Star Foods for Glandular Fever: apricot, avocado, banana, barley, beansprout, beetroot, blackcurrant, blueberry, broccoli, brown rice, butternut squash, Carrot, duck, fresh tuna, garlic, kale, kiwi fruit, lettuce, mango, orange, papaya, parsley, pumpkin seed, salmon, shiitake mushroom, sunflower seed, sweet potato, tomato, venison
Glandular fever (also called mononucleosis) is a viral infection caused in the majority of cases by the Epstein-Barr virus, a member of the herpes family. Although it can occur in very young children, it is most common during the teenage years. The virus is transmitted through saliva and has earned the nickname of the “kissing disease”. Diagnosis of this viral infection is confirmed by a blood test, followed by liver function tests if necessary.
Symptoms include a fever, swollen glands, sore throat, aching muscles, overwhelming fatigue, an enlarged spleen and abnormal liver function. A child with glandular fever is likely to be very weak and tired. In young children, the virus usually lasts from two to four weeks. In older children, however, it can last up to several months. To prevent any damage to the liver and spleen, bed-rest is essential during the initial stages of the illness.
Medicinal foods for glandular fever
A child with glandular fever should follow a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meat and fish. While the appetite is suppressed as a result of the illness, offer lighter meals of soups, smoothies, juices and broths that will be easy to eat and will provide a good supply of the nutrients needed to assist recovery. As the liver may be compromised by the virus, it is wise to avoid unnecessary fat in the diet because one of the functions of the liver is to secrete bile in order to break down food fats. A weakened liver needs all the help it can get, and cutting down on fats will avoid over-taxing it. Foods containing sugar and refined flour should also be kept to a minimum as they are immune-suppressive. Cut out soft drinks, processed and fried foods, all of which depress immunity.
During the recovery period you should prepare foods for your child that are rich in the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. This will help boost her immune system to fight the infection. Vitamin C is also essential for the production of antibodies and interferon, both of which play key roles in combating and destroying the cells of a viral infection. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and cannot be stored by the body. It therefore needs to be acquired through diet on a daily basis. Foods particularly rich in vitamin C are citrus fruits, peppers, kiwi fruit, blackcurrants and guava.
The best way to incorporate vitamin A into your child's diet is to offer foods containing beta-carotene. This is an antioxidant carotenoid and is the plant-based form of vitamin A which can be converted into the vitamin by your child's body as and when needed. In addition, beta-carotene has antiviral properties, helping to stimulate the production and activity of white blood cells. Foods rich in beta-carotene include apricot, mango, cantaloupe melon, tomato, carrot, butternut squash, other squashes and sweet potato.
Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that the body can store, is required for the health and maintenance of all cells and body tissue as well as for its antioxidant qualities. As such, it helps to repair cells damaged by the virus and boosts the immune system to fight free radicals, which also cause cell damage. It can be found in such foods as avocado, butternut squash, seeds and seed oils.
Studies have shown that the Epstein-Barr virus that causes glandular fever is strengthened by the amino acid arginine. This is found in chocolate, nuts and seeds, beans and tofu, so these foods should be avoided. However, another amino acid, lysine, has been found to be able to operate as an antibody to arginine. Thus, a diet high in lysine and low in arginine has been shown to help prevent recurrent infections caused by the herpes family of viruses. Foods rich in lysine include eggs, cheese, fish and poultry.
Two particular star foods to include in the diet of a child with glandular fever are shiitake mushrooms and garlic. The shiitake mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries in the battle against disease and to fight viruses. Its magical property is lentinan, an immune-boosting phytonutrient that appears to be able to prevent virus replication. Lentinan also induces interferon production, which further helps the body to fight off infection. Make sure to use plenty of garlic in your child's diet - it is a potent antiviral and can be easily added to many meals.
Extracted from Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids by Lucy Burney, text © 2004, published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London.