How to Prevent Colds Problem Naturally


How to Prevent Colds Naturally

Colds. They're nebulous little ailments, hard to pin down and subject to all sorts of factors, including stress.

The viruses that cause them are much tinier than bacteria (which can at least be seen under an ordinary microscope) — parasitic infectious agents with no real life of their own. They can thrive only by commandeering living cells of their host (that's you) and using them for their own ends — namely multiplication.

Faced with this annual challenge to health (colds strike primarily in winter), we have two possible choices. We can sit back, cross our fingers and hope that the viruses will spare us until April rolls around, or we can build up our bodies' natural defenses to fight and resist winter-time 'bugs'.

The former do-nothing course is probably best typified by the reaction we recently got when we asked a distinguished professor of preventive medicine at a large American university for some advice on avoiding winter infections. 'There is absolutely nothing you can do,' replied the professor, a widely recognized authority on the common cold.

'But surely,' we persisted, 'you must have some ideas about preventing colds. '

The professor, who has spent years tracking down clues to this most common of ailments (even traveling to Antarctica, one of the coldest spots in the world), thought for a moment and then offered this: 'Well, you could stay away from people. That doesn't mean you'd have to worry about going to a movie for a couple hours. But within your own family, you should avoid associating at length with anyone having a bad cold. And you should avoid contact with mucous secretions. Keep your hands and face clean. '

Not exactly mind-boggling revelations, even if they do come from an expert.

Is that really the whole story when it comes to colds and flu prevention? Must we sit back, shunning human contact, and merely wait and hope? Or can we do something positive to strengthen ourselves, to bolster our inner defenses? The recent findings of several scientists and doctors suggest most emphatically that we can do something — starting with vitamin A.

Vitamin A: infection fighter

During an infection, vitamin A levels in the body drop, a sign that the nutrient is probably being used up at a much faster rate than normal. Mothers around the world have known for generations that a daily spoonful of cod-liver oil, a rich natural source of vitamin A, helps prevent colds in their children.

More evidence of vitamin A's important infection-fighting role comes to us in a study by Sushma Palmer, a staff scientist with the National Academy of Sciences and assistant professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University in Washington, D. C. Dr. Palmer has done research with children suffering from Down's syndrome (mongolism). Youngsters with Down's syndrome have physical malformations and are mentally retarded; they are also much more susceptible to respiratory and other infections than normal children.

Dr. Palmer has theorized that infants with Down's syndrome may be born with a less-than-adequate supply of vitamin A, which, by reducing the formation of mucus-producing cells, could make them easy prey for colds, bronchitis, and other respiratory ills. 'Frequent infections could gradually impair absorption of vitamin A, thereby reducing serum [blood] levels and depleting liver stores,' she noted' Vitamin A deficiency may be precipitated by a variety of mechanisms, each feeding on itself or on each other, constituting a vicious cycle.'

To see if she could break this vicious cycle, Dr. Palmer matched a group of 23 Down's children with their normal brothers and sisters as well as other children and divided them into two groups. One group received supplemental water-soluble vitamin A over the next six months; the other group did not.

Detailed health records were kept for all the children, and at the end of six months, the results were tabulated. Dr. Palmer reported that the Down's youngsters who took vitamin A had a significant and very substantial decrease in infections as the study progressed. And their normal brothers and sisters who received extra vitamin A also had fewer infections — far fewer than normal children not getting the vitamin A supplement (International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research).

'In general, vitamin A may offer a protective effect against infection, not just in Down's syndrome, but in all segments of the population,' Dr. Palmer told us.

What makes vitamin A so effective against infections, even in unusually disease-prone children? For one thing, the nutrient is a proven fighter against dangerous bacteria.

That was demonstrated by Benjamin E. Cohen and Ronald J. Elin, two National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (US) researchers. They exposed several groups of mice to lethal doses of bacteria and fungi. Some animals received supplementary vitamin A prior to their infection, but the rest didn't.

