4 supplements to treat cold and flu symptoms
There’s no cure for the common cold or flu, but some supplements may boost your immune system to help you fight off your cold and flu symptoms
Source: Food Cures; Reader’s Digest
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C really doesn’t seem to help prevent a cold’although people could debate this longer than which way the roll of toilet paper should go’but there’s much evidence to suggest that taking high doses of C may help shorten the time you’re sick by a day or so. Vitamin C acts as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory to help dry up a runny nose. It also improves immune function. If you think of your immune system as a high-performance vehicle, vitamin C is like high-octane fuel that makes the immune cells, such as neutrophils and macrophages, better able to find and destroy viruses. By the way, being sick (or under intense physical stress) increases the body’s need for vitamin C.
For added effect, look for a C supplement that contains bioflavonoids‘antioxidants found in citrus fruits, tea, and other foods.
Dosage: There’s no consensus about how much vitamin C, if any, to take for treating colds or flu. However, some physicians recommend taking several grams a day in divided doses at the first sign of a scratchy throat or stuffy nose. For aggressive treatment, start with 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams every 2 hours for 8 hours, then scale back to three times a day. Be prepared, however: High doses of C can cause bowel problems, so if you experience gas or diarrhea, reduce your dose. And once you’re feeling better, taper off your C consumption, rather than stop it abruptly, to avoid ‘rebound scurvy,’ a condition that may cause gums to bleed. People who have a history of oxalate kidney stones should check with their doctors about the type of vitamin C that’s best for them’a combination of buffered vitamin C and bioflavonoids doesn’t appear to raise the risk of stones the way C by itself seems to.
Getting zinc‘one of the most critical minerals for overall immune function’right up against your mucous membranes seems to reduce the amount of time you have to endure a nasty cold, which is no doubt one reason why zinc lozenges are such popular cold fighters. A good stack of studies shows that taking zinc gluconate or acetate lozenges every 2 hours within the first two days of a cold can decrease its duration. (Just be sure to use them on a full stomach so they won’t make you nauseated.) Alas, taking zinc preventively doesn’t seem to do much to keep you from catching a cold.
Dosage: Lozenges containing between 9 and 24 milligrams of zinc are most effective.
If you just can’t stomach raw garlic, don’t worry: Garlic supplements seem to work just as well. A British study of 146 people found that volunteers who took a garlic supplement for 12 weeks during cold season were far less likely to get sick than those who took placebos. There were 24 colds in the garlic group compared to 65 in the placebo group. And the garlic takers who did get sick recovered about four days sooner on average than the others.
If you take medications, particularly blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), check with your doctor before using garlic because it can increase drugs’ blood-thinning effects.
Dosage: 300 milligrams two or three times daily. Look for extracts standardized to contain at least 13 percent allicin.
4. Vitamin E
This antioxidant vitamin, another immune system booster, won’t do much, if anything, to shorten a cold, but it could keep you from getting one. In one year-long, high-quality study from Tufts University, 451 adults age 65 and older were given either 200 IU of vitamin E each day or a placebo. While 74 percent of the people in the placebo group came down with at least one upper respiratory infection during the study, only 65 percent of the volunteers in the vitamin E group experienced one or more infections.
Dosage: 200 IU daily.
Consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking these or any type of supplement.
Find more nutritional remedies for everything from colds to cancer in Food Cures (Reader’s Deigest), available in the Best Health Shop now!
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