Can vitamin C prevent a cold?
Taking daily supplemental doses of vitamin C isn’t likely going to help prevent a common cold, flu or virus. “This misinformation stems from the famous research from Linus Pauling, who claimed years ago that large doses of vitamin C could prevent a cold. But that hasn’t been supported in the research,” says Kimberly Gomer, the director of nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, in Miami, Florida. This makes you stop and wonder, are your vitamin C supplements actually doing anything?
Evidence for Vitamin C Mega Doses for the Flu or the Common Cold
It’s become fairly popular to pour vitamin C supplements into your water bottle, or to swallow a large pill in hope it will prevent the common cold. Registered Dietician, Lon Ben-Asher of Pritikin, reminds us that more is not necessarily better; “Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, our bodies generally excrete the majority through urine to prevent toxicity or harm… there is limited evidence that higher-dose vitamin C supplementation prevents colds, the flu, and virus infections,” notes Lon Ben-Asher, Registered Dietician at Pritikin. “However, much of our population has the mindset that the more of something I give you, the better.” Therapeutic trials have failed to show that vitamin C supplementation can reduce the durations of colds among healthy adults.
Can Vitamin C Keep You From Getting Sick?
Yes, vitamin C plays an important role in a lot of your body’s systems, including your immune system, connective tissues and more. It’s just that the mega supplements probably aren’t helping much when it comes to boosting the immune system sufficiently to effectively ward off a common cold. But, if you have insufficient levels of vitamin C in your body research shows 200mg of vitamin C may be helpful against the common cold. That’s how much vitamin C you’d get from eating one cup of red bell peppers. That’s a stark difference from the 1000mg mega dosages of vitamin C healthy people are taking to prevent a cold. Lon cautions, “there is some evidence that higher than normal Vitamin C intake from supplementation can increase risk of kidney stones, as well as contribute to gastrointestinal distress such as abdominal pain.”
How would you know if you are deficient in vitamin C? A person who may have insufficient vitamin C levels is one who regularly smoke cigarettes, is exposed to severe physical exercise (marathon runner), or suffers from certain chronic diseases (some cancers, renal disease or digestive procedures that prevent proper absorption).
How Can I Prevent Catching a Cold or Flu?
From the nasal congestion to the chest cough, the common cold or flu are illnesses that leave you feeling tired and miserable. Being the most common illness people suffer from, most of us would love to throw away the facial tissues for good and discover what are effective ways to boost your immune system naturally. Here’s are 4 tips from nutrition experts and immunology scientists on ways you can prevent catching a cold or the flu.
4 Tips to Boost Your Immune System Naturally from Experts
If vitamin C supplements aren’t very effective, then what can you do to prevent the common cold, flu, or virus? Here are 4 tips from experts that boost your immune system naturally:
Best Vitamin C Foods to Eat
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
- Tropical fruits
1. Eat Your Vitamin C
Dieticians recommend you reach for whole, plant-based foods that are rich in vitamin C. “Our bodies are made to absorb these nutrients at a very high capacity when consuming whole, plant-based foods,” explains Lon. Peeling into an orange, nibbling on a sweet handful of raspberries, or adding some leafy greens to your sandwich are great ways to ensure your body gets the vitamin C it needs. “Consuming vitamin C from foods provides the most protection and facilitates enhanced prevention mechanism.” Foods that contain vitamin C include: kiwi, bell peppers, watermelon, tomatoes, tropical fruits, broccoli, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables. Believe it or not, it’s also a good idea to be eating potatoes – they contain vitamin C too!
2. Choose Whole, Plant-Based Foods to Boost Immunity
In developed countries like the United States, it isn’t common to be deficient in vitamin C, except in people with limited food variety. That’s a great reminder of the importance of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables! It’s recommended that eating five servings of vegetables and fruits each day to reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold, flu, or virus. Lon reminds us that one of the healthiest things we can do is, “…focus on whole, plant-based foods which give your body the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients it needs to ward off disease and promote health.” The World Health Organization agrees that eating fruits and vegetables lowers your risk of major diseases.
How to Eat More Vegetables
From topping your morning oatmeal with berries, grabbing an apple for a quick on-the-go snack or ordering a side of vegetables at a restaurant, there are lots of ways to eat more vegetables. “Let vegetables be the star of your meal,” suggests Kimberly. Do you need a little veggie inspiration? Try some new ways to eat more vegetables, such as hasselback zucchini, or crispy and cool cucumber noodles as the base of your next cold salad.
3. Adopt a Positive Mindset
There’s no joking about it – laughter might ward off a cold. Positive mental health causes a cascade of biological responses in the body that includes cortisol, a hormone that beneficially effects the immune system. Smiling, talking to a supportive person, and listening to music are ways you can improve your mental health, and boost your immune system, according to studies.
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands! You’re helping your immune system be at its best. Researchers have reported that a person’s psychological wellbeing effects their body’s resilience to infection:
- Supportive group therapies increased natural killer cell activity in patients with HIV/AIDs.
- Clinical evidence has found that empathizing with a child who is sick has a positive psychosocial impact that causes a decrease in the child’s inflammatory markers.
- Cancer patients participating in music therapy, were found to have a beneficial increase in their body’s immune system’s response.
A positive mindset can boost your immune system. A positive mindset is one of the three pillars of the Pritikin lifestyle. Over 100 studies have proven that the Pritikin healthy lifestyle can help you successfully lose weight, as well as treat, and in many cases reverse the progression of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
4. Sleep More
Busy days, and those almost addictive, captivating shows on Netflix can cause even the best of us to go to bed later than we should. Sleep deprivation is a public health epidemic. Why should you get more sleep? Researchers have found that tired adults are more susceptible to a cold and other types of upper respiratory tract infections. Plus, a lack of sleep can make your cold symptoms worse, and last longer. Your ability to sleep and your immune system are highly interconnected, according to researchers.
A lack of sleep is linked to 7 of the 15 leading causes of death in United States, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, cancer, and obesity. “When you don’t sleep well your body is stressed, it produces cortisol (a stress hormone), and that affects the insulin response,” explains Pritikin’s Director of Nutrition, Kimberly Gomer. “That is why you can have a harder time losing weight when you don’t sleep well.” Suddenly, getting to bed on time seems a bit more important.
How to Sleep Better
Do you get enough sleep? Recommendations vary; however, the majority of health organizations suggest adults should sleep about 8 hours a day, with 6 to 7 hours being suffice for some elderly adults. For some, avoiding electronics or eating late at night can help. Exercising can help you sleep better, too! “When you exercise you don’t expect huge end results, but you’ll love how you feel better, move better, and sleeping better,” says Jamie Costello, Fitness Director at the Pritikin Center.
If you’re still left unsure what to do about sleep deprivation, let the Sleep Specialists at Pritikin help. In the luxury of your comfortable beautiful hotel room, during a stay at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, you can take a sleep test. Sleep specialists at Pritikin are experts in treating sleep apnea and other sleep problems. You deserve to get the rest you need.
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- The sleep-immune crosstalk in health and disease. Physiol Rev 2019 Jul 1; 99(3): 1325-1380.
- The global problem of insufficient sleep and its serious public health implications. Healthcare (Basel) 2019 Mar; 7(1):1.
- Respiratory tract infections and the role of biologically active polysaccharide management and prevention. Nutrients 2017 Jul 20; 9(7).
- The role of psychological well-being in boosting immune response: an optimal effect for tackling infection. Afr J Infec Dis 2018; 12(1 Suppl): 54-61.