Eating Pizza when Sick

If you’re feeling blue with a cold, fever, or upset stomach, then it can be tempting to order comfort food to satisfy a craving while you recove. As it turns out, pizza is the last thing you want to be eating when you’re sick.

Pizza contains tomatoes, histamine releasers that increase congestion, cheese, which causes inflammation, and bread, which contains hard-to-digest gluten. These ingredients, along with the hefty amount of saturated fat tax your immune system and slow down the recovery process.

Pizza isn’t really a healthy food to begin with, so it stands to reason that its not a go-to for helping alleviate symptoms of common illnesses. The rest of this article will discuss why you probably shouldn’t be eating pizza when sick.

Why Shouldn’t You Eat Pizza when Sick?

It’s important to note that everyone will react differently to the ingredients in pizza. People with gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance, for example, are not advised to eat pizza when they’re sick, if at all. The severity of the sickness is also an important factor that influences how much pizza will adversely affect you.

For some people, eating pizza during a mild fever or while battling through the common cold doesn’t have any adverse effects; however, the ingredients in pizza can still slow down your immune system, delaying your recovery.


Due to the complex carbs and saturated fats in pizza, the body has a difficult time digesting it. Resources used to digest complex foods can slow down your recovery process. Interestingly enough, during a fever, enzymes used to digest foods don’t work properly, further slowing down the digestion process.

 Heavy foods like pizza are not easily digestible to begin with, so the combination of the two effects can cause the pizza to ferment in your stomach, leading to additional health concerns. If your stomach is off, you should definitely be avoiding pizza and stick to foods that are easier to digest. For mild cases of the flu or cold, avoiding pizza is recommended.

With that being said, the decision of whether to eat pizza is up to you. To test whether pizza will negatively affect your symptoms, you can take a bite or two and wait a few minutes to see how you feel. If your stomach doesn’t feel worse, then it’s ok to eat pizza.

Tomatoes Increase Congestion

Tomatoes are a healthy addition to many dishes as part of a balanced diet, but they’re not doing your body any favors if you’re congested. Yes, they do have some anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling as a result of sickness, but they also have negative attributes that can adversely affect your body.

Tomatoes prompt the release of histamines, which can cause your symptoms of nasal congestion to be exacerbated because the body is producing more mucus.

Additionally, since tomatoes are slightly acidic, they can cause acid reflux, particularly if you’re having stomach issues. As such, if you’re sick with a stuffy nose or tummy troubles, then the tomatoes in pizza aren’t doing you any favors.

Eating Pizza when Sick

Cheese Causes Inflammation

Obviously, lactose intolerant people should be avoiding pizza entirely in order not to trigger additional symptoms like coughing; however, cheese can also have negative effects on people who are sick. First, it can cause increased inflammation in the sinuses, worsening symptoms of congestion and creating a general sense of malaise.

Cheese also contains a high amount of saturated fat, which can take your body time to digest. Whenever we eat something that contains a high amount of saturated fat and complex carbs, it takes our body a lot of time (and energy) to digest it.

The energy expended for digesting complex foods can’t then be used for helping the body recover from illness.

That’s part of the reason why doctors suggest a diet of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (BRAT) for illnesses that affect the stomach, since the body can digest these foods much more quickly. If you’re experiencing diarrhea, stomach upset, nausea, or vomiting, definitely avoid pizza when sick.

Bread Slows Digestion

Similarly to cheese, bread is difficult for your body to break down, making you more likely to feel sluggish while you’re already feeling sick. Additionally, the gluten in bread can worsen your tummy troubles if you have a gluten sensitivity. If your symptoms are affecting your bowel movements or causing any nausea or vomiting, avoid pizza entirely.

Oil Increases Inflammation

The oil used to make the bread and cheese in pizza can also negatively affect your body while it’s trying to fight off sickness.

Greasy foods have been demonstrated to increase inflammation in your body, and since the immune system is responsible for the inflammatory response, eating oily or greasy foods can put additional stress on your body while it’s trying to recover.

Dairy Causes Mucus Buildup

Some research suggests that dairy can promote mucus buildup in the lungs, making symptoms of congestion worse and slowing down the recovery process. The dairy in cheese, therefore, isn’t doing you any favors in helping your recover.

Positive Effects of Pizza During Sickness

While pizza may be an unhealthy comfort food that detrimentally affects your health with certain illnesses, there are a few ingredients in pizza that offer benefits to your body while you’re sick.


High levels of sodium aren’t good for your body, but if you’re super congested, then the sodium content of a pizza will loosen up that mucus to help alleviate your symptoms more. High sodium content is one reason why chicken soup is often touted as a go-to remedy for the common cold.


A common (and delicious) pizza topping, garlic has some incredible properties for fighting off disease. Filled with natural antibiotics and antiviral agents, garlic foods or supplements help your immune system work to the fullest to fight off sicknesses.


Often included in the form of red pepper flakes, peppers are spicy and can help clear out congestion quickly. Be warned if you’re experiencing stomach upset, however, since spicy foods can worsen your symptoms.

Other Foods to Avoid while Sick


Sweets aren’t a good idea when you’re sick because they reduce your immune system’s response to illness and increase inflammation in the body. It’s best to skip the dessert when you’re feeling under the weather.

Fried Foods

Fried foods are also not a great idea for helping your body recover. Foods cooked in hydrogenated oil contain trans fats, which can cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a process managed by the immune system, further compromising your ability to fight off a bacterial infection or virus.

The Verdict

Eating pizza while sick isn’t a good idea in most cases. It might be all right as comfort food if you’re just feeling a little under the weather, but the ingredients all impact your body in detrimental ways. Most notably, they cause inflammation, which can overtax your immune system and slow down your recovery rate.

Furthermore, complex and heavy foods like pizza slow down the digestion, which can also divest resources away from fighting off illness.

There are a few positives in pizza like the sodium and optional garlic which can reduce congestion and help improve immune responses, but when compared with traditional medicine, eating pizza when sick isn’t ideal.

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Sam Brett

Sam Brett is the founder and editor of Pizzachefhq, a pizza enthusiast who writes about what he's learned on the way of being a pizza creator and sharing his advice, tips, and research.

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