Wednesday, November 13, 2019

12 Natural Cold Remedies Examined: What Works and What Doesn’t

Cold season is upon us. Vitamin D levels are down. People are cloistered indoors. Kids are walking petri dishes. Drug stores are advertising free flu shots. It’s that time of year. I’m sure a few of you are even sniffling as you read this, or maybe trying to ignore the pain of swallowing with a sore throat.

Colds seem like an inevitability, maybe not so much since you’ve cleaned up your diet, but nothing is 100% fool-proof. You will get sick. You will catch a cold. Or someone close to you will. What can you do for yourself? For your sick kid or partner? Are there any natural cold remedies that actually work?

Let’s look at them.

High Dose Vitamin C

Most studies find that vitamin C supplementation has little to no effect on the duration or severity of a cold. But not all. What seems to help, if anything, is a mega-dose of vitamin C.

In one study, taking 8 grams on the first day of the cold reduced illness a bit more than taking 4 grams.

A meta-analysis of studies concluded that taking 1 gram as a daily supplementary dose and 3-4 grams as a therapeutic dose at the onset of a cold could reduce the duration and severity.

Verdict: Vitamin C can’t hurt, so it’s worth a shot. Try 3-8+ grams when you feel the cold coming on, and supplement 500 mg-1 g during cold season.

Zinc

Having good zinc levels are a great preventive. A strong baseline intake of zinc-rich foods like shellfish and red meat is the first line of defense against upper respiratory infections.  But once you have a cold, or you feel one coming on, pounding zinc citrate lozenges or smoked oysters won’t make much of a difference. What can work is taking a specific type of zinc acetate, highlighted here by Chris Masterjohn.

Studies show that zinc acetate works very well at reducing the duration of colds, especially when you catch it early. Chris recommends using these lozenges every 1-2 hours when a cold first hits and letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. It takes about 20-30 minutes for a single lozenge to dissolve, but this slow process is vital for actually getting the cold-busting effect. Don’t chew.

Verdict: Zinc acetate taken at the onset can help. Other forms of zinc are important for prevention (and general health), but probably aren’t therapeutic.

Elderberry

Elderberry probably has the coolest name ever—like some folk medicine out of a Tolkien story. Plus, it works.

In intercontinental air travelers (a population at much greater risk for colds), taking elderberry syrup reduced total days with a cold (57 versus 117) and cold symptom score (247 versus 583, with higher being worse).

In a meta-analysis of controlled trials, elderberry syrup was also shown to reduce overall cold symptoms.

This elderberry syrup is very high quality, and even comes in a sugar-free (glycerin-based) form if you want to avoid any excess fructose.

Verdict: Works.

Chicken Broth

Does “Jewish penicillin” work? Yes, yes it does. Evidence confirms that chicken soup made from real chicken broth eases nasal congestion, improves the function of the nasal cilia protecting us from pathogen incursions, and reduces cold symptoms.

Does it have to be chicken? As most cultures include broth-based soup in their list of effective cold remedies, I suspect it’s the goodness of the broth that’s important and any true bone broth-based soup will work.

Verdict: Yes.

Garlic

Garlic is legit. Garlic can improve immune function and reduce the occurrence of common colds. In my opinion, it’s one of the best anti-cold foods around.

If I feel a cold coming on, I’ll crush and dice up an entire head of garlic and lightly simmer it in a big mug of bone broth. I find I am usually able to ward off whatever’s headed my way. Of course, that’s just an anecdote and the available evidence is more equivocal.

Another way I’ll eat garlic is to use black garlic—garlic that’s been aged for months until it turns black, soft, and sweet. Delicious and even more potent.

Aged garlic extract can also be an effective supplement.

Verdict: It works.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is controversial. I’m no expert myself—I’ve gotten it a a few times at urging from friends who swear by it—and while I found it relaxing and enjoyable, I didn’t get any amazing results. Then again, I wasn’t going in for anything in particular, nor did I stick with it for very long (apparently you need ongoing therapy). This article by Chris Kresser (who in addition to being a nutrition expert is a licensed acupuncturist) explains the effects and benefits of acupuncture from a Western perspective; it’s worth reading if you’ve been wondering about the therapy.

