You know that dreadful feeling when you wake up and your throat is desperately dry. It hurts to swallow, your neck feels tender, and your voice is…voiceless. While putting anything down your throat sounds less than ideal at times like this, it’s really important to fuel up when you’re sick. This is a lot easier to do if you pick the right food for sore throat. (Yes, there is such a thing!)
Eating is a super underrated remedy for a sore throat. “Nutrient-dense foods are a low-risk, high-potential gain prescription,” says Cynthia Li, MD, an internal medicine physician and the author of Brave New Medicine. If you manage to get a few bites in here and there, you can load up on vitamins and minerals that’ll help you fight off the infection that’s causing your misery in the first place (think: vitamin C and zinc, for example).
“The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral infection,” says Nate Favini, MD, the chief medical officer at Forward. “The virus and your immune response to the virus cause the lining of your throat to become inflamed, which causes pain.”
You should also be mindful of COVID-19 as a potential contributing factor. “The common manifestations of COVID are tonsil enlargement, runny nose, and upper respiratory infection, and all can cause a sore throat,” says Michelle Pearlman, MD, an internist, gastroenterologist, and the co-founder and CEO of Prime Institute Miami. “A lot of viruses and bacteria can cause pharyngitis (a.k.a. a sore throat), sinus congestion, or a cough, and that irritates the throat and can cause swelling.”
A visit to the doc may be necessary depending on the severity and length of symptoms, but it’s crucial to rest up and stay hydrated. “Water can thin any sort of mucus secretions that might be occurring, and it can also help with the hydration of the throat and keep it moist,” explains family physician Jaclyn Tolentino, DO.
She also recommends drinking warm liquids like broths and teas—they’re easy to swallow and soothing. You should also opt for mostly soft foods when you have a sore throat so as to not aggravate the delicate throat lining, so think blander options like yogurt, oatmeal, and Jell-O.
Next time you’re laid up in bed with throat discomfort, try one of these foods to feel better and boost your immune system to speed up recovery. And yes, ice cream is on the list!
Just don’t go overboard: “In larger doses, its sugar content can suppress the immune system from doing its job,” she says.
She says there might be a link between yogurt consumption and reduced rates of respiratory infections and ear pain. “Beyond that, the cool and soft textures of yogurt make it an easy food to swallow when nothing else soothes,” says Dr. Li.
In a study published in Nutrition Journal, the combination of ginger and honey proved to be more effective than either alone. Since many sore throats are accompanied by postnasal drip, which can irritate the stomach and induce nausea, “ginger’s best-established property, [which is] fending off nausea, is another compelling reason to give it a try,” Dr. Li adds.
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