Intermittent Fasting – The Common Cold

Last week when I realized that I was starting to get sick from the common cold, I decided to run an experiment on myself. You know how I love a good experiment. Anyway, I wanted to disprove the old wives tale about feeding a cold. Here is the saying.

Feed a cold, starve a fever.

The starve a fever part makes perfect sense. A fever often comes with nausea and lack of appetite. The body is sending a signal, which adults often ignore, to not eat. Children and animals have the wisdom to not force down food at these times. But what about the common cold? On with the test.

On Day 2 of the sickness, I did a 16 hour Intermittent Fast. Although I was able to deal with the hunger, I was completely without focus. Usually I notice deeper focus when fasting. I think of the hunter-gather hungry looking for new sources of food. The brain understands the survival dilemma and provides the focus needed. I’ve done 40+ IFs and this was the first time I didn’t get the focus. Walking didn’t help. I had to sit and I had to eat.

Photo focus by ihtatho

On Day 3, I woke up to the same level of sickness that I normally would feel at that point of the cold cycle. In other words, the fast did not help kill the virus. I probably would have been better off eating more anti-viral foods.

Today was Day 6 and I was 90% better when I woke up, so I decided to see if I could accelerate the end of the cold virus with a fast. I did much better than Day 3, but got lightheaded about 3 miles away from my house. I had intended to hike 10 miles, but realized it wasn’t going to happen. I returned home and relaxed for a few hours.

Doing an Intermittent Fast while I had a cold did not work for me. I am a huge proponent of IF, but I do not think it is wise to do if you have the common cold. I started thinking about this from an evolutionary perspective and it made sense. If a member of the tribe was sick, they wouldn’t be invited on the hunt (or gather). Instead, they would be treated back to health so they could participate in future food gathering for the benefit of the group.


Add yours

  1. Interesting. I took a different route when I started to feel sick and it lasted about 24 hrs. I just took it easy for an entire day without medication (did have a couple of brandy/honey/hot water pick-me ups though) and waited to do an IF till the next day. A week later, I’m still tired and stressed with work stuff but don’t have a cold or the flu…I agree with your statement at the end of the post, R&R could be the supplement required for IF effectiveness.

  2. I do a 24-hour fast once a month or so for religious reasons. I have learned from sad experience that I should *not* fast when I have a cold, because it makes me sicker than I was before. Your mileage may vary, but I do not recommend fasting when you have health problems, unless cleared by a doctor.

  3. I think you feel bad, because through a cold the body tries to detox and with fasting you detox more. Eating is slowing down the detox, this is why you feel better…

  4. @Tricky – I like your logic. That makes perfect sense.

  5. The problem with your trial is you attempted to hike 10 miles while fasting AND while sick. Next time try fasting and expending as little energy as possible. Sit in meditation and go within. Focus your intention on healing your ailment from the inside out. I think you will find this method to be much more successful.

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