In one trial, mice inoculated with Pseudomonas aeruginosin - a strain of bacteria responsible for many human woes including some colds - all died within 24 hours, except those treated with vitamin A. Those lucky mice showed some infection in the blood for the first three hours, but by the fifth hour after inoculation with P. aeruginosin, their blood was virtually sterile and infection-free. They had successfully met the challenge and survived (Journal of Infectious Diseases).

Drs Cohen and Elin added that, interestingly enough, vitamin A was not able to kill the same bacteria directly when mixed in a test tube. Instead, vitamin A may work indirectly by boosting the body's natural network of resistance, the immune system.

As vital as vitamin A is in strengthening our bodily resistance to winter infections, it's only half of the story. The other half is vitamin C or ascorbic acid.

Boosting immunity with vitamin C

When Stanford University biochemists Patricia R. and Carlton E. Schwerdt exposed human cell cultures to vitamin C for two days and then infected them with cold viruses, the results were impressive.

According to the Schwerdt, the vitamin produced an interferon-like activity that slowed down the cold viruses' growth. Thirty-two hours after infection, the virus yield was only 5 percent of the growth in cultures not protected by vitamin C, and after 48 hours, the yield was just 2.5 per cent. Vitamin C had just about stopped the cold virus in its tracks.

That was in a test tube. To get a clearer picture of what actually happens inside the body of a person in the grip of the common cold, let's turn to a report by Dr. C. W.M. Wilson and co-workers at Trinity College, Dublin (Journal of Clinical Pharmacology).

During a cold, according to the Irish investigators, concentrations of vitamin C are reduced in the inflamed mucous membrane lining the nose and throat, and elsewhere in the body as well. Supplementary vitamin C restores depleted tissues.
Host resistance to the viral invasion is increased, and tissue repair is enhanced. This is associated with a reduction in the severity of the toxic and catarrhal [mucus discharge] symptoms of the cold syndrome. '
In an Australian study, 95 pairs of identical twins — perfectly matched for age, sex and genetic makeup — were used to compare the cold-fighting power of vitamin C with that of a placebo (in this case, a pill that looked just like the vitamin, but contained only lactose, or milk sugar). For 100 days one of each pair of twins took a gram (1000 mg) of vitamin C daily, while the other took the placebo, though neither knew which was which. They were also asked to make careful note of the duration and severity of colds, should they appear.

When the results were analyzed, the research team concluded that vitamin C shortened 'the average duration of cold episodes by 19 per cent' (Medical Journal of Australia, 17 October 1981). If you're interested in knocking one day off a five-day cold, in other words, you might try vitamin C. Interestingly, the Australians also found that 'females had significantly longer, more severe and more intense colds than males. '

In another study, scientists from the Naval Medical Research Institute outside Washington D.C. took a look at the relation between plasma vitamin C levels and the general health of 28 crewmen on a submarine before, during and after a 68-day patrol. They noted that the group with the lowest plasma vitamin C had twice as many 'symptoms of the common cold than the high group' (Journal of Applied Nutrition, vol. 34, no. 1, 1982).

What that means is that, by maintaining relatively high levels of vitamin C in their bodies during those long, lightless weeks under the sea, some of the submariners were able to fight off respiratory infections considerably better than their shipmates.

Cold medications

While vitamins A and C may help you feel better faster, watch out for commonly used remedies that can actually make you feel worse. Aspirin may be one of those remedies, says Joe Graedon, pharmacologist and author of The People's Pharmacy-2 (1980). First, it actually increases the number of viruses dramatically. Second, it may lower the body's production of interferon, a natural antiviral substance. Third, it may stop vitamin C from getting into the white blood cells, which are the cells that fight infection.

Decongestants aren't all they're cracked up to be, either. 'No clear-cut evidence exists for the efficacy of oral decongestants, ' wrote a team of doctors in the US journal Pediatrics.

