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Why This Old Wive’s Tale Actually Works When You’re Sick

author image Hoku Krueger
Hoku Krueger recently graduated from Occidental College with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature Studies and a minor in French Language Studies. During her time there she wrote for the Occidental Weekly and interned with The Maui News.
Why This Old Wive’s Tale Actually Works When You’re Sick
While you may not be one for hearsay, it might be time to start listening to your elders: It could save your life. Photo Credit: Joshua Resnick/Adobe Stock

We’ve been told time and again to dig in when we’ve got a cold and hold off when we have a fever. Whether or not you base your chicken noodle soup dosages on this old wive’s tale, science is here to say that it’s actually legit.

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Scientists increasingly believe that surviving an infection is as much about tolerating your immune system’s response as it is about getting rid of the bug, according to New Scientist.

Depending on what kind of infection you have, your immune system triggers a different inflammatory response. The difference between a cold and a fever is that colds are usually the result of a virus and fevers are usually caused by bacterial infections.

The cause of the sickness, bacterial or viral, is important when deciding on the best cure. Yale University researchers recently discovered that when you have a viral illness, eating glucose (aka chicken noodle soup) could help to protect your brain cells from being damaged by inflammation.

Unlike your body’s inflammatory response to viruses, its response to bacterial infections produces highly reactive free radicals. And in a surprise twist, digesting glucose also generates a ton of those nasty buggers. The combination of both free radicals and infection firing together could damage your neurons, meaning that it’s best to cut glucose when you have a bacterial infection.

To make their conclusions, the researchers studied mice: Sick ones initially lost their appetites, but the ones that had the flu quickly went back to eating. They found that giving glucose to mice with the flu saved lives, whereas giving it to mice with bacterial infections ended them.

Interestingly, glucose even worked to fight inflammation in mice triggered by the scientists without the presence of a pathogen. So there’s a really strong connection between glucose and battling inflammation.

What can the youths learn from all this? Sometimes nothing beats elderly wisdom (or a bowl of chicken noodle soup).

What Do YOU Think?

Do you abide by this old wive’s tale? Do you usually lose your appetite or get hungrier when you’re sick? What are your favorite foods to eat while sick? Tell us an old wive’s tale about health or fitness that you swear by.

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