As a doctor with years of experience practicing medicine, even I am confused about what to take to help reduce the chance of getting a cold or reducing how long it keeps you out of commission. The list is long, but the ones I have chosen to discuss have clinical evidence to support their benefits. Let me break it down for you:
Here are the top 6 supplements helpful in cold prevention and treatment:
1. Zinc might be your best bet to reduce the amount of time and the severity of cold symptoms. Zinc can actually kill cold viruses when taken for at least a week and at the correct dose. In the form of lozenges, the daily doses of 80mg to 92mg (9 to 13mg of zinc per lozenge) given within 24 hours of cold symptoms have been found to shorten the duration of a runny nose, congestion, scratchy and sore throat, hoarseness and cough. In children, zinc syrup can also be taken to help cold symptoms. Zinc doses for children should be checked with their health care provider.
2. If you have been taking certain combinations of Probiotics for a minimum of 3 months, you’re in luck! This has been found to decrease the risk of getting a cold by 12% and reduce the number of days you are symptomatic. A product containing 1 billion viable cells of daily Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei proved to be the effective dose. In children, probiotics were also found to be protective of common cold symptoms.
3. Vitamin C has been given more credit than it deserves. Vitamin C cannot prevent a cold from coming. If you are low or deficient in vitamin C then taking supplements will help you be less prone to colds. Some studies suggest taking vitamin C, a known antioxidant, may reduce the severity of cold symptoms. Taking 1 gram of vitamin C was shown to help cold symptoms and reduce the amount of days symptoms lasted. In children, vitamin C was also found to reduce the symptoms of the common cold.
4. Vitamin D has been shown to decrease the number of colds and upper respiratory infection per year. You will have this protection already if you have a blood level of vitamin D greater than 20ng/ml and have been taking vitamin D3 supplements daily for a minimum of 3 months. Vitamin D helps support your immune system and prevents uncomfortable symptoms of colds and respiratory infections. Since many people are deficient in this “sunshine vitamin” getting your levels checked is the first step to knowing how much to supplement. For vitamin D, a range of 2,000 to 4,000/day tends to be a typical and using the vitamin D3 form is optimal. In children, vitamin D was also found to reduce the number of colds and upper respiratory infection per year.
5. Echinacea is a well-known herb thought to reduce the symptoms and duration of cold and flu. Taking liquid Echinacea 3 times a day during the winter may prevent you from getting the common cold. If you develop a cold, it’s recommended to take liquid Echinacea 5 times a day to reduce the number of symptomatic days and recurrences. In children, Echinacea was also found to reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold. A standard adult daily dose is 900mg or tinctures made from the above-ground plant part of E.purpurea.
6. Garlic supplements may be effective against colds, but studies are controversial. Garlic has been thought to strengthen the immune system when used regularly. A few studies showed taking a garlic supplement daily may reduce the chances of getting a cold. A recommended dose is 600-900mg daily of a garlic powder extract with 1.3% Allicin or 12,000mcg of Allicin per dose. Allicin is the important enzyme and primary active ingredient in garlic, creating the typical garlic odor.
These are just a few options, so please check with your healthcare provider if you have questions. Some of these supplements may interfere with your current medications so always discuss usage with your health care provider.
Don’t forget the usual things like hand washing, coughing and sneezing into the inside of your elbow and not touching your eyes, nose or mouth as these are ways the cold virus can enter your body. Getting plenty of rest, eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly are also helpful lifestyle habits. One last step in prevention is getting the flu shot annually.