Can Fasting Help You Fight the Flu or a Common Cold?

Flu or a Common Cold:

“Feed a cold, starve a fever,” as the adage goes. When you have a cold, you eat, and when you have a fever, you fast. Some individuals believe that fasting during infection helps your body recover. Others argue that eating provides your body with the nutrition it needs to recuperate rapidly. This article investigates whether fasting may help prevent the flu or the common cold.

What exactly is fasting?

Fasting is described as a period of absence from meals, liquids, or both. There are several sorts of fasting. The most popular are as follows:

  • Absolute fasting is the practice of not eating or drinking at all, generally for a short period of time.
  • Water fasting enables just water to be consumed.
  • Juice fasting, also known as juice cleansing or juice detoxification, is characterized by the consumption of only fruit and vegetable juices.
  • Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between eating and fasting intervals that may last up to 24 hours.


Fasting may be done in a variety of ways, each with its own manner of limiting the consumption of meals and liquids.

What effect does fasting include on your immune system?

While there are many different types of fasting, the majority of research on fasting and the immune system focuses on intermittent and absolute fasting.

Fasting requires your body to depend on its energy reserves to operate normally. Glucose is your body’s major energy source; it circulates in your blood and is stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles. When your glycogen stores are exhausted, which usually happens after 24–48 hours of an extended endurance activity or fasting, your body begins to rely on fat and, to a lesser degree, amino acids for energy.

In a process known as lipolysis, stored body fat may be broken down into fatty acids and utilized as a fuel source. The fatty acids may then be digested to form by-products known as ketones, which your body and brain can utilize as an energy source. One major ketone, in particular, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), may help the immune system, however, the exact mechanism is unknown. One theory is that it inhibits excessive inflammation and oxidative stress induced by inflammasomes like NLRP3, which are part of the innate immune system. Indeed, Yale School of Medicine researchers discovered that exposing human immune cells to BHB in quantities comparable to what would be seen in the body after two days of fasting led to a reduced inflammatory response.

Fasting may also boost the creation and renewal of immune cells while reducing inflammatory cytokines, according to some studies. It is crucial to note that the precise mechanisms through which fasting impacts the immune system are not completely known. More research is required to determine whether sorts of fasting if any, may benefit the body’s immunological response to certain illnesses.


Fasting for short periods of time may help to maintain good immune function by increasing immune cell creation and renewal while also minimizing the inflammatory response.

Why fasting may aid in the recovery from a cold or the flu

Viruses and bacteria may both produce common cold and flu-like symptoms. To be clear, cold and flu illnesses are caused by viruses, notably rhinovirus and influenza. Being infected with these viruses, on the other hand, decreases your protection against bacteria, increasing your chances of having a bacterial infection at the same time. The signs of a bacterial infection are sometimes identical to the symptoms of a viral infection.

It’s interesting to note that the lack of appetite you frequently experience during the first few days of sickness is regarded to be your body’s normal response to combating the infection. During illness, your immune system produces molecules known as cytokines (for example, IL-18), which cause inflammation. Because of the toll, it takes on your body, it may cause feelings of exhaustion and a lack of food.

It is also believed that, from an evolutionary standpoint, a lack of hunger decreases the need to seek food, so conserving energy. It also minimizes the amount of energy required for digestion. These side effects may enable the body to concentrate completely on battling the illness. Furthermore, certain cold symptoms, such as nasal congestion, may impair your sense of taste and smell. This may make you want to eat less. According to some experts, not eating reduces the flow of nutrients that may “fuel” the infection, preventing it from living.

Finally, some believe that the lack of hunger that typically occurs with an illness is a means to promote autophagy, which is the elimination of diseased cells and the synthesis of new healthy ones. While these hypotheses are intriguing, there hasn’t been enough research to determine if fasting or eating has any real-world effects on the typical cold or flu.


Several suggestions have been proposed to explain how fasting might aid in healing, but more study is needed to prove these benefits in humans.

Other illnesses and fasting

Fasting may assist with: In addition to the possible advantages against infections, fasting may help with:

  • Loss of weight. Intermittent fasting may be beneficial for weight loss, especially when combined with a regular exercise regimen.
  • Diabetes type 2. Some people may benefit from intermittent fasting in terms of insulin resistance and blood sugar levels.
  • Oxidative stress. Intermittent fasting may aid in disease prevention by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Heart health. Intermittent fasting may lower risk factors for heart disease such as body weight, total cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides.
  • Brain health. Fasting may protect against cognitive decline and neurological illnesses, according to research.

While more study is needed to better understand fasting and its function in health promotion, some of these health advantages may be attributed to weight reduction produced by fasting rather than fasting itself. As a result, additional investigation is required.


Fasting can help with a variety of medical issues, either directly or indirectly.

Eating specific meals can also be advantageous

So yet, there is just a little amount of evidence that fasting helps or prevents the common cold or flu. A lot of research, on the other hand, show that consuming particular meals may help in cold and flu.

Best things to eat when you have a cold

When we’re unwell, we usually eat chicken soup. It’s high in fluids, electrolytes, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Warm drinks or broth may also help relieve sinus congestion, however, this is primarily anecdotal. The mucus becomes more fluid and simpler to discharge when you stay hydrated.

The best things to eat to combat flu symptoms

When attempting to alleviate flu-related stomach issues, it is recommended to adhere to bland, readily digestible meals. Clear soup broths or meals strong in carbohydrates, such as rice or potatoes, are examples. To relieve an upset stomach, avoid irritants such as coffee and acidic or spicy meals. Avoiding excessively fatty meals, which take longer to digest, is also a good idea.

If you’re feeling sick, consider including ginger in your diet; it’s been known to aid with nausea and vomiting. Finally, remember to drink plenty of water. A sprinkle of salt in your drinks will also help restore electrolytes lost from perspiration, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Best foods to eat to avoid catching a cold or flu

Nutrition can help reduce your chances of getting a cold or flu, as well as how long you have it. Surprisingly, your digestive system accounts for more than 70% of your immune system and is heavily impacted by beneficial bacteria that live in your gut, referred to collectively as your gut microbiome.  Consuming probiotic-rich foods and taking probiotic supplements can help you maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

Yogurt with live cultures can aid in the proliferation of these beneficial microorganisms. In addition, choose foods high in prebiotics, such as bananas, garlic, onions, and dandelion greens. Interestingly, a 2018 double-blind, randomized trial found that individuals who drank a probiotic-rich beverage for 12 weeks had a substantial reduction in flu-like symptoms and the incidence of upper-respiratory infection when compared to the placebo group.

Garlic includes chemicals that, in addition to being prebiotic, may aid to prevent infection and increase defenses against the common cold and flu, however further study is needed. Foods strong in vitamin C, such as orange, mango, papaya, kiwi, and cantaloupe, may help maintain a healthy immune system and minimize the severity and duration of colds. Taking vitamin C pills, on the other hand, would not treat an existing cold and is therefore unneeded. Instead, make sure you’re getting lots of vitamin C-rich meals as well as other nutrient-dense whole foods.


Eating a good diet may assist sustain a strong immune system and may alleviate cold or flu symptoms.

In conclusion

Eating while you’re hungry appears to be a smart idea based on existing data. However, there’s no reason to force yourself to eat if you’re not hungry, especially if you’re unwell. If your appetite does not return after a few days, it is important to consult with a healthcare practitioner. It’s also a good idea to consult with them before doing intermittent fasting to ensure that it’s suited for you. It’s advisable to eat according to your unique needs and tastes until further study is available.

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