Can Fasting Get Rid of a Cold?

Thursday Feb 7 | BY |
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A contributing factor to me getting sick? (There’s only one person in our family that will put anything in his mouth…)

A few weeks ago, I got sick.

Most people take a cold or fever in stride — probably because most people get them a few times a year. (If not more…)

I don’t. In fact, I know exactly how many times I’ve been sick in the last 8 years. It hasn’t been many.

Once, was when I found a tick on my leg and shortly after got a big old erythema migrans rash (EM) and was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I had a fever and neck pains for 48 hours. It was actually pretty awful. I’ve been fine and symptom-free ever since (I did take 21 days of antibiotics, which gave me gut issues, candida — to be explained some other time.)

The second time, I had a stress induced sickness for 24 hours when we were launching the Great Health Debate in 2011 — a program that had lectures supporting and refuting a vegetarian diet. There was a ton of pressure from the experts involved and the audience, so I cracked. (Yeah, I was totally asking for that fever.)

The last time, was a few weeks ago.

That’s two and half (I count the stress one my fault — therefore 1/2) times in 8 years. Not too bad. In fact, if I get sick more than that, my health credibility takes a pretty big hit. So for me, getting sick not only affects me, it affects my reputation.

How Did I Get Sick?

Annmarie and the baby had been sick for nearly 2 weeks over the holidays and I was thrilled that I had managed to escape it — or thought I had.

Being sick gets in the way of just about everything I need to do, so I don’t enjoy it like I used to. When I was in high school and having a cold meant that I could stay home from school and lie in bed all day, I would gladly trade good health for bad, but these days it’s different. If I’m sick, I don’t get to spend my time doing what I love — so that’s a serious downer. (BTW: Doing things that are downers will get you sick more often too.)

But, a few weeks ago, I realized that I hadn’t beat it. The cold had finally gotten to me. When I woke up in the morning, I noticed that run-down feeling, my throat was sore and I felt achy and cold. It’s a feeling that I don’t get often to so I knew what it was immediately. I was getting sick.

I admittedly was pretty angry about the whole situation. I don’t like to stay home, I don’t like to not do anything, and I really don’t like staying in bed all day — so I wasn’t very happy that I probably had to do 1, 2 or all of those things.

I also, in true Renegade Health fashion, immediately started to examine why I got sick and throughly analyze it so it would’t happen again — at least for 10 years or so. Getting sick once a decade, to me, seems somewhat acceptable.

What follows is what I came up with as well as what I did to finally kick the cold.

Why did I get sick?

I knew trying to identify what got me sick was a fool’s game, but I had some time in bed on my hands. I needed to do something.

Annmarie brought me some green juice and while I was enjoying it, I gathered up some ideas as to how I ended up where I was — sick, under the covers, wanting to go to work.

I haven’t been under any significant stress lately, so I counted that out. Also, my immune system is strong and blood tests show this to be true, so I don’t think it was an overall weakness.

So those two contributing factors were not an issue for me.

What did come up for me was the serious change in our lives 6 months ago — the birth of our son, Hudson. I’m not saying our newly found illness was totally connected to our six month old baby, but there are certain health “risks” that come with having a child.

First up, sleep — for us at least — is interrupted. Sometimes the baby sleeps great, other times, he doesn’t. Getting good rest is extremely important for the immune system, so I’m pretty sure this played a factor in Annmarie’s cold, the baby’s and mine as well.

Second, the fact that the baby is on the floor, touching everything it can reach — including where we’re stepped with shoes on — and putting what he can reach into his mouth is definitely another factor. If you did the same, everywhere you went, you might get the same result — a cold.

I followed the progression of our colds and it started with Hudson, went to Annmarie, went back to Hudson, then went to me, then back to Hudson. (Now it’s gone.) So all outward evidence points to our little guy being the first carrier of this cold — of course, I openly acknowledge that it could have been with one of us then transferred over to him as well.

So short of saying our son is a carrier of disease, which I won’t, he does do things that most grown humans wouldn’t even consider doing that have a much higher risk of infection — including, most cringe-worthy, trying to stick his fingers in the cat’s butt. (Poor, Jonny 5.)

I concluded, as I swallowed down some supplement capsules, that being sick may be a larger part of being a parent.

In fact, this half-baked theory was confirmed by at least one other person that same week when I talked to a friend who said his kids weren’t ever sick until they went to school. Now, his entire family passes around colds like a bunch of hippies share a bong. (My analogy, not his.)

What I decided to do…

Ultimately, I realized thinking about being sick (and why) won’t change the result. I needed to take some sort of action.

Since Annmarie had already brought me some green juice, putting me about 60 minutes into a liquid fast, I decided to run with liquids as long as I could. I would start with some juice, some coconut water, some herbal tea and a few supplements for the first half of the day and see where that took me.

My green juice was simple. Carrots, lettuce, celery, cucumber, parsley, ginger, garlic, lemon and fennel. (The more fennel, the better it is!) Annmarie made enough to fill two large Mason jars, so I was set for the day.

The supplements I used were garlic, powdered Vitamin C in water, Vitamin D, echinacea tincture, beta-glucans, and colostrum. I used these namely because they were in the apartment. I would have included some mineral supplement as well, but I figured the coconut water would be sufficient. (Maybe even a B-Complex supplement too.)

Finally, I decided to do absolutely nothing — in terms of work, physical exercise or anything else that would put a strain on my mind or body. (Well, besides check my email and check in with our team members, LOL!) Yes, sometimes being sick is your body telling you to cool the raw chocolate fudge down.

After midday, and after drinking a ton of liquid — which also meant peeing about half a dozen times — I didn’t feel better, but I felt like I was doing the right thing. I decided I would fast for at least one full day.

At lunchtime, I drank more tea and coconut water.

Around mid-afternoon, probably most surprising to some of our older readers who knew us when we were complete vegans, Annmarie made me a big cup of chicken broth, which I waited to cool and took down quickly. Not my favorite, but full of minerals and immune boosting nutrition — of course, in true Berkeley fashion — totally organic, locally raised, humanely treated, etc.

Around dinner time, more juice, water, and tea. (I’m pretty sure I had a little kombucha too somewhere in there. I know I definitely did on day two.)

I didn’t feel hungry at all during this 24 hour period, so for me that was a strong indication that I was doing the right thing. Normally when I fast, I get animalistically hungry around 6-7:00 PM — which literally means that my behavior regresses into that of my earliest human ancestor. I grunt, throw tantrums, and my I.Q. drops to levels under 30.

Should I Do Day Two?

After the first day, I woke up still feeling pretty bad, but still not hungry. I didn’t sleep well the night before, since my nose was so stuffy. I decided to do another day of the same protocol.

But I have to be honest here, I had ulterior motives as well.

I really needed to do a fast.

You see, when you have a baby, time seems to slip by much faster than it ever did before. Times when I was usually able to go to the gym or take a run have disappeared. When I come home from work, it seems only 20 minutes later and I’m going to bed at 10:00.

What’s even more disheartening is that I just haven’t exercised like I used to. Annmarie and I have come to terms with the fact that we’ve both taken a 6 month mulligan on our exercise (and some of our eating) just to figure out how things will work post-childbirth.

It’s been quite eye opening. I finally, many years later, fully understood my personal training clients and that the excuse about kids and time may not have really been excuses — at least in the way I viewed them at the time. They really were struggling to get their day planned out. (Sorry guys for being so naive or at least inexperienced.)

So, because of the mulligan, I admittedly could stand to lose a few pounds and do a cleanse of some sort. Now that I was sick made it a perfect time to roll with it.

My decision was made — I would run with this liquid cleanse as long as I could.

Wait, What About Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold?

Maybe I was doing it all wrong.

I don’t know if starving a fever and feeding a cold is a myth or not. Nor do I care to debunk it myself. There are a few people who’ve tried to (including Duke University), but ultimately, above just cleansing to to get rid of a cold, it felt really good to cleanse just to cleanse. So whether I had a fever or not (I didn’t), my body wanted to take a break.

Also, I never fully understood what to do if you had a fever that came from a cold. Can anyone else explain that for me?

Day Three? Why Not?

When I woke up on day three, I was feeling much better. I’d already fasted for 60 hours, and I decided that if I wanted to break the fast today, I would. I loved the freedom of that decision. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to end my fast but wanted to continue it due to my own personal, made up, heady deadlines. I would fight my body — which wanted to eat, and probably needed to — just to log some more fasting hours. It’s a total American, type-A personality thing that I own up to. So this time I beat it by just going with what I felt as I was in the process — checking in regularly to ask my body if it wanted to eat.

My overall plan, in more detail than above, had settled in over the three days to look like this:

8-9:00 AM – 8-10 oz water with vitamin C, vitamin D, colostrum, garlic supplements, echinacea tincture, and beta glucans. 16 oz or more of green juice.

10:00 AM – 16 oz or more of coconut water, 8-16 oz of herbal tea (various kinds.)

12:00 PM – 16 oz green juice. More water and supplements.

2:00 PM – More tea, sometimes kombucha. Organic, fresh chicken or beef broth (not in tetra-pack).

4:00 PM – More tea.

6:00 PM – More juice, coconut water and supplements.

8:00 PM – More water and tea.

Towards the end of this day three, I decided that I would go through the evening — I might as well — and break the fast with a green smoothie in the morning. This felt a little like that type-A push, because I was getting hungry and a little lightheaded, but I was at the finish line and I knew that 8 hours of additional fasting — while I was asleep — wouldn’t be too stressful. It was one last sprint.

So in total, the next morning, I would have logged 84 hours of liquid fasting.

Did it Wipe Out My Illness?

This is probably when you think that I’ll say, “yes, of course it did,” but I truthfully have no idea. I would like to think it did, but I can’t be 100% sure. I may have gotten better doing nothing, so I can’t definitively say if the liquid fasting helped me get better.

I can say that it helped me personally feel better — emotionally and physically. So regardless, it was completely worth it. After three days, I felt rejuvenated. That was enough for me to call it a complete success.

How Do You Get Motivated for a Fast or Cleanse?

This is a question I struggle to answer as well.

For someone like me, who loves to eat, I find it hard to put aside time to fast. The illness, for me, was almost a way to put the fast into play when I hadn’t been able to bring myself to do it before. So getting a cold that I completely, 100% did not want to have was the most effective way to make me cleanse.

A few days after I started eating solid foods again, we had some friends over — who had also been ill — and were talking about getting sick and what we all did to get better.

One of my friends, was struggling putting himself on a cleanse to clear out the holiday glut and I told him that even I — who does this kind of stuff as a career — have trouble getting motivated. I totally understood what we was going though.

I shared that I thought the best way to do it was to get completely away from your personal environment. Going to a fasting retreat center is likely the best way to avoid temptation and actually get the results that you want. Spending that money to have someone do it for you — and keep you amicably locked in a facility — is totally worth it.

For me, this time around, I was pretty much banished to the bedroom — since Annmarie didn’t want the baby sick again — so that was enough for me to stay put and not stray from the plan. But if you’re completely well and want to fast, the retreat is your best bet.

Just to be clear, I don’t mean you have to book a flight to some exotic island, stay at some five star cleansing retreat center and spend your life savings. There are plenty of places in the United States that sponsor cleanses that are relatively inexpensive. True North Health Center is not only a water fasting destination, they also do healthy eating and juicing cleanses as well. This is one of the best places we’ve been to in our 7+ years of travel around the U.S.

I suggested that my friend take a trip up there with me to check it out. It may be the answer he was looking for. I also suggested to him that it may be worthwhile for him to save up a little cash every year to invest in his own health and go off to a retreat and get very real, and very uninterrupted cleansing.

Will a Cleanse Work for You — for Your Cold or Anything Else?

This question, I can’t answer. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Ultimately, for a cold, it might be something worth trying. It also might be great just to clear your head, whether you’re sick or not.

I find that the first 48 hours of a liquid cleanse, my mind is really sharp. I can think fast, work fast and talk fast. After that, I start to get a little spacey. So if you’re just looking for some clarity, it may be valuable to do something over the weekend or just a two day period. If you’re looking for more of a toxin, detox purge, you may want to rest up longer and take 3-5 days — maybe more.

Just a note… for the generally healthy, a few days is relatively harmless — just make sure you drink a bunch of liquids — but for those who have health issues, please make sure you run your idea by a health care practitioner.

There Are Other Ways to Do It, Too…

You don’t have to do the liquid cleanse I did to get cleansing benefits. You can modify your cleanse to include a few green smoothies during the day and can make a vegetable broth (similar to the broth Gerson uses here) instead of the animal broth. You also, can puree the entire contents — veggies and broth — and eat that like a blended soup.

The key is to eat less so that your body can focus more on healing than anything else. If you stop eating (but not stop drinking), your body can use energy that it would otherwise have tied up in daily body functions.

Will I Get Sick Again?

My guess is yes — or at least all of my (even healthy) friends with kids say so.

I used to believe that healthy people just don’t get sick — ever. But there are two sides to that equation. Some people who are eating a healthy diet that fits their constitution and genes can actually not get sick, but others can. You can try to figure that out, but it’s just a fact. Other times, some people think they’re eating a healthy diet and that their immune system is strong, because they’re not getting sick, but they could be mistaken. Sometimes the immune system is depressed enough — if the diet is actually deficient — and they won’t get sick, even if they have an infection.

To make this non-maddening, it’s my understanding that less sickness is better, more sickness is usually not best, and not being sick doesn’t always mean you’re the healthiest person on the planet.

So armed with that loose, wishy-washy conclusion, I can tell you this — next time I’m sick, I’ll probably do exactly what I did this time around again and come out the other end just as refreshed and ready to get back to what I need to do — be a dad, be a husband, be a leader and, most of all, be happy.

But until then, you can be sure I’m doing whatever I can to stay upright and healthy (…and try to gently steer Hudson away from veterinary proctology as long as I can.)

(NOTE: Since Annmarie is breastfeeding, she did not participate, nor did she do any fasting while sick.)

Your question of the day: What do you do if and when you get sick?

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

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