Does it work for colds?

There are some studies where it seems to help against the common cold. Like this study out of Japan or this series of case studies out of Korea. Both studies indicate the need for placebo-controlled trials to truly determine the efficacy, though. In 2018 there was a published “protocol” for just such a study, but as far as I can tell the results haven’t been published.

Even if it doesn’t lessen the severity of the cold itself, I know some friends who go for acupuncture toward the end of a cold to help speed sinus drainage.

Verdict: Unknown but perhaps.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a medicinal herb native to North America, where it was traditionally used as a painkiller, laxative, and anti-microbial agent (although they didn’t know what microbes were of course). Today, it’s best known as an immune modulator that reduces symptoms of the common cold. Does it work?

A Cochrane analysis of controlled trials found no benefit against colds, but it did note that “individual prophylaxis trials consistently show positive (if non-significant) trends.”

In other words, it very well might work, but we don’t have gold standard evidence in either direction.

Verdict: Might work.

Oregano Oil

Oregano oil has a long history of traditional use in treating infectious diseases, and it has potent anti-bacterial effects against a broad range of microbes. It fights athlete’s foot. It’s broadly anti-fungal. But there simply isn’t any strong evidence that it works against the common cold.

Verdict: Not much evidence it works for colds.

Steam

Back when I was a boy, my favorite thing to do when I had clogged up nostrils was to get in a really hot shower, close all the windows and doors, and read a good book as the steam loosened up the nasal passages. It really did work, albeit not for long. If the cold virus was still present, my nose would usually clog right back up afterwards.

Verdict: Good for momentary relief of clogged nostrils, like right before bed.

Spicy Food

Spicy food probably won’t destroy a cold outright, but it can safely (and deliciously) reduce the most annoying cold symptom: stuffy noses. Capsaicin, the chili pepper component that produces a burning sensation in mammalian tissue, reduces nasal inflammation. When your nasal blood vessels are inflamed, the walls constrict; the space gets tighter and you have trouble breathing. Studies indicate that capsaicin is effective against most symptoms of nasal congestion.

Verdict: Good for stuffy noses.

Nasal Irrigation

In Sanskrit, “neti” means “nasal cleansing.” The neti pot is a exactly what it sounds like. You fill a tiny plastic kettle with warm saline water, tilt your head over a sink, and pour the water into one nostril. It flows out the other one, clearing your nasal cavity and letting you breathe again. The scientific term is “nasal irrigation,” and it really does work, albeit only against one cold symptom. But let’s face it: the worst part of a bad cold is the stuffy nose that keeps you up at night, gives you dry mouth, and makes food taste bland. Neti pottin’ can fix that right up.

Also, it’s better than antibiotics in kids with rhinosinusitis. It even improves symptoms in infants with bronchiolitis, another kind of viral infection.

Verdict: Works.

Cod Liver Oil/Fish Oil

Standard childcare practice across the world, but especially in Northern European countries, used to be a big spoonful of cod liver oil every day on your way out the door. Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin D, vitamin A, and omega-3s—all of which figure prominently in immune function. But studies of the individual nutrients in cold prevention or treatment have had unimpressive results. What might work, though, is cod liver oil.

One recent study found that while vitamin D levels or supplements had no effect on whether a person got a cold or not, the only thing that was associated with lower incidences of colds was taking cod liver oil (or even just regular fish oil) in the last 7 days. It’s not a huge effect, and it’s not necessarily causal, but it’s good enough for me to recommend it.

This is a great cod liver oil. This is a great fish oil (made by yours truly).

Verdict: Works (and is healthy otherwise, so might as well).

So, there you go: a good list of therapies, supplements, foods, and nutrients to include (or not) in your anti-cold regimen this season. If you have any suggestions, any recommendations, or questions, throw them in down below.

Thanks for reading, folks, and be well.

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References:

Quidel S, Gómez E, Bravo-soto G, Ortigoza Á. What are the effects of vitamin C on the duration and severity of the common cold?. Medwave. 2018;18(6):e7261.

