Winning The Cold War

  • 5 Jan 2010
  • Reading time 13 mins
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Are you a favourite host for the cold virus? If so, now is the time to strengthen your defences and make yourself virus-proof.

Do you stock up on boxes of tissues and make Tunes a part of your daily diet when winter comes along? If so, now is the time to strengthen your defences and make yourself virus-proof. There are basically two methods of defence: the first is to prevent infection in the first place, the second is to minimise the effect of infection once it occurs.

Viruses are not technically ‘alive’ as they cannot reproduce. They can only multiply if they get inside your cells and get them to make more virus particles. In order to keep viruses out you need to have sufficient vitamin A in your body and enough calcium and magnesium to make those cell membranes strong enough.

At the onset of winter, the external temperature gets colder and the body becomes less able to use its supply of vitamin A. This starts a vicious circle with vitamin A becoming more and more in demand. This is probably one of the reasons why zinc is helpful when you’ve got a cold because it allows vitamin A, stored in the liver, to be used.

The secret of any battle is to be well prepared. Start now by making sure that you have adequate nutrients to keep your immune system at the ready. Your multivitamin supplement should contain at least 7,500 iu of vitamin A and at least 1,000mg of vitamin C as well as a good B complex (one which contains pantothenate (B5), B6, B12 and folic acid). Your multimineral should contain ten times more zinc than copper and at least half as much magnesium as calcium. If you’re a person who often suffers from infections you may need to experiment with a maintenance dose of up to 20,000 ius of beta-carotene (7mg), which is a non-toxic form of vitamin A, and an additional 2 to 3 grams of vitamin C.

Is your early warning system on alert?
As with any attack the element of surprise gives a distinct advantage. How do you know if a virus has arrived? The first cause for suspicion is if you’ve been in the company of someone with a cold. Symptoms usually start two or three days after exposure. You also have your own ‘early warning system’ that tells you you have unwelcome guests: a sensation in the throat or nose on waking, a thick head or a hint of a headache, heavy muscles, feeling slightly tired even before you get up or feeling hot, cold or shaky. If you feel these, don’t hesitate to reach for the vitamin C. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, you can only benefit.

Why enough vitamin C is essential
So many research trials have shown that large amounts of vitamin C lessens the frequency and symptoms and shortens the duration of a cold. A review of sixteen such studies showed that, on average, 34 per cent less days of illness are experienced by those who supplement vitamin C. So why do so many doctors still sneeze at vitamin C for colds? There are an equal number of papers that show no effect. A close look at these papers, however, shows two common fundamental flaws. In some studies, laboratory-bred viruses are squirted up the poor subject’s nose. These viruses are so virulent it’s little wonder vitamin C shows no effect. It’s a bit like testing a boxer’s mouth guard by hitting him in the face with a sledgehammer! The more frequent blunder is a failure to administer enough vitamin C. The best results have been achieved using between 400mg and 1,000mg per hour. According to Dr Linus Pauling, “The amount of protection increases with increase in the amount of ingested vitamin C and becomes nearly complete with 10g to 40g per day taken at the immediate onset of a cold.” In fact, the amount needed depends very much on the person. Some experience loose bowels on high doses, but that is all: there’s no harm from taking large amounts of vitamin C for a few days.

In the long-term, supplementing 1-3g of vitamin C every day helps keep your immune system strong. It is probably best to also take other nutrients needed to maintain a healthy immune system. We tested the effects of a combination supplement containing vitamin A, E, zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium and molybdenum as well as 1g of vitamin C,  in a small double-blind trial at ION in London, involving 37 people. After twelve weeks, 81 per cent of those taking the supplement considered themselves less susceptible to colds, compared to 44 per cent on a placebo tablet.  The incidence of cold symptoms and the duration of symptoms were also considerably reduced in the supplement group.

Seven ways to stop a cold dead in Its tracks
1. Take 3 grams of vitamin C immediately and then 2g every four hours (or three times a day) until symptoms subside. Alternatively, mix 6 grams of vitamin C powder in fruit juice diluted with water and drink throughout the day. The ideal juice is Cherry Active because cherries are low GL and very high in antioxidants. Some people prefer to use calcium or magnesium ascorbate, a less acidic form of vitamin C. If so, be aware that you can overdose on magnesium. You don’t really want to take more than 600mg a day.
2. Supplement other immune-boosting nutrients, especially vitamins A and E, selenium, and zinc.
3. Eat lightly, preferably relying mainly on fruits and vegetables, including foods rich in vitamins A and C, for example carrots, beetroot, green peppers and citrus fruit. Avoid mucus-forming and fatty foods, i.e. meat, eggs and milk products. These make your lymph limp - and lymphatic fluid is the main transport system for immune cells ......

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