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Starve a Fever: Debunking Common Health Myths

Understanding Popular Health Myths

We’ve all heard the expression, “Feed a cold, starve a fever” along with a slew of other common health-related myths that often sound like good advice. Repeated as fact, many people just take these expressions to be true. Nowadays, clickbait articles have also made it easier for these medical myths and misinformation to spread. So we’re here to set the record straight about some of the most common health myths you’ve heard.

“Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever”

When you’re feeling feverish, it can be easy to avoid food. A loss or decrease of appetite is the body’s natural defense mechanism against fevers and colds.  The immune system needs to focus on fighting pathogens by partially resting the digestive system. The reason is 85% of our immune system is in our digestive tract.

To jump start our immune system focus on having mostly liquids. Your body needs plenty of fluids because the amount you need increases due to sweating or mucus production. You will also need it to restore lost electrolytes.

Fevers develop because they are a part of the immune system’s attempt to beat the infection. The body raises our core temperature, which increases metabolism and results in sweating and extra calories burned. If you have a high fever or persistent cold symptoms lasting several days, you will need even more fluids to prevent dehydrated.  

Dehydration also causes mucus in the respiratory tract to dry up. When this mucus hardens, it clogs up the sinuses and make it difficult to breathe deeply and cough. It is actually a good thing to cough! Coughing helps us get rid of the excess mucus and bad bugs. Staying hydrated helps keep the mucus flowing smoothly so our bodies can continue fighting the infection naturally!

Learn more about how to stay hydrated with these tips. Avoid caffeinated beverages, sweet drinks (i.e., fruit juice, Gatorade, soda), milk, and alcohol as they hinder the immune system, increased more mucus production, and worsen your hydration.

Foods To Fight a Cold

Good nutrition helps us strengthen the immune system to feel stronger and fight off the bad bugs.

Focus on having green smoothies, vegetable or bean soup, stews, and steamed vegetables. Increase your food intake as your begin feeling better.

Try to stay away from calorie-rich foods like meats, seafood, baked goods, sugary items, processed foods, and dairy products since they will overwhelm the immune system and cause one to stay sick longer.

Give it a Rest

If you wake up and that cold you felt coming on is now in full bloom, don’t ignore how tired you feel. The most common mistake people make is to not slow down, listen to their bodies, and take care of themselves when they have a cold. It will cause your symptoms to worsen or take longer for you to recover. Take this time to listen to and heal your body.  Increased sleep and rest is the key.  Not only will you spare others from spreading illness, you will recover much quicker.

Take Your Health into Your Own Hands

There are many things you can do to increase your immune system. Of course, if you’re already sick and the symptoms worsen or persist, you should go to Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D.  

Dr. Bhandari is an integrative functional medicine physician who specializes in the immune system since it is the controller of the other organ systems in your body.  She will guide you through how your symptoms or illness can be directly impacted by your lifestyle and other environmental factors. Healthy living for patients is dear to Dr. Bhandari’s heart. She loves to help people take back control of their health through simple tips we can each be empowered by.

Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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