Special thanks to the Chiropractic Sports Institute for this article!
According to the latest research the average American suffers two to six colds a year, and as yet, there is no known cure. Nevertheless, pharmacies and stores that sell alternative medicine therapies are stocked with products claiming to be natural remedies for the common cold. If you are one of the “lucky ones”, you may be wondering how best to treat your symptoms. Are over-the-counter cold medications the only way to go or do alternative remedies such as vitamin C, Echinacea and zinc really help? Before we look at the remedies and research behind them lets look at the animal itself, the cold and flu.
The common cold (acute coryza 45) is associated with viruses that affect the nose, throat, larynx (voice box) and sinuses. That means stuffed and runny nose, scratchy throat, watery eyes, stuffed sinuses and congestion. What makes the common cold different from viral or bacterial infections is the absence of high fever. Influenza, or the flu, the patient will have a fever between 101-103, backache, headache, muscle and joint pain, runny nose, congestion, sore throat and cough and continue irregularly for three to four days. The flu can cause problems if you are in the elderly population, weak or suffering from an immune suppressive disorder. In some cases, the flu may develop into pneumonia. For most people who are “healthy” the flu is little more than an annoying illness.
Painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen are common ingredients in cold products designed to relieve aches and pains and reduce fever. Yet, most colds don’t cause aches, pains or high fevers. According to Joe Graedon Ph.D., author of the People’s Pharmacy Guide to home and herbal remedies, Antihistamines, meant for those runny noses, help against allergies and hay fever but provide relatively little relief for the common cold. “Such drugs may actually be counterproductive by allowing viruses to multiply more readily. They cite a study in which Australian scientists found that aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen reduced immune system response and resulted in “increased nasal symptoms.” Other research has shown that people spread more of the cold virus after taking aspirin. So what can we do to help fight the battle?
Before reaching for any cold concoction, try these practical remedies:
Drink plenty of water. Fluids will help loosen the mucus in your nose and chest and provide a medium for the cells to communicate.
Stop eating sugar and avoid dairy products. Sugar and refined sweets have been shown to reduce the total amount of white blood cells, which fight infection. Also, sugar, even in fruit juices and dairy products, thicken the mucus in the linings in your nose and lungs, making the mucus and your infection harder to get rid of.
Rest. This will allow the body to focus on healing.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C has long been touted for its ability to prevent and cure the common cold. Although these claims have been blown out of proportion, an adequate intake of Vitamin C is necessary to help fight infections and keep the immune system healthy. There is some research to show that taking extra vitamin C at the onset of a cold may cause a mild antihistamine effect.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is between 75- 100 milligrams per day for women and 90-250 mg for men. You may bump this up to 1500 mg for 48-72 hours at onset of the cold. Too much Vitamin C may cause side effect such as nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, so don’t mega dose during the season.
Echinacea: Over the past several years, Echinacea has become one of the hottest herbal remedies in the US. While little research has been done in the US, European research on Echinacea has suggested that the herb has an immune-stimulant effect. Echinacea seems to work by stimulating various components of the body’s immune system. One of the reasons that Echinacea’s research varies is that there are three different species of the purple coneflower which make up the herbal remedy. For the most affective remedy seek out your Doctor/Chiropractor, nutritionist or a reputable vitamin store.
Since possible adverse effects from long-term use have not been studied, most sources recommend that Echinacea only be taken when the symptoms of a cold first appear and then only for a week or two. Because it is an immune system stimulant those with autoimmune diseases like lupus, MS, Sclerosis and RA should not take the herb. It is also not recommended for pregnant and lactating women or for those on immunosuppressant medication.
ZINC: A 1996 study found in the annals of internal medicine found that adults who used zinc lozenges (without sugar) from the onset of a cold recovered twice as fast as those who did not take them. I recommend no more that 100 mg of Zinc a day to fight off the cold and to take the duration of symptoms.
Other things to think about are ways to protect you home. With the invention of double pane windows the airflow in your house may harbor the viruses and bacteria that will continually re-infect your family. Invest in a good Air Purification system. A good system on the market is the Living Air Classic, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. This product will eliminate smoke, mold, mildew, bacteria and it has a UV light to kill airborne viruses and germs that pass through. It also controls dust and dander to eliminate certain allergies.
Last but not least, seek Chiropractic care during the cold season. A study in the journal of Osteopathic medicine showed a study of over 4600 patients with upper respirator tract infections, only 5% of cases treated with spinal manipulative therapy developed secondary complications. Chiropractic care has been proven to enhance the natural resistance and improve immune function.
So, as we enter this cold season, don’t wait for the cold to attack you, attack the cold through keeping the biomechanics strong in your body by seeking Chiropractic Care, the biochemistry alive by eating right and taking the appropriate supplements and the bioenergy alive by taking care of the air in your home and this season you may be spending more time on the slopes and less time by the Kleenex box.