Which Supplements Should You be Taking to Ward Off the Common Cold?
Some people say that the longest season in Canada is winter, but I beg to disagree. That’s right – it’s cold and flu season! And we are all on the lookout for new ways to stop ourselves from getting sick. I’m here to share how common supplements can boost your immune system, and how some of the ones you are taking are doing nothing at all.
What is the Common Cold? What is the flu?
Generally, colds are less severe than cases of flu and are more likely to involve symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose. On the other hand, if you have a fever, you likely have the flu.
Both are viral infections, which means your doctor will not prescribe antibiotics. In fact, most treatments for the two illnesses are the same. Rest, fluids, eating healthy meals, maybe something to reduce the swelling or bring down a fever. Over the counter medications like Advil or Tylenol are commonly used to treat the cold and flu, with Buckley’s and Nyquil taking care of the more serious symptoms.
But, we do not want to deal with either the cold or the flu at all!
We want to PREVENT getting sick in the first place and laugh while our friends, neighbors, and family members are sniffling away. Just kidding, we would probably bring them a nice bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup!
So how can we prevent these seasonal illnesses from wreaking havoc on our lives?
Boost Your Immune System With Supplements!
This is an EXTREMELY common suggestion for those hoping to ward off illness. Take this vitamin, and this mineral, and this extract from this very rare flower in India.
To an extent, this may all help. However, there is a lot of misinformation about which vitamins and supplements are helpful, and which are making your pee really expensive.
First off, let’s talk about water-soluble versus fat-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, and K) are stored in the body’s fat for extended periods of time, which means you can overdose on these vitamins. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes you can have TOO MUCH of a good thing. You can also have a deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins if you are not eating enough healthy fats. Things to consider when you’re cooking dinner this week!
Water-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are dissolved in our body’s water. This means that after a certain point, you’re just going to pee them out. The most famous water-soluble vitamin is Vitamin C (or, as I like to call it, Vitamin YES).
Why does this matter? I’ll explain in more depth below, but basically, sometimes loading up on a vitamin is either potentially dangerous or a waste of money and urine.
What Vitamins Should I Take? Vitamin C?
I’m not saying Vitamin C is bad for you, by any means. We’ve all heard of scurvy. Most of us are also smart enough to avoid it. Scurvy, caused by a lack of Vitamin Yes, can cause your gums to bleed, old wounds to open back up, and eventual death.
Vitamin C is essential to our body’s healing process and immunity. It is necessary for processing collagen (which builds everything in the body, from bones to muscle, to hair). It is also needed to form some neurotransmitters and to digest protein! Vitamin C is truly an amazing vitamin that contributes to our entire bodily system.
So of course I should run to the grocery store RIGHT NOW to stock up, right? Wrong!
The Secret Behind Vitamin C?
Though Vitamin C is touted as the ultimate cold prevention supplement, the results of the research have been inconsistent. It shows minor preventative properties in athletes, those who experience extreme cold, or those with pre-existing health conditions. But, in the average adult human, there is little evidence that Vitamin C prevents a cold.
But what if you still want to try? It does a lot of important things in the body, so I should probably make sure I stay up to dose, right?
Sure! An adult man who is also a smoker (smokers generally need an extra 35 mg/day) has a recommended dose of 125 mg of Vitamin C. A woman, who is lactating, and also smokes, would require 155 mg. That’s a lot!
Or is it?
Luckily, Vitamin C is easy to get through our diets alone. In fact, most doctors want the average person to get their Vitamin C from their food!
Just 1 cup of bell pepper gives you 190 mg of Vitamin C! A small glass of orange juice gives you 93 mg! All fresh fruits and vegetables have a substantial amount of Vitamin C . Cooking does tend to lower the amounts of this vitamin, but even cooked vegetables contribute to your daily intake.
I Also Heard Zinc Boosts Immunity?
Like Vitamin C, zinc is pretty important for the body to function correctly. It plays a role in immunity, protein and DNA synthesis, wound healing, and growth and development.
It is another common suggestion for those who are trying to ward off evil spirits. I mean, ahem, the common cold.
Luckily, zinc does have cold prevention and shortening properties! If you take it at the START or onset of cold symptoms. Zinc can be taken like a vitamin, lozenge, and sometimes even as a tea, and seems to limit the duration of the cold and the severity of the symptoms.
Sounds pretty sweet, right?
Well, with this supplement, there are some additional considerations.
For one, zinc nasal sprays were once popular but were then associated with widespread loss of smell. Lozenges tend to taste metallic. And, zinc can lessen the effect of antibiotics and diuretics.
That doesn’t mean don’t use zinc to shorten the course of your cold. It does have very promising effects. But, like Vitamin C, there are dietary sources of zinc that you can turn to before lozenges and supplements.
The recommended intake for an adult woman who is breastfeeding or lactating is 12 mg. The tolerable upper limit is 40 mg. Zinc can be found in oysters, beef, beans, chicken, and pumpkin seeds. Eating a well-balanced diet is essential to ensure you’re getting enough of this mineral each day.
If you’re still looking for a way to beat the cold, zinc certainly has superpower effects!
Are There Any Other Supplements I Should Know About to Boost My Immune System?
There are countless sources on the internet touting the next big cold-preventing supplement, from echinacea to ashwagandha. While I have not researched ALL possible combinations, a general trend is that it may work for some people, if not for everyone.
Learning what your body responds to (whether positively or negatively) is an important aspect of wellness and wellbeing.
However, there is one more “supplement” that I am going to rave about before I go.
You’ve heard of it before. You probably already have it in your cupboard. Vampires hate her, and Italians can’t get enough of her.
You guessed it – GARLIC!
What do you mean garlic boosts my immune system? Well, in addition to keeping vampires from sucking your blood, garlic can also ward off the common cold!
While research is still new, garlic can help shorten the length of a cold and its symptoms, as well as reduce the chance of getting sick in the first place. Allicin (which is part of garlic pungent taste) is created when garlic is crushed or sliced and comes into contact with the air.
While cooking garlic can decrease the amount of these active compounds (you should be adding it towards the end of your recipes), crushing and letting the garlic sit increases the amount of allicin and alliinase compounds.
Basically, eating tons of garlic in spaghetti, or on bread, or in your omelet, helps boost your immune system! Isn’t that great? And delicious?
Now, if you can’t stand the taste of garlic, supplements do exist, however, I’m going to stick to adding it to my cooking!
Prevention is a Wellness Lifestyle: Wellness Boosts Your Immune System
Ultimately, having supplements is cool. It’s always nice to have a couple of tricks up your sleeve if you do get sick, however, doctors do recommend one thing to avoid getting sick in the first place.
A healthy lifestyle. Or, as I like to call it, a wellness lifestyle.
Eating a healthy well-balanced diet ensures you are chockful of all these essential nutrients and vitamins! Getting plenty of sleep (7-8 hours) each night ensures your body is rested and capable of fighting off germs. Being active, even if just going for a walk, ensures you are energized and your body runs efficiently. Lowering stress through gratitude or mindful coloring plays an important role in preventing immune stress.
And of course:
- Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds
- Avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes with unwashed hands
- Covering your mouth/nose when you sneeze or cough
- And STAY AWAY from those who are sick
Now go! Be healthy, and don’t forget to subscribe for more wellness and healthy lifestyle tips!