Feed A Cold Starve A Fever — A New Take!

During cold and flu season, it helps to know how to get back on your feet quickly. Many people are familiar with the ancient expression “feed a cold starve a fever,” but is that the best method? Discover the origins of this expression and learn new information for getting better faster.

Origin Of “Feed A Cold Starve A Fever” Expression

“Feed a cold, starve a fever” dates back to John Withal’s dictionary published in 1574, which says that “fasting is a great remedy of fever.” The basis of the belief is that food fuels a fire within your body. Eating food produces heat that combats your cold. But if you have a fever, it is best to avoid food so as to not avoid more fuel to the fire (temperature). But does this ancient expression stand the test of time? Let’s explore some new information and debunk the myth.

Important New Information

The Farmers’ Almanac does not give medical advice, but we certainly do not support this outdated belief. “Feed a cold starve a fever” no longer holds water. A new adage may be: “feed them both!” Fighting an illness takes energy, so feeding both a cold and fever is important to do for different reasons.

Why To Feed A Cold

  • It takes extra energy for your body’s immune system to fight off a viral or bacterial infection. Maintaining a balanced diet of healthy ingredients is necessary to combat any pathogenic invader.
  • Eating healthy foods when you have a cold provides your body with energy to fight the virus, while also generating body heat. Cold viruses replicate faster in a cold environment.
  • Eating food when you have a cold will help to generate body heat, slowing down germs.  

Why to Feed A Fever

  • Don’t starve your fever. Feed it! A fever is your body’s natural mechanism to overcome a virus. Increasing the heat causes an increase in metabolism, resulting in more calories burned. Eating more during a fever will help to counteract this.
  • In the 1500 and 1600s it was thought that a fever indicated the metabolism was overworked. Doctors thought that withholding food, and not working the digestive system, would help the body to cool itself. We now know reducing calorie intake can in fact make it harder for your body to fight off a fever.
  • Feeding a fever will replenish your body and give it the strength it needs to continue fighting off the illness.     

Fluids Are Key — Stay Hydrated!

Loss of appetite is common when you are feeling under the weather. While it is wise to tune into your hunger cues, it is also vital to provide your body with the needed food and energy to fight off illnesses. While calories are key in helping your body recover, fluid intake is actually more important.

Fevers dehydrate your system, while colds require mucus to flush out the germs inside you. Fluids help prevent the mucus from drying up and clogging up germs exit routes. (When mucus hardens it inhibits coughs—one of your body’s ways of dislodging germs.)

Related: 10 Reasons To Try Bone Broth

If you don’t feel like eating when you are sick, you can drink your calories to stay hydrated and nourished. Hot herbal teas, electrolyte drinks, juice, broths, and chicken soup are all great options.

Soups are a healthy choice, providing both calories and fluid. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can further dehydrate your system. If you’re feeling nauseous, ingest slowly, taking small sips of liquids.

A Final Thought

Your friends at Farmers’ Almanac wish you well—especially during cold and flu season!

Psst … come and visit us at The Farmhouse!

Join The Discussion

Do you feed a cold, starve a fever?

Will you consider feeding a fever?

Share your experience with your community here in the comments below!

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Natalie LaVolpe

Natalie LaVolpe is a freelance writer and former special education teacher. She is dedicated to healthy living through body and mind. She currently resides on Long Island, New York, with her husband, children, and dog.

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