With cold and flu season is coming we decided to look into some popular food and supplements considered as medicine and find out which of them can really help and which are just a myth.
1. Chicken soup
Probably we all remember this delicious chicken soup cooked by a granny when we were ill in our childhood. And it was really helpful, wasn’t it? Like any hot liquid, soup helps to keep the body hydrated and raises the temperature of the airways, which are both important for loosening secretions. Add a few hot chiles to loosen things up even more. Want more scientific evidence? In one study researchers found out that hot chicken soup was very effective at making noses run, which a good thing since nasal secretions help rid the body of pathogenic viruses and bacteria.
2. Vitamin C
We used to think that lots of vitamin C can prevent cold, that’s why most of people consume a lot of lemons, oranges and other vitamin C sources when they feel cold or flu is right around the corner. However some studies show that vitamin C may not be that effective for some people. Generally, it depends on a person who takes it – some people improve after taking vitamin C supplements, others don’t. But in other study the participants took 200 mg of vitamin C (which is more than twice the 60-75 mg current recommended dietary intake for adults), and the duration of their colds was shortened by about 8%. So you should try and see for yourself whether vitamin C works for you or not. But don’t exceed 2,000 mg per day, because hypervitaminosis is a pretty nasty thing, and the best case scenario is you get an upset stomach.
Effectiveness of zinc against cold symptoms is also controversial. Some say it helps, others claim that it doesn’t work at all. If you want to try zinc lozenges, scientific studies suggest following this method: take the lozenges every two hours and stop when your symptoms disappear. But again, don’t go overboard. Excessive doses of zinc can interfere with the absorption of other minerals, and high doses can be toxic.
4. Vitamin D
Some researchers suggest that a lack of vitamin D (the “sunshine” vitamin) during the dark winter season might be connected with making us more susceptible to cold and flu. One study found that a group of kids who took vitamin D had fewer colds than another group that didn’t. If you don’t live in a place where the sun shines 365 days a year, it wouldn’t hurt to take a multivitamin containing 100% of vitamin D daily value.
Some people avoid dairy products because they are thought to increase mucus secretions, but science doesn’t support this theory. Scientists believe there may be some placebo effect at work. So don’t refuse eating calcium-rich milk and especially not yogurt, which contains beneficial bacteria that may actually stimulate the immune system.