Feed a cold, starve a fever?

Feed a cold, starve a fever?

Feed a cold, starve a fever?

Tis’ the season to sneeze

This is a doozy of a cold and flu season. Some report that the flu vaccine has only been about 10% effective making it even more difficult to avoid an infection. Have you talked with your primary care doctor or visited the Madison Park Pharmica for a strategy to treat a cold or flu?

Instead of conventional medicine some still follow health advice from folklore. If you are reading historical medical documents from the 1500’s you may be tempted to “feed a cold” and “starve a fever”. Some thought that eating would lead the digestive system to create energy and therefore add more heat to a fever. During this time period many believed a cold was caused from a drop in body temperature and therefore eating and drinking would be the treatment of choice. Thankfully, progresses in science have changed these dated treatment approaches.

What does science say?

We now understand that viruses cause the cold and flu. If you happen to be suffering from one of these your body is using large amounts of energy to boost the immune cells needed to fight off the illness. This energy is provided by good nutrition in food and hydration.

Our metabolic rates rise steeply when we are sick causing to our bodies to burn more calories. The higher the fever, the more energy the body uses and the more calories we need to replenish it. Not replenishing this energy is dangerous, especially in children because they do not have the energy stores that adults do.

Instead of trying to remember whether to feed or starve an illness, focus on well founded advice from physicians. This includes drinking plenty of fluids and eating if you are hungry. Fluid replacement can be achieved with water, broth or drinks with added electrolytes, such as sports drinks. The fatigue we feel when sick should not be ignored. In addition to hydration and nutrition, getting more sleep will reserve energy for the body to fight off the illness.

Finding foods that are rich in nutrients will give your body the boost it needs to fight infections and may help avoid illness. This may sound like dated folklore, but it’s true that you should eat more fruits and vegetables. Swing by Bert’s Red Apple to load up on these immune system boosters. Shop for food rich in beta-carotene including winter squash and asparagus. Top off your cart with broccoli for vitamin C and salmon for vitamin E. If your symptoms include congestion consider green or black tea to help thin mucus while giving you a boost of powerful antioxidants.

The best advice may simply be eat when you are hungry and focus on hydration and sleep. Consult with your physician on ways to avoid getting sick or ways to better fight off symptoms if you are currently ill.

Written by Aaron Shaw, OTR/L, CHT, CSCS
Occupational Therapist
Certified Hand Therapist
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *