Vitamin C And The Common Cold
The idea that vitamin C could help prevent or treat colds dates back to the 1970s when chemist and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling recommended that people take mega-doses of vitamin C to prevent these viral infections. Considering that more than a billion cases of the common cold occur in the United States each year, it’s no surprise that researchers put his theory to the test.
Since then, a slew of studies examining the health effects of vitamin C have produced conflicting results, fueling controversy and debate over whether vitamin C has any effect at all on the common cold.
A large analysis of previous studies on the possible protective effects of vitamin C, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2013, included studies that involved the use of at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C taken daily as either a preventative measure or treatment for the common cold.
The review found that endurance athletes or those exposed to extreme physical activities or low temperatures who may be deficient in vitamin C could benefit from a supplement. In fact, people in this category cut the incidence of colds by 50 percent by taking a daily dose of vitamin C.
Although that may be good news for marathon runners and Olympic skiers, the study found that for most people, vitamin C does not significantly reduce the risk of catching a cold.
Recognizing The Symptoms Of Colds Vs Flu
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , flu and the common cold both are respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, although they are caused by different viruses. The following CDC chart sheds light on distinguishing the two types of illnesses:
Signs and Symptoms Cold Flu
Symptom Onset Gradual Abrupt
Chest discomfort, cough Mild to moderate Common
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Supports A Healthy Immune System
Vitamin A plays a vital role in maintaining your bodys natural defenses.
This includes the mucous barriers in your eyes, lungs, gut and genitals which help trap bacteria and other infectious agents.
Its also involved in the production and function of white blood cells, which help capture and clear bacteria and other pathogens from your bloodstream.
This means that a deficiency in vitamin A can increase your susceptibility to infections and delay your recovery when you get sick .
In fact, in countries where infections like measles and malaria are common, correcting vitamin A deficiency in children has been shown to decrease the risk of dying from these diseases .
Having enough vitamin A in your diet helps keep your immune system healthy and function at its best.
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Tips: Natural Products For The Flu And Colds: What Does The Science Say
Itâs that time of year againâcold and flu season. Each year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu. Although most recover without incident, flu-related complications typically lead to at least 200,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 60,000 deaths each year. Colds generally do not cause serious complications, but they are among the leading reasons for visiting a doctor and for missing school or work.
Some people try natural products such as herbs or vitamins and minerals to prevent or treat these illnesses. But do they really work? What does the science say?
Vaccination is the best protection against getting the flu. Starting in 2010, the Federal Governmentâs Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended annual flu vaccination for all people aged 6 months and older. There is currently no strong scientific evidence that any natural product is useful against the flu.
Vitamin C does not prevent colds and only slightly reduces their length and severity. A 2013 review of scientific literature found that taking vitamin C regularly did not reduce the likelihood of getting a cold but was linked to small improvements in cold symptoms. In studies in which people took vitamin C only after they got a cold, vitamin C did not improve their symptoms. A note about safety: Vitamin C is generally considered safe however, high doses can cause digestive disturbances such as diarrhea and nausea.
Does Menthol Ointment Work
Menthol is an extract of mint. It is responsible for the cool sensation found in mints, and when it’s used as an ointment it can help relieve symptoms that frequently accompany the flu and common cold. For starters, menthol is a good decongestant. It thins the mucus that comes with congestion and also makes coughs more productive by helping break up phlegm. In addition, menthol can be useful at easing sore throats and dry coughs. Infants should not be exposed to menthol or peppermint, and peppermint oil should not be taken orally.
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Eat Foods Rich In Antioxidants And Vitamins
Some research suggests that antioxidantsmay play a role in easing common cold or flu symptoms. The thought is that antioxidants may prevent damage to immune cells by neutralizing free radicals agents in the environment that may damage your cells and reduce your immunity.More research is needed to determine the true effects of antioxidants. Still, many foods that contain antioxidants are healthy for your diet because they are rich in other vitamins.Here are a few foods that contain antioxidants:If youre not feeling your best, try the tasty, soothing recipes below to help relieve your symptoms.
- Almonds, sunflower seeds, and spinach contain alpha-tocopherol .
- Sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark, leafy greens contain carotenoids .
- Fruits and vegetables, avocados, tea, and coffee contain polyphenolic flavonoids .
