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Diet for Upper Respiratory Infection

In Chinese medicine, infections are divided into two main types: wind-heat invasions and wind-cold invasions.  Symptoms that help differentiate between the two types include:



Fever Light Can be high
Aversion to cold Pronounced Slight
Body aches Pronounced Slight
Headache Deep, severe At the back of the head
Sweating None Slight to profuse
Thirst None or lowered May be increased
Urine Clear Dark
Tongue Body color normal Red tip or sides of tongue
Pulse Tight Rapid

The general treatment philosophy for treating a wind-cold invasion is to use warming foods and herbs to cause sweating to open the surface and release the pathogens.  For w wind-heat invasion, cooling foods and herbs are used to reduce heat and open the surface.


Eat cool or neutral foods that will cool heat in lung and resolve phlegm. Use mostly liquids (juices, soups, teas) at neutral temperatures (very cold food and drink will weaken the body as they cool it) and maintain fluid intake.

Grains: Millet, barley, wheat, rice, amaranth (especially in soup)

Legumes: Soy, mung beans and sprouts, alfalfa sprouts

Vegetables: Watercress, seaweeds, mushroom, dikon radish, radish, carrot, pumpkin, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, white fungus, eggplant, water chestnut, lettuce, summer squash, cucumber, celery, asparagus, Swiss chard, spinach, broccoli, zucchini

Fruits: Apple, banana, Cantaloupe, persimmon, peach, pear, strawberry, citrus, papaya, pomelo, winter melon, watermelon, tomato

Herbs: Chickweed, horehound leaf, nettles, mullein leaf, peppermint, dandelion (greens and root), honeysuckle flowers, lemon balm, cilantro, marjoram


Warming foods: coffee, alcohol, chicken; any foods listed for wind-cold

Wind foods: chicken

Congesting foods: dairy, sugar



Eat warm or neutral foods that will warm the lung and resolve phlegm. Eat food at neutral temperature, avoiding cool or very hot food.

Grains: Oats, spelt, quinoa, sweet brown rice, rice, corn, buckwheat, rye

Legumes: Black beans, aduki beans, lentils

Vegetables: Garlic, green onion, and onion, parsnip, parsley, mustard greens, winter squash, cabbage, kale, leek, chive, peppers (hot peppers in small amounts)

Fruits:  Cherry, citrus peel, date

Nuts: Walnut, sunflower seed, sesame seed, pine nut, chestnut

Meat: Beef, lamb

Herbs: Fennel, fenugreek, cayenne, horseradish, fresh ginger, elecampane root, coriander, cinnamon bark or twig, cloves, basil, rosemary, angelica root, dill, anise, caraway, cumin


Cooling foods: raw foods; any foods listed for wind-heat

Wind foods: chicken

Congesting foods: dairy, sugar

* Although coffee and alcohol are warming, they should be avoided as they suppress the immune system.



Cai, J. 2002. Oriental Dietetics Class Notes.NationalCollegeof Naturopathic Medicine. Fall 2002.

Maciocia, Giovanni.  1989. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine.  Churchill Livingstone:London.

Pitchford, P. 1993. Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books:Berkley,CA.

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