Vitamin C: The cold debate

If you’ve got the sniffles, you’ll probably try almost anything to get rid of the dreaded cold – including running for the pharmacy. But what about the tried and true old-fashioned remedies? Do they actually work and how good are they?Drinking orange juice, or getting your vitamin C in other ways, will lessen the severity of your cold symptoms. But unfortunately, it won’t rid you of the virus entirely. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin concluded that a person has to take more than four times the daily recommended dose of vitamin C to see benefits.

Dr. Eliot Dick gathered a roomful of male volunteers. He dropped the cold virus directly into the nostrils of eight men and then watched as the contagious virus spread to the other 12.

Half the men were given 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day while the others received placebos.

Everyone caught colds including the men on vitamin C. The difference between the two groups was the severity of the virus – the men on placebos had moderate to severe colds while the vitamin C group had milder, shorter colds.

Although these men were on 2,000 milligrams, the recommended daily value for vitamin is 60 milligrams. Doses larger than 1,200 milligrams can cause side effects such as diarrhea in some people.

Home remedies
Taking vitamin C in the form of orange juice is a popular home remedy for curing the common cold. However, there are plenty of other kitchen cures that can help. From the Rodale book, The Doctors Book of Home Remedies, they include:

  • Chicken soup, first recommended 800 years ago, makes your nose run. This flushes the cold germs from your nose.
  • Double up on your liquids. Although six to eight cups of water (including milk, juice, lemonade and soup) meet your daily quota, when you’re sick, a quart or more fluids are lost a day. Your system works extra hard to fight off the virus and goes through lots of liquids doing that.
  • Garlic enhances the activity of the immune system and produces antibodies that fight off viruses.
  • Spice it up. Foods containing hot peppers, curry and chili powder get mucus flowing, helping to unplug your nose.
  • Turn out the party lights. When you’re sick, parties and other good times can wear you out physically, compromising your immune system and causing your cold to linger.
  • Feed a cold-lightly. The very fact that you have a cold in the first place may point to your eating too congesting a diet that puts a strain on your body’s metabolism, says Dr. Haas. Counteract it, he advises, by eating fewer fatty foods, meat and milk products, and more fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Butt out. Smoking aggravates a throat that may already feel irritated from a cold. It also interferes with the infection-fighting activity of cilia, the microscopic fingers that sweep bacteria out of your lungs and throat.
  • Take a walk. Mild exercise improves your circulation, helping your immune system circulate infection-fighting antibodies.