Flu Viruses And Vitamin C Megadoses: A Personal Statementby Robert G Smith Phd
Like most Americans, throughout most of my life I have occasionally been down with a virus. But for a long time, a simple cold for me started as a headache, sore throat and congestion in my nasal passages, and typically progressed to prolonged infection in my lungs, and a terrible cough. The whole experience took up to two weeks for recovery from the virus, and several more weeks for my lungs to recover.
In his book Vitamin C and the Common Cold , Linus Pauling explained that vitamin C, taken at the proper dose, can prevent a virus from taking hold in the body. This pioneering book, written back in 1970, was ignored by many doctors but was well-received by the public. One chemistry professor told me that he had heard of Pauling’s book and the vitamin C therapy but didn’t think taking a big dose of an acid, even a mild one like ascorbic acid, would be good for the body. As for me, I imagined Pauling was probably correct about the details he had researched, because he was a renowned scientist and knew much more than most about biochemistry. Perhaps, I thought, he had simply gotten some of the medical details wrong or had missed some of the important studies about the effects of vitamins. But I started taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C every day and kept this up for several decades.
Pauling L. Vitamin C and the Common Cold. W.H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, 1970. Also: Vitamin C, the Common Cold, and the Flu. W.H.Freeman, San Francisco, 1976.
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Garlic For Colds And Immunity
Like a number of other supplements, garlic seems to stimulate the immune system. Garlic may also help fight viruses. Also, there is some preliminary evidence that garlic may lower the risk of catching a cold. Garlic works best when consumed raw, either crushed, diced, or minced. Overcooking garlic may destroy important medicinal compounds and the enzymes necessary for it to be effective.
However, more research needs to be done. Note: Garlic may be dangerous in people taking blood thinners.
Foods To Ease Cold And Flu Symptoms
Cold and flu season is upon us again. Washing your hands frequently and getting your flu vaccine can help keep you healthy, but sometimes thats not enough.
If you do get sick this year, here are four tips to ease the symptoms of the common cold and the flu, plus a couple of healthy, soothing recipes.
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Supplements With Preliminary Evidence
Many other supplements might help reduce the duration and severity of colds and the flu, but the evidence tends to be mixed, scarce, or low in quality. Among the most promising supplements are echinacea, elderberries, Pelargonium sidoides, and probiotics.
Taken daily, echinaceamight reduce the risk and duration of upper respiratory infections, yet trial effects are so small as to lack statistical or clinical significance. Moreover, many of the trials were low in quality, or their quality was difficult to determine.
Echinacea can interact with medications, particularly immunosuppressive drugs. If you take any medication, you may want to consult a physician before trying this supplement.
Echinacea might reduce the risk and duration of upper respiratory infections, but many of the studies are of low quality and the effects are very small at best.
Elderberries are known for their antioxidant properties, and in one randomized controlled trial, an elderberry extract reduced the duration and severity of colds more than placebo. Also, a few human trials have shown elderberries to reduce symptoms of the flu, but here the evidence is weakened by small sample sizes and, in some cases, low methodological quality.
Elderberries are a promising but understudied supplement: they may reduce the symptoms of colds and the flu, but the evidence is still preliminary. Beware: the plant is poisonous, and even the berries can be dangerous if not prepared properly.
Whats The Best Supplement
One more thing to note: The safety and effectiveness of vitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so before stocking up at the store, you should look for at least one of two endorsements, says Dr. Chan:
Dosage differs for each, so check with your physician or pharmacistand always mention any supplements you take when filling a prescription.
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Other Nutrients And Foods That May Help
There is no cure for the common cold.
However, some foods and nutrients can help the body recover. In the past, people have used various foods to reduce their symptoms.
Few of these are scientifically proven to work, but some are backed by evidence.
- Flavonoids: These are antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. Studies suggest that flavonoid supplements may reduce the risk of infections in the lungs, throat and nose by 33%, on average (
Several other nutrients and foods may help you recover from a cold or even reduce the risk of catching one. These include flavonoids and garlic.
Is Vitamin C Safe To Take
In general, vitamin C won’t harm you if you get it by eating food like fruits and veggies. For most people, it’s also OK if you take supplements in the recommended amount.
The RDA, or recommended daily allowance, is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women. High doses of vitamin C may cause kidney stones, nausea, and diarrhea.
If you’re unsure about taking vitamin C for colds, talk to your health care provider.
