This week's 'Ask Evan' comes from Rob T in York County. Rob asks, "My entire life I`ve been told to feed a cold and starve a fever when I`m sick. Is there any medical truth to this adage or is it medical folklore?
The origin of "feed a cold and starve a fever" actually goes back centuries-- back to the 1500`s when writer John Withals suggested that fasting would cure a fever. The belief was that eating would activate digestive processes which would lead to more fever-- because digestion would take away a body`s energy to fight fever. So, it was thought that eating less would stop stoking the heat of a fever. Also at the time, common colds were blamed on a drop in body temperature, which could be helped by eating and drinking.
However, research shows the opposite may be true-- that eating fewer calories may actually make it more difficult for your body to fight off the flu virus. Research also suggests that eating less during the early stages of an infection can actually be dangerous because the body requires large amounts of energy to create and assemble the large number of immune cells necessary to fight the enemy. Good nutrition and calories provide that energy.
As with other types of infections, individuals with less robust immune systems may suffer more serious colds and infections by an inadequate intake of high-quality calories in the early stages of an infection.
The body also requires additional fluids above the norm in the presence of illness, including colds or flu. Water, juice, and hot liquids along with food will help fight cold infections by keeping the body well-hydrated and nourished.
So experts say cold or flu-- fever or not-- drink plenty of fluids to replace lost electrolytes. Also eat well-balanced meals when you're hungry, and get plenty of rest.
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