more effective than rehydrating with a sports drink alone. Some good choices include vegetable or chicken noodle soup, or cucumber or melon with a pinch of salt.
Fluid Replacements Drinks
Instead of a sports drink with added sugar, there are fluid replacement drinks on the market and that you can make at home that have no added sugar. Coconut water, watermelon juice, and cold-pressed juice contain natural sugars and electrolytes to help your body retain and utilize the fluid you drink before excreting it.
Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages act as diuretics and can deplete the body of essential fluids during illness when consumed in excess. A better choice than a cocktail or a cappuccino would be decaffeinated tea or coffee. Green tea (although it does contain a little caffeine) has immunity boosting properties as well as a light flavor, making it easy to drink when under the weather.
After a few days of rest, I started to feel better. Even after sweating out my fever in the night, I was never dehydrated while having the flu, despite the fact that I didn’t consume one sports drink. I drank lots of water, green tea, matcha (powdered green tea leaves), chicken soup, and roasted butternut squash soup, and ate close to my regular diet by honoring my body’s cues of hunger and fullness. I am not a doctor, so if your physician directs you to treat your illness in a manner to which you don’t agree, question him/her and ask for alternatives (or share mine with him/her). There are instances where dehydration could become severe enough to need rehydration intravenously. These tips are meant to keep you hydrated so you can stay safe and comfortable while ill and prevent dehydration. I hope you won’t need them but if you do, tell me: How did they work for you?
PS Have you downloaded your FREE copy of my new e-book, “The Inner Girl Power Challenge” yet? Have fun and feel empowered to ditch dieting, eat fearlessly, and make peace with the skin you are in. Read it all at once or do one challenge at a time. Your pace is the pace!