Ever heard of the old saying: “Feed a cold, starve a fever”? Ever wondered about the origins of the old adage and whether it is actually true?
This idea most likely originated during the Middle Ages when people believed there were two kinds of illnesses – illnesses caused by low temperatures, such as a cold and illnesses caused by high temperatures, such as fever. The belief is that the body needed fuel to combat illnesses caused by cold temperatures, hence the need to eat when one has a cold. On the converse, for illnesses caused by high temperatures, we needed to deprive the furnace of the body of energy by not eating and hence starving the fever.
The idea that there are cold or hot temperature illnesses has now been largely debunked by modern medicine and doctors will say that one needs plenty of rest and fluids for both colds and flu. Colds and flu are caused by viruses, for which there is no cure. But one can support the immune system with proper nutrition and, even more importantly, proper hydration.
In other words, we should be feeding both the flu and a cold with nutritious and healthy foods!
There are many reasons you should not try to starve a fever. Fever is part of the immune system’s attempt to combat the virus. Fever raises body temperature, which increases metabolism and burns more calories. That’s one reason why taking in calories becomes important. You need to fuel your body to fight!
The importance of hydration also cannot ve understated in both cases. Fever dehydrates the body, in part through increased sweating from the elevated temperature. Vomiting and diarrhoea, two common symptoms of the flu, also quickly dehydrate the body. Dehydration makes the mucus in the nose, throat, and lungs dry up, which can lead to clogged sinuses and respiratory tubes. When mucus hardens it becomes more difficult to cough, which is the body’s way of trying to expel mucus and the germs it contains.
Replacing fluids is critical to helping the body battle the virus. Water works just fine, as do fruit juices and electrolyte beverages. If you feel nauseated, try taking small sips of liquids, as gulps might cause you to throw up.