In the Northern hemisphere, it is a time of colds and flus and the automatic response is to reach for medication despite the fact that we know it just has to run its course. Many cold/flu medicines are high Fodmap so what do you do if you have irritable bowel syndrome? Watch my video for my recommendations.
How to cope with a cold or the flu on the Low Fodmap diet
Today I want to talk to you about what to do when you’re on the low FODMAP diet and you get a cold or the flu. Obviously, there’s a big difference between a cold and the flu. A cold mostly, we can soldier on. The flu, the real flu, puts you down for the count. You’re in bed.
And the first thing you think about is, “What medication can I take for this?” Well, to start off with, there is nothing that can shorten the length of a cold or even the flu. It simply has to take its course. You have to wait for it to pass. You can make yourself slightly more comfortable with some medications, but the problem for us with IBS is that most of them will worsen your IBS symptoms. So now you don’t just have a cold or the flu, you also have your IBS symptoms back.
In particular, cough medicines like syrups all seem to contain sugar alcohols, which of course are polyols – sorbitol, in particular. And that’s going to make you worse unless sorbitol isn’t one of your triggers. The cough drops or cough lollies/candies that they sell in pharmacies are next to useless. I remember I was in Italy once with a cold and I went to the pharmacy there and asked for something for my throat – but something without honey obviously, because we can’t have honey. And he said, “Look, all I’ll be giving you is a lump of sugar. It’s not going to change anything about your cold or your throat or how you feel.” So I thought that was real honesty from a pharmacist who doesn’t make any money by telling me that. But I’ve never forgotten that, and so I’m passing it on to you, that all of those cough drop lolly things simply don’t help at all. It’s just giving you a hit of sugar, along with a whole lot of other additives, which as we know, don’t serve us very well.
Having said that, if you’ve got the flu and your temperature’s going up, the painkiller that’ll bring your temperature back down that has the least effect on our gut is paracetamol. Most of the others will affect your gut. So take some paracetamol if you have the flu. And even for a cold, it can alleviate quite a few symptoms. But you’re not going to be able to solve it by taking medication. You just have to wait it out.
So, be sensible. Keep yourself warm. Continue to eat as normally as you can, especially with a cold. They say, “Feed a cold. Starve a fever.” If you’ve got the flu, you will have to eat less and perhaps more low FODMAP soups and things that are easy to get down just to keep your energy levels up as much as possible. Stay away from work if you are a working person because you don’t want to be spreading this. And also by going to work, you’re stressing your body out at a time when it needs to be focusing on getting you better. Don’t be a hero. Don’t sacrifice yourself and continue soldiering on. You’re perhaps prolonging your illness or leaving yourself open to get something else because you’re in a vulnerable state. And if you’re in a busy office with a lot of people there with different bugs, you might actually get a second bug, and that will prolong you feeling miserable.
So take care of yourself. Stay away from other people and wait it out. That’s about all you can do. But do keep warm. Keep yourself well-hydrated because when you’ve got a cold and also when you’ve got the flu when you’re perhaps perspiring a lot, you’re losing fluids. So keep putting them back in again.
We all get colds. We just have to put up with it a little bit more than the next person without IBS.