by Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N.
In last week’s show, we looked at the science behind some popular cold prevention remedies to see which ones were most likely to actually work. Today, I’d like share three more proven ways to bolster your immune system and stay healthier this year.
Maybe you already have some tried-and true strategies for warding off colds. And the truth is, if you believe that wearing your pajamas inside out or rubbing your gums with orange peels keeps you healthy, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of a good placebo effect.
But if your special incantation seems to have lost its magic and you’re in the market for a new one, why not go for one with some solid scientific proof?
I Don’t Know About Vampires, But Garlic May Keep Colds Away
Garlic can help bolster your immune response. In at least one study, people using garlic got only half as many colds as those who didn’t. Of those who did get colds, they were much less severe. In this study, the subjects took one powdered garlic capsule per day from November until March.
If you want to try this at home, buy a garlic supplement that has a standardized amount of the active compound allicin. This is the compound thought to have the most potent effect on immune response.
If you like to eat garlic, this is also an excuse to ramp up your consumption of the so-called stinking rose. Whole garlic doesn’t actually contain any allicin. It’s produced by an enzymatic reaction when raw garlic is cut or crushed and then it immediately starts to break down. So, to maximize the allicin hit from eating garlic, chop or crush some raw garlic and eat it immediately.
I recently read about a cold remedy that calls for crushing a clove of garlic into a cup of hot water with some lemon juice, honey, and cayenne pepper. People, there’s no reason to be disgusting. Just make some guacamole.
Probiotics: The Surprise Players
An effective cold remedy that you probably haven’t heard much about is taking probiotics. These are the friendly bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods. (For more on friendly bacteria, I did an entire show on them a few weeks back.)
Most people don’t think of probiotics in terms of cold prevention and I was actually somewhat surprised to come across a couple of studies showing that taking probiotics along with a multi-vitamin throughout the cold and flu season showed some promising results. It didn’t reduce the number of colds but it did make the colds shorter and less severe, which I’d definitely put in the “plus” column.
You can get probiotics from eating yogurt, fresh sauerkraut, and other fermented foods. But this particular study used a supplement containing a higher dose than you’d probably get from foods alone. When buying probiotic supplements, be sure check the expiration date. These are living organisms and freshness is definitely an issue.
The Number One Thing You Can Do to Prevent Colds
Actually, the biggest thing you can do to avoid getting a cold this year isn’t nutritional at all; it’s pure hygiene. The number one way you get colds is by touching infected surfaces, like door knobs, pencils, elevator buttons, telephones, or someone’s germy hand, and then touching your nose or eyes. So the best way to avoid catching colds is by washing your hands every time you get the chance. It also really helps to keep your hands away from your face.
Keeping your home clean is another great way to avoid coming into contact with germs. The kitchen sink, in particular, should be getting plenty of love and care.
And if, despite all this good advice, you do end up coming down with a cold, give yourself a couple of days off. Diva’s orders! Staying home and taking care of yourself for a day or two when your symptoms are at their worst will help you feel better sooner. You’ll also be less likely to spread your cold to others and this helps everyone—including you. What doesn’t go around doesn’t come back around. You can also find tips on beating a cold over on The House Call Doctor's page.
This is Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, with your quick and dirty tips for eating well and feeling fabulous.
These tips are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, please work with your health professional to determine what’s right for you.
If you have a question or comment, you can email me at email@example.com or leave me a voice mail at 206-203-1438. I am also on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for listening! Have a great day and remember: Eat something good for me
Colds and Influenza: A Review of Diagnosis and Conventional, Botanical, and Nutritional
Considerations (Alternative Medicine Review)
Catch fewer colds: Part 1
Episode on Fermented Foods