Starve a Cold; Feed a Fever?

 David Castillo Dominici

Starve a fever and feed a cold. Or is it feed a cold and starve a fever? I never could remember that old adage. Either way, don't do it.

You work hard not to succumb to the latest barrage of cold, flu and other viral attacks. You got your flu shot early, take your vitamin, and wash your hands all the time. Even so, all of a sudden...Bam. You're down for the count. Happens to the best of us.

My daughter was home from college last weekend recovering from a week's battle with a virus. As she rested and gained strength back, we talked about what foods and drinks worked best to get her back on her feet.


Colds and flu often produce plenty of congestion. While no cure, drinking warm, soothing liquids can help ease stuffy heads. The few people who find dairy products increase their mucus production may want to avoid it for awhile.

Reach for good old chicken soup. It's not only recommended by moms and grandmas everywhere, but research has actually shown that chicken soup has a mild anti-inflammatory effect that may help to minimize symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. 

A sore throat can make swallowing any liquids difficult Sipping cold, icy drinks can provide a temporary numbing effect. Highly acidic juices like orange juice, that can irritate the throat, so try diluting citrus juices. Warm, not hot, decaffeinated tea with a bit of honey can bring some soothing comfort. 

When nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea hit, stop eating initially. As soon as your stomach calms, sip on clear beverages to avoid problems with dehydration. Reach for water, ice chips, popsicles, juice, lemon-lime soda, ginger ale, and jello. Sports drink such as Gatorade are great for adding back both fluids and electrolytes lost. When your stomach can handle liquids, begin adding back bland foods. Rice, toast with jam, bananas, and applesauce are good for starters. Aim to go back to your normal diet within 24 hours.

Double check your diet both as you get well and to ward off future illness. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein help rebuild your immune system and keep it strong.
Some research suggests that diets rich in vitamin C, B-6, B-12, folic acid, and zinc may improve immune system function. One recent study found that vitamin D supplements given to school age children significantly reduced flu outbreaks during flu season. Antioxidants and flavonoids seem to have a positive effect in boosting immune function. Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables instead of reaching for supplement which have not been shown to provide the same benefit.

Consuming enough protein is important for a strong immune system, but I'm not suggesting a 12 ounce ribeye. Instead, reach for lean meat, fish, poultry, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, and low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Another plus: most are also rich in B vitamins. 

All in all, keep washing your hands with soap and water, get plenty of sleep, and eat a well-balanced, colorful diet. So, why am I sneezing? I'm going with allergies for now...