Unhappy dinner plate next to spilled wine at a set table

How I Combat Loss of Appetite and Nausea

Getting sick is part of being human. It may be from a virus or a bacterium. But people get sick, and it can be hard to feed your body well during that time because of energy.

Part of healing is sleeping and taking medication. Another part of healing is staying hydrated and eating nutritious meals. This can look different for each person because of preferences. But those are the four main pillars that most people lean on when they are feeling ill.

One of those pillars is harder for me than the others. And that is getting nutritious meals when I am sick. This is often because I lose my appetite when I have come down with any kind of infection.

Loss of appetite

This is common when you aren’t feeling well. In fact, my first sign for feeling under the weather is a loss of appetite. It isn’t as apparent as it was before Trikafta. But it still my body’s first sign that something is wrong.

Loss of appetite simply means that you don’t want to eat. Nothing sounds good. And you aren’t that hungry. Being a cystic fibrosis (CF) patient, I know it's important to maintain weight, which correlates with my lung function. The better my weight is, the better my lung function tends to be. And a loss of appetite can influence that.

Ways to trigger an appetite

I look for ways to trigger an appetite whenever I am sick. This will look differently for each person. What works for me might make you feel sick to your stomach. And vice versa. But I want to share a few ways that I trigger an appetite when I am sick.

  • Watching food shows. This could be any food show. But it needs to be food that I enjoy. And that may look differently when I am sick. For example, I love cooking shows like Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. Another great show that some may watch for food/appetite inspiration is The Great British Bake Off. It shows yummy, baked goods and has a great comedic bit throughout the show.
  • ASMR eating vlogs. This may sound weird but hear me out. Watching videos of people eating helped me trigger my appetite when I was very sick and at my lowest weight. I don’t know if it was the crunch of the amazing onion rings. Or seeing the variety of foods all on one setting. But it worked and it worked well. Two of my favorite ASMR eating vlogs are Zach Choi and SAS-ASMR on YouTube.

What if lack of appetite isn’t a struggle for you when you’re sick? Perhaps you struggle with nausea because of antibiotics or general queasiness? There are many tips I have for when I've experienced times like this, too.

Ways to fight nausea

Nausea is a worse side effect than lack of appetite in my opinion. Any shift in movement, a new unfamiliar smell, or simply seeing something gross can make my nausea so much worse. I remember many times fighting nausea and using a few tricks I have learned over the years.

  • Lay on my left side. I cannot tell you how many nurses have told me to lay of my left side when I am nauseous. Your stomach is located slightly to the left of your esophagus and diaphragm. And laying on your left side allows gravity to help the situation.
  • Over the counter meds. This is one I have used for years. We always had Pepto-Bismal in my parent’s house growing up. And now I have it in my house. There are many options for over-the-counter options to help with nausea. If you are unfamiliar with what may help you the best, speak with your pharmacist.
  • Bland foods. Saltines are one of my go-to at home remedies for nausea. They’re bland and they’re high in starch. Because of that, I use them to help absorb the gastric acid when I am nauseous.

CFers need calories

I often don’t think about food when I am sick. And perhaps you’re the same way. Food may be the last thing on your mind because of lack of appetite or nausea. Remember that calories are calories, and we need them to fight infection. That may mean you get your calories from crackers, Ensure shakes, or bowls of noodle soup. And that is okay.

In another article, I will be sharing how I prepare food for when sickness inevitably happens. This allows me and my family to eat healthy, nutritious meals without needing anyone to cook. Our bodies are amazing, but they are susceptible to illness. Remember to give yourself grace when you are sick.

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