Agordia - One Health Place

Feed a cold, starve a fever?

2 min read
It’s an adage that’s almost 500 years old and became the domain of folklore, home remedies, and ‘old wives tales’. 
It’s interpretation and direction is simple: if you have a cold - eat well, if you have a fever - don’t eat.
And to an extent, this is validated with modern science.
When we are sick, we can have different aspects of an immune response. And specialized cells within our immune systems determine the outcome.
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One type of specialized immune cell targets and tells other individual infected cells inside our body to attack the foreign invaders that have made their way inside of the cell. It’s called gamma interferon. 
The other type of specialized immune cell signals an immune response against invaders that are inside the body but not inside of our cells. It’s called interleukin-4. 
Viruses make their way inside of our cells, where gamma interferon brings our defense. 
Bacteria exist outside of our cells, where interleukin-4 brings our defense.
So what about feeding a cold and starving a fever? When we eat, our gamma interferon levels increase.
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And interleukin–4 increases the most when we fast. So, if we have a fever which comes from a bacteria-related illness, fasting strengthens our appropriate immune response. 
And if we have a cold, which comes from viruses, then eating gives us a more favorable immune response.
Why? When our cells have been invaded by viruses there’s inflammation. In order for our cell to survive and avoid self-destruction, it needs glucose. And our bodies make glucose from the food we eat. 
When there’s bacteria rampant outside of our cells, eating food prevents us from becoming ketogenic. But being ketogenic protects us from the dangerous compounds produced from the stress of anti-bacterial inflammation.
Now, how did they figure that out 500 years ago?