Box of tissuesSniffle, sniffle. Drip, drip. Cough, cough. It’s that time of year – it seems like everyone around you has the “sniffles.” And even when you do your best to stay healthy – take your daily vitamin D and multivitamin, eat a healthy diet, regularly wash your hands – it is likely that at some point you will catch a cold. Although there is no cure for the common cold, you can be proactive in dealing with it, making symptoms more tolerable and potentially shortening the duration.
Ideally, you should begin addressing the cold as soon as you feel that you’re coming down with a “bug.” Pay particular attention to your diet, taking extra care to avoid sugar, grains, and refined carbs (this includes fruit juice!). Elevated blood sugar weakens immunity, impairing your ability to effectively fight infection.Specifically, studies have found that elevated blood sugar decreases the activity of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that engulfs and destroys pathogens and one of the body’s first lines of defense in fighting infection.Give your body the nutrition it needs to fight infection and be sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. And give your body the downtime it needs to get better – when you are sleep deprived, T-cell count decreases and inflammatory cytokines increase. A tired body simply cannot effectively fight an infection. Additionally, keep taking your vitamins, especially your multi and vitamin D. A quality multivitamin will continue to support the functioning of your body and vitamin D is necessary for the immune system to function at its best. In addition to these common sense tips, there is a variety of supplemental support that can help you along to a speedy recovery.
- Vitamin C: The white blood cells need vitamin C to fight infection. Because the human body cannot make vitamin C and this important antioxidant is depleted by inflammation and stress, it is especially important to supplement during times of infection. Additionally, vitamin C is similar in structure to glucose and uses the same receptor sites to enter the cell membrane. This means that if you have eaten a lot of sugars and simple carbs, less vitamin C will be absorbed because glucose is “hogging” the receptors sites.
- B-complex: Take a B-complex daily to keep your body functioning at optimal levels. B6 is especially important for immune health – low B6 intake has been associated with impaired immune function, including decreased production of lymphocytes (white blood cells and T-cells) and interleukin-2, which is crucial in the body’s response to infection.B12 is also important to immune function because it is necessary for proper cell division and growth, including that of white blood cells.
- Selenium: Selenium is a trace mineral that is important in maintaining healthy immunity. In people who are not severely selenium deficient, selenium supplementation has been shown to stimulate the immune response, including enhancing immune cell response to antigens. Other research indicates that selenium plays a role in regulating the expression of cytokines, cell-signaling molecules that play a crucial role in immune response.
- Zinc: A Cochrane review of 15 randomized controlled trials found that zinc lozenges and syrup reduced the duration and severity of the common cold in otherwise healthy people, when taken within the first 24 hours of onset of symptoms.Be aware that too much zinc can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb other minerals, especially iron, magnesium, and copper, causing an imbalance. The studies used between 50 and 65 mg/day. And remember, zinc must be taken within the first 24 hours of symptoms to be effective.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms have long been used in traditional medicine and modern science continues to prove their worth in human health. Along with promoting normal cell growth and supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes, mushrooms seem to also have an immune-boosting effect. One recent human study found that white button mushrooms increased the production of secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), by more than 50 percent.SIgA acts as the first line of defense against pathogens on mucosal surfaces (i.e. mouth, nose, lungs). Mushrooms are also rich in beta-glucan, a naturally occurring branched polysaccharide that enhances immunity by activating white blood cells to engulf and destroy bacteria and viruses.A variety of mushroom extracts are available in supplement form.
Catching a cold is sometimes inevitable, and though there is no cure, there are steps you can take to manage symptoms and reduce the duration. Continue to take your multivitamin and vitamin D, eat well, rest, and try some supplemental support to spring back to your old, healthy self in no time.