Spray decongestants, too, neither shrink the swollen mucosa (the membranes lining the nose and respiratory system) nor clear mucus out of the nose. What a spray decongestant actually does is to shrink the mucosa temporarily, but if used repeatedly, it also chemically irritates it, and the mucosa swells up again later, becoming more swollen than before. Not only that, but the decongestant also lowers the amount of natural antibiotic secreted by the mucosa and partially cripples the cilia — tiny hair-like stalks on the surface of cells — which are responsible for sweeping away germs. The end results: congestion is worse. Spray decongestants can even lead to sinusitis, a chronic sinus infection.

For more information on aspirin, decongestants, and other cold remedies that may not help colds, see also DRUG SIDE EFFECTS.

Heat, liquids, and spices

There are natural treatments that work, and they may work for any upper-respiratory-tract infection.

'Heat, applied locally and in a warm, well-humidified room, promotes thinning of secretions, ' advised a team of doctors writing in the Nebraska Medical Journal.

And another doctor, Byron Bailey of the University of Texas Medical Branch recommends applying that heat with hot towels — one to two hours four times a day (American Family Physician).

Drinking plenty of liquids — a time-honoured remedy — also helps clear congestion. Double the amount you normally drink, using water, fruit juice, and herbal teas. (Fenugreek, anise and sage teas are traditional herbal remedies for ridding yourself of mucus.) And one liquid you shouldn't neglect is hot chicken soup.

A team of doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida asked 15 healthy volunteers to drink hot chicken soup. Before they drank it the researchers measured their nasal mucus velocity — how fast the top layer of mucus moved out of the nose — and then measured it again after they drank the soup. The researchers found that hot chicken soup increased nasal mucus velocity by 33 percent, but when the volunteers drank cold water, nasal mucus velocity decreased by 28 per cent.

'Hot rather than cold liquids might be preferable in the recommendations for fluid intake in patients with upper-respiratory-tract infections, ' they suggested (Chest).

However, the 'full prescription' for chicken soup, according to California doctor Irwin Ziment, 'also calls for the addition of plenty of pepper and garlic' (Journal of the American Medical Association). Dr. Ziment pointed out that these spices are 'expectorants,' substances that thin mucus and clear it out of the system. And although Dr. Ziment doesn't mention it, any list of expectorants should include not only garlic and cayenne pepper but onions as well.

Humidifiers, mustaches, and beards

The fact that more people suffer from colds in the winter may actually have more to do with low indoor humidity due to central heating than low outdoor temperatures. According to George Green, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, nursery and infant school children's absences are more than 40 per cent higher when schools aren't humidified, and employees of two humidified local hospitals miss work 10 to 15 percent more often than those at a humidified one.

Without humidifiers, schools in Saskatchewan averaged only 22 per cent humidity levels, while in January some hospitals scored a bone-dry 12 per cent. It has been shown that greater relative humidity results in lower survival time for many bacteria and viruses.

And, when all else fails, try the method of preventing colds expounded by a Florida doctor. Unfortunately, it works only if you're a man. Since M. Simon recommends that his patients grow mustaches and beards to ward off respiratory ailments.

'The cold virus is a filterable virus, and the hairs of the beard act as a filter, ' Dr. Simon told us. In 40 years of general practice, he said, 70 percent of his male patients who have hirsute jaws usually weather the cold and flu season without a sniffle. 'It's terrific,' he said.

He himself, however, faces the world smooth-cheeked. 'I encounter too many staph germs and other micro-organisms that I could transmit from patient to patient,' he explained. 'I treat a lot of children, so I have to be careful. I'd love to have a beard — but I would have to shampoo it five or six times a day, and I don't have the time.'

See also entries that deal with various cold-related symptoms, such as COUGHING, FEVER, SORE THROAT.
How to Prevent Colds Problem Naturally How to Prevent Colds Problem Naturally Reviewed by Healthy Kite on 9/01/2016 Rating: 5

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