Why do we stop eating when we are sick?
When a stomach bug affects a person, they probably do not feel like eating, a loss of appetite that is part of the body’s normal response to an illness, but that is not well understood. Sometimes eating less during the illness leads to a faster recovery, but other times – like when cancer patients experience loss of appetite – this lack of desire to eat can be deadly.
Latest research shows how bacteria block the response to appetite loss in their host both to make the host healthier and to prevent the transmission of bacteria to Other guests. There are diseases that can prevent your child from eating certain foods. But these are not the only reason. Also they can be rejected by their textures, they can only want to drink liquids, suffer of irritable colon and even to reject at first sight the new foods.
This discovery, published on Thursday in the journal ‘Cell’, reveals a link between appetite and infection and could have implications in the treatment of infectious diseases, transmission of infection and loss of appetite associated with pathologies, aging, inflammation or interventions (Such as chemotherapy to fight cancer).
“It has been known for a long time that infections cause loss of appetite, but only their function is beginning to be understood,” says one of the authors of the paper, Janelle Ayres, an assistant professor in the Laboratories of Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis of the Foundation Nomis at the Salk Institute.
Mice infected with the ‘Salmonella Typhimurium’ bacteria usually experience loss of appetite and eventually become much more unhealthy as the bacteria become more virulent, spreading from the intestines to other tissues in the body. The Ayres team tested different conditions on infected mice and found that diseased mice that consumed extra calories despite their loss of appetite survived longer.
It turned out that this survival was not due to a more active immune response on the part of well fed animals (measured by levels of bacteria in the host), but was because ‘Salmonella’ did not extend outside the intestines nor by The whole body when the mice ate more, which allowed the animals to stay healthy despite the infection. Even more surprising was that ‘Salmonella’ acted on the intestine to try to suppress the loss of appetite in the host.
Thus, the finding was initially disconcerting: Why do bacteria become less virulent and do not spread to other areas of the body when nutrients are more abundant? And why would ‘Salmonella’ actively promote this condition? It turns out that the bacteria were making a trade-off between virulence – the ability of a microbe to cause disease within a host – and transmission – its ability to propagate and establish infections among multiple hosts.
The diseases that stop our eating include gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, prolonged diarrhea, celiac disease; Allergy to gluten which is wheat protein, constipation, overweight or obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases, kidney disease, diabetes, hypoglycemia or innate metabolism errors, which affect the use of certain nutrients. Each one of them has a specific management that, in terms of feeding, must be led by an expert specialized in pediatric nutrition; This is done in an appropriate way with the improvement of the symptoms, and at the same time, the growth and development of your child is promoted.
For example, in the case of prolonged diarrhea, sugary beverages such as juices, and the addition of honey, sugar and panela, as well as all foods with some type of sweetener as an ingredient or additive should be restricted.
“What we found was that loss of appetite makes salmonella more virulent, perhaps because it needs to go beyond the intestines to find nutrients for itself. This increased virulence kills its host too quickly, which compromises The ability of bacteria to spread to new hosts, says the study’s first author, Sheila Rao, associate researcher at Salk.Translation between transmission and virulence has not been appreciated before, it was previously thought that virulence and transmission Were coupled “.
When the host ate more and survived longer during infection, Salmonella benefited: the bacteria in the mice were able to spread through the feces to other animals and increase their transmission between the hosts, compared to bacteria in rodents Who did not eat and died earlier due to increased bacterial virulence.
Scientists have discovered that to stop the response to appetite loss and boost transmission between hosts, Salmonella produces a molecule called SlrP, which blocks the activation of an immune protein (cytokine) in the intestines. This cytokine normally communicates with the appetite center of the brain, the hypothalamus, to prompt the host to lose its appetite during infection.
The team found that mice infected with ‘Salmonella’ who could not manufacture SlrP ate less food while they were infected, lost more weight and died faster than control mice. Although there is the same intestinal-cerebral pathway linked to loss of appetite in both humans and mice, Ayres warns that the responses of the infection depend on many factors and that whether eating or fasting during disease can improve health will depend greatly Part of what is the causal agent of the infection.
His team plans to look at the human microbiome (the collection of bacteria living in people’s bodies) to find other microbes that could have a similar effect on this pathway and explore new therapies linked to appetite loss and treatment the illness. The laboratory also wants to investigate whether drugs could be used to increase or reduce the pathway of loss of appetite induced by the disease that runs SlrP. “Now that we have identified this mechanism that regulates appetite, we want to turn it around and see if we can decrease appetite through this mechanism to help in cases of metabolic disease,” says Ayres.
The finding also points to the possibility of treating infectious diseases with approaches other than antibiotics, such as nutritional intervention. “Finding alternatives to antibiotics is very important, as these drugs have already encouraged the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains,” says Ayres. In the United States alone, two million people are infected each year with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.
Home management for eating of sick people
It is clear that medicine and specialists offer solutions to these problems; However, it is true that difficulties can arise in the house when it comes time to restrict the food. Of course, the most important thing is that you as a mother follow the indications of the specialists.
When your child is a baby, following the diet is not so difficult because he has not tried certain foods, he does not ask for them because he does not know them and it is easier to create eating habits. What happens is that at that time of the child’s life, as they are being introduced certain foods, it is not known for sure what can cause problems and what not. It could be said that it is a discovery.
When your child eats everything, it is also easy to manage the diet at home, because all food is prepared there and not offered to those who can not eat. And if it is diarrhea or temporary illness is easier, because it is temporary and just explain to your child that in a few days your diet will return to normal. If you explain that some food can make him sick, he will understand. Nobody likes to feel bad.
Now if the situation demands something more difficult like handling problems with sugar or wheat, for example, it is fundamental to explain to your child that he can not eat certain foods. It is to make you responsible from very small of your food.
There are some tricks to help you; For example, if your child can not eat candy and goes to a children’s party, bring his own piece of diabetic cake, making sure he can eat it at the same time as the other children and so do not feel excluded. The same can be done with other foods and circumstances.
Keep in mind that during childhood, eating habits are created and if your child grows up knowing their restrictions, they will get used to them very soon and will have no difficulties.
It is important that when there are permanent or temporary restrictions notify the kindergarten or school and explain the consequences that could bring to the child the consumption of prohibited foods. You should also inform the grandparents, uncles and relatives that at some point they may be responsible for feeding the child.
Always explain to your child that this happens to many children and that he is responsible for his own health. Do not make this a family problem, or turn it into tragedy or drama, so that the child grows up with the notion that this will not affect his daily life.
In some cases, pediatricians ask the whole family to take care of the child’s diet or, at least, not to make available to the child food that can not be consumed. Or, with all the alternatives that exist today, it can be very good to buy the child food substitutes that can be consumed at the same time as other members of the family, such as sugar-free or gluten-free products.