Monday, January 31, 2011

The Battle of the Common Cold

Since we are in the middle of the flu and cold season, I thought this information I read in Parade Magazine this week might be of interest.  Some of the information was definitely a big surprise to me. I've been battling a cold and sinus infection for over a week, and had been drinking lots of green tea, adding extra Vitamins to my daily regimine, and basically following all the suggestions for boosting your immune system while you are sick.

Well, according to Dr. Birgit Winther, an otolaryngologist and part of a cold-research team at the University of Virginia,  that is the wrong thing to do. She is one of the top experts on the subject of the viruses that cause colds and was quoted by the author of the Parade article, Jennifer Ackerman, who is the author of Ah-Choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold.

“For years, scientists thought cold symptoms resulted from damage done by the cold viruses themselves,” Winther says. As it turns out, all that sneezing, coughing, and congestion is actually caused by our own bodies. In response to an intruding virus, our immune systems pump out chemicals that cause our noses to run, heads to throb, and throats to swell. “One cold differs from another because of the way the host body responds,” Winther says. That explains why you may come down with a killer cold while your spouse has barely a sniffle, even though you both have the same virus.
It also explains why some immunity-boosting products may not help. “Getting your immune cells to work better could result in a stronger inflammatory response and more exaggerated symptoms,” Winther says. A colleague of hers once took immunity-enhancing drugs to speed his recovery, and “he’d never been so sick in his life!”

Hmmm. I'm wondering if that means I should stop the green tea? Actually, I did not drink it last night. Skipped the extra zinc and vitamin C, too. It is too early to tell, but I think there is less congestion today. I'll skip it again tonight, and then try it again tomorrow and see if there is any difference. If you are interested, check back Wednesday to see the results of my experiment.

In the meantime, what about you? Do you use immunity-enhancing supplements? Have you noticed any patterns in how they work? There are so many conflicting opinions as to the benefits of extra vitamins and the other healthy eating programs that are supposed to be of benefit, it can boggle the inquisitive mind.


Marian Allen said...

The only thing I do for a cold is drink ginger ale and eat chicken soup. Or chicken-flavored soup. I think it's the salt I like. Occasionally, I pop a Tylenol, but mostly I just let the cold run its course.

Marian Allen

AlexOngNYC said...

Yeah I always used homeopathic remedies because I knew my cold was the way my body fights the virus. But this time around I just had to stop because my defenses got worse and I couldn't breathe or sleep. So I just let it run its course this time around.

Breakfast Every Hour

Terry Odell said...

I've had very few colds, and most have been mild. I take a daily multi-vitamin, and that's about it.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I usually do take something...and regret it later when I feel even worse!

Hope you're feeling much better, Maryann. :)

The Words Crafter said...

Wow. I didn't know this, but it makes sense. I've been taking Sudafed for a couple weeks and now, I finally have strep, a sinus infection, and flu like symptoms. I'm not allowed to return to work tomorrow....

I do wonder if the benefits are real or not. Great post!

Helen Ginger said...

I usually take something to suppress the symptoms and then go to bed.

Maryann Miller said...

Glad this post was so helpful. I was so surprised when I read this article Sunday, but what the scientist said makes sense. I am rethinking my response to colds from now on. Like you, Marian, for years all I did was the chicken soup and regular tea because they tasted good, and would take aspirin or Tylenol for the fever.

Dany said...

Sneezing and coughing are just two of the body's natural defenses and methods of purging "toxins". You really do not want to suppress those! Ideally, you do not want to suppress fever either if you can stay home and let your body fight the virus.

Here is a recipe that will help some symptoms without ceasing your body's natural healing response:

Cold Tea (or flu, or cough, or sinus, etc.)
8 oz. boiling hot water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. natural honey (or pure maple syrup)
1/8 tsp. red pepper/ cayenne

MJ said...

Hi! It's Joholdenhan..changed my blogger name. :)
Colds are icky. I tend to pump cold meds into my body because I can't deal with the coughing, but if I can, I take a healthier approach and try to prevent a budding cold by taking antiviral drops. This cold and flu season I've been sickness-free!! :D

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for the recipe, Dany. Glad you stopped in and shared it.

John, nice to see you drop in again. I'll have to get used to your new blogger name and check out your latest post. Glad you have been free of the crud this year.

Maryann Miller said...

Also, as promised, here is an update on my experiment with fighting my cold, or not fighting it as was suggested by the doctor I referenced in Monday's post. After three days of not using the immune-enhancing supplements, there has only been a slight improvement, and that may be just the cold running it's course. I drank green tea last night and took extra zinc, and notice no difference this AM either.