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Does Chicken Soup Work
For many, chicken soup is a comforting way to wait out an illness. But research points to several potential health benefits beyond mere comfort. When it comes hot and steamy, that steam could help open up the nasal passages and ease congestion. Sipping the nutritious broth can keep your energy up and stave off dehydration. On top of all that, lab results suggest chicken soup may ease inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory properties haven’t been proven in human subjects, though.
The Nutrient Appears To Have Modest Prevention Power
Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock
Vitamin C is often touted as a natural cold remedy. The nutrient is featured in supplements promising to boost the immune system. Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling famously claimed that taking large doses of vitamin C helps thwart a cold. Is there something to these claims? “The data show that vitamin C is only marginally beneficial when it comes to the common cold,” says Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
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Medications For Congestion And Runny Nose
When youre sick with the flu, you can also have a runny nose, stuffy nose, or both. If your nose is running constantly, you may think antihistamines will help most because they dry up extra fluid in the eyes, nose, and throat. While allergy sufferers find great relief from these products, taking them when youre sick with a viral infection might not be very helpful for your symptoms, especially if you take them for more than 2 days.
Several different antihistamines are available over the counter. Some of these, such as , cause a lot of side effects like drowsiness and dry mouth while not providing much relief. These side effects can be more intense if youre over 65, making you more likely to trip and fall.
The two most common OTC nasal decongestants are and . Pseudoephedrine, which is kept behind the pharmacy counter, is the more effective option of the two. Feeling jittery or having trouble sleeping are common side effects from these medications. Your nose might also feel dry while using them, so its a good idea to have some saline spray on hand to help with that side effect. Be careful with nasal decongestants if you have high blood pressure, as they can raise your blood pressure even if its controlled by medication.
Vitamins And Supplements For Cold And Flu Season
The 2019-20 cold and flu season has already been one of the more intense ones in recent history in terms of duration and numbers of cases. As April has arrived, it appeared that the spread of cold and flu was still was affecting many Americans, most notably various strains of influenza.
At the same time, millions of people have been stocking up more than usual on items such as food, bath tissue, hand sanitizers and medications in anticipation of longer-than-usual home stays, otherwise known as self-quarantining. In terms of what we stock, though and this should never involve hoarding its important to remember that abundant inventory of food you gather should be healthful, i.e., conducive to bolstering your immune system.
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Medications For Fever And Aches
Some of the first symptoms you might experience from the flu are a fever, sore throat, and terrible muscle aches. Many people describe the feeling as being hit by a truck. Two OTC medications considered to be first-choice for these symptoms are acetaminophen and ibuprofen. So which one should you have on hand during flu season just in case?
Most healthcare providers would agree that these two medications work equally well for a fever or muscle aches. Some studies show ibuprofen works a little bit better than acetaminophen. But if asked, many providers and pharmacists will tell you to alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen when you have the flu. Separate the medications by about 4 hours from each other to keep the fever and aches at a minimum when they are at their worst.
Side effects of the OTC versions of acetaminophen and ibuprofen are pretty minimal. The most common effect is a little bit of upset stomach or indigestion. If this happens to you, try to take your dose with something to eat, even if its just a light snack.
Just like with any medications, some people should be careful taking these drugs. For more detailed information on each, please visit our pages on acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if youre not sure if they are safe for you to take.
How Vitamin C Works To Prevent The Flu
In flu season, prevention can be better than cure: we’d all rather avoid getting colds and influenza altogether than suffer through acres of tissues. The best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu shot, which is updated yearly, but science has shown that vitamin C may also have a preventative effect against flu. Experts want you to know, though, that its effect on flu prevention is complicated.
âVitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin, which is needed by the body to form collagen in bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels, and aids in the absorption of iron,” Dr. Sherry Ross, M.D., an OB/GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and author ofShe-ology, tells Bustle. We don’t produce vitamin C ourselves, so we have to absorb it from our food. Vitamin C also protects cells against damage from free radicals, including air pollution and cigarette smoke. Its power against influenza, though, comes from its contribution to the immune system.
If you’d like to help prevent the flu, it’s a good idea to make sure you have enough vitamin C every day â including outside of the flu season. Going into colder months with a vitamin C deficiency may impair your immune function. “The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C you need each day depends on your age, gender and reproductive status,” Dr. Ross tells Bustle. “For nonsmoking women and men, it’s 60mg.“
Gorton HC, Jarvis K. :530-3. PubMed PMID: 10543583.
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