We’ve all heard the saying — “Starve a fever and feed a cold.” Or is it, “Feed a fever and starve a cold?” While many people get confused on the wording, the actual phrase, which dates back to the middle 1500s, advocates starving a fever while feeding a cold.
So is this good advice to follow? It seems there are differing opinions. Some assert the saying is nothing more than a medical myth, while others believe it may contain at least some truth.
Healthcare proponents against the phrase state that you should continue eating normally whether you are battling a fever or a cold. They argue that starvation only adds additional strain to your body while you are sick.
However, research by Dutch scientists suggests that eating boosts the type of immune response needed to fight off the common cold virus, while fasting promotes a different type of immune reaction necessary to overcome the bacterial infections that trigger most fevers.
Others also note that a fever is commonly associated with the flu, which requires a larger amount of metabolic activity to battle the invading germs than with the cold virus. Since the process of digestion also demands a great deal of energy, fasting allows the body to divert more of its resources into fighting off the illness. On the other hand, a cold typically takes one to two weeks to run its course, so starving yourself for this length of time would be counterproductive.
Overall, it seems the best advice may be a middle of the road solution. For a fever, take in plenty of liquids, such as soup broth and fruit juices, and eat if you feel hungry. If you are battling a cold, also consume lots of liquids, and eat moderately (being sure to include foods rich in Vitamin C) to keep your energy up for the longer recovery period. As always, consult with your physician for the treatment plan that is right for you.