Most of us have probably heard the old adage “starve a cold and feed a fever”. But does this saying hold up in the face of scientific research? The short answer is “no.” The best thing you can likely do is feed both.
We would all like to believe that there’s an easy way to shorten the length of a cold or flu. However, there is not much we can do to speed up the process, apart from getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids. But what role does eating—or not eating—actually play?
Most people do not feel particularly hungry when they are sick with a cold or fever. This is because the body naturally regulates the amount of food we eat when ill. Certainly, eating a large heavy meal will use some reserves of energy that would be better used in fighting off pathogens. However, keeping a steady stream of nutrients flowing through your system is a good idea. The nutrients provide your body with the tools it needs to kill invading viruses.
Concentrate on getting nutrient- and antioxidant-rich foods in your diet as best you can, along with plenty of sugar-free fluids. Many people drink a lot of juice, thinking it will provide them with vitamin C. You would actually be better off eating strawberries and red peppers, both of which are high in vitamin C. A supplement would also be better than juice, as juice has a lot of sugar. Sugar has been proven to suppress the immune system, which is the opposite of what you need when you’re ill.
Warm broths are also excellent when you are sick. There’s a reason your mother brought you chicken soup when you had a cold or flu. Far from being an old wives’ tale, a study performed by Dr. Stephen Rennard from the University of Nebraska Medical Center showed that chicken soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) in the body so they could not travel to the upper respiratory area and induce inflammation.
Chicken soup is only effective as a treatment if it is prepared using both chicken and a variety of vegetables such as onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips and parsley (and then filtered). Whatever its activity against pathogens, at the very least it provides your body with plenty of nutrients and warm liquids that will help get you feeling well again soon.