Time to gear up for cold/flu season

This is the time of year I am frequently asked what to do about cold and flu symptoms. It is a good time to dust off the evidence and discuss what are good strategies. Certainly the age old time and rest are ideal but not often practical.

The foundation should not be any surprise.  Living a healthy lifestye: whole foods eating, regular exercise, relaxation practices and good sleep are essential for both prevention and helping to fight any illness.

Other things to have in the toolbox:

Elderberry (Sambucus or Sambucol): Several studies show this herb to be effective. In one study, patients with the flu symptoms for 48 hours or less who took 3 tsp of elderberry syrup four times a day for 5 days found their symptoms resolved 4 days earlier than those taking placebo. In a study specific to H1N1, elderberry showed equal effectiveness in inhibiting the virus compared to Tamiflu and Amantadine, common flu medications. Studies have also shown activity against bacterial pathogens making elderberry a good consideration early on for both viral colds/flus and potential bacterial superinfection.

Vitamin D: In children, Vitamin D deficiency predisposes them to an increased risk of influenza. In additon, adequate levels of vitamin D have shown the ability to help reduce respiratory infections. Vitamin D has also shown evidence in human trials to reduce the risk of both bacterial and viral infections.

Garlic: Many studies have shown garlic's antiviral, antibacterial and antiparasitic qualities. In one study of patients that took stabilized allicin found that they had 63% fewer colds and 70% fewer days ill than did the placebo group. I often chop up two cloves of garlic per day and either swallow or add at the end of a soup during illness.

Vitamin C: In a large review study that took into account 21 studies on vitamin C (dosing anywhere from 1-8 grams per day) and the common cold found that in all 21 studies vitamin C reduced the duration of episodes and the severity of the symptoms related to colds.

Zinc: The best studied forms are 13 to 25 mg as gluconate, gluconate-glycine, or acetate in lozenges. Results from six studies that were double-blinded found that people assigned to zinc had a 50% decreased risk of still having symptoms after one week compared with those given placebo.

Andrographis: An herb that has shown immune-enhancing qualities. Research has shown the potential to treat influenza. Several studies have shown that cold symptoms improve and recovery is faster when andrographis extract (48 to 60 mg andrographolides) is taken in three or four divided doses daily, beginning as soon as the illness begins.

While taking everything on this list can be quite much, I would suggest looking through the list, choosing a couple that sound good and fit your needs based on the type of illness and goal and stock up.

Are there things you believe in during time of illness? Share in the comments below...

Contributed by:

Dr. Jeffrey Gladd


Dr. Jeffrey Gladd graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine in 2001. He then went on to train in family medicine...

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Dr. Jeffrey Gladd
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