Anderson TW, Suranyi G, Beaton GH. The effect on winter illness of large doses of vitamin C. Can Med Assoc J. 1974;111(1):31-6.

Hemilä H, Petrus EJ, Fitzgerald JT, Prasad A. Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016;82(5):1393-1398.

Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):182.

Hawkins J, Baker C, Cherry L, Dunne E. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2019;42:361-365.

Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Muller CE, Creasy RA, Stanilka JM, Percival SS. Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and ??-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clin Nutr. 2012;31(3):337-44.

Lissiman E, Bhasale AL, Cohen M. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(11):CD006206.

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Truvani’s new immune-supporting supplement is here and it’s called Under The Weather

When I was a kid, my mom used to make a special tea for me whenever I was feeling “under the weather”.

It wasn’t like any normal tea that you’d buy at the grocery store. It was more like an elixir because it was filled with many different herbs that she’d pick up from the Indian market.

It felt so soothing to drink and always made me feel better. But even though she’d make her tea with all the love in the world, I didn’t truly appreciate it until I started learning about the ingredients in my food. 

You see, some of the ingredients she used like ginger are remarkable ingredients that have been used for centuries to support overall wellness.

This got me thinking…

While I’d love to make homemade elixirs with fresh ingredients from the farmers market, I’m a working mom and sometimes I just don’t have the time.

This is why I’m happy to introduce you to our newest product at Truvani: Under The Weather

It is made with a blend of organic berries, herbs, and roots that support your immune system, which we can all use this time of year!

This is important even if you’re eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise and sleep. Because if you’re like me, even with the best intentions things don’t always go according to plan…

Work. Travel. Family. Holidays. Weather Changes.

These things pull us out of routine, and also take a toll on our immune system.

That’s why I take this supplement at the first sign of feeling ‘not myself’ and also during seasonal changes, when I travel, or when life feels extra stressful. “Under The Weather” is like having an abundant garden of botanicals used for centuries in an easy-to-swallow tablet.

When you look at the ingredient label, you’ll see how remarkable it is. First, you’ll notice what we DON’T include in the product…

You won’t find Synthetic Vitamins, Artificial Flavors, “Natural” Flavors, Artificial Colors or Preservatives. We keep it simple.

Second, you’ll notice it’s made with nutrient-dense ingredients…

Some companies blend together many different superfoods – and then lace their products with synthetic vitamins and minerals to make it appear more nutrient-dense on the label. These supplements are just a sprinkle of this and a sprinkle of that without enough of anything to be effective. In reality, much of the nutrition doesn’t actually come from the fruits and vegetables in the product… it comes from the synthetic vitamins and minerals that are added to the product.

We don’t do that at Truvani. We keep it simple and use nutrient-dense, real food ingredients.

We set out to create a properly dosed immune-supporting botanical blend with research-backed ingredients… all in tablet form.

It wasn’t easy – but we finally did it.

So, click here to learn more about “Under The Weather” and how it can help you.

I look forward to hearing what you think.

Xo,

Vani

P.S. As a thank you for giving Truvani’s new Under The Weather Immune Supporting Supplement a try in your health routine…

You’ll receive a brand new, digital guide complete with 5 delicious, immune supporting recipes.

And just in time for the hectic holidays!

Head here to snag yours. 

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10 Healthy Packaged Foods For Kids

Ideally Birch + Mazen eat lots of fresh real foods. Fresh fruits, whole grains, dairy, vegetables (I try!), proteins. I give hem both whole foods and mixed foods leftovers from our dinners. I always try to use up the fresh foods before reaching for freezer or pantry backups. First because I want to use up what could spoil but second because I believe fresh food is best. That said, sometimes the fresh food is running low and the kids still have to be fed! These are 10 healthy packaged foods for kids that I rely on when my fridge is looking bare.

Healthy Packaged Foods For Kids

1 + 2 // Frozen waffles and whole wheat mini pancakes.

Birch often has these for breakfast on days when I don’t have a baked good (like oatmeal cookies or muffins!) prepared and/or we’re low on bread for toast. He LOVES them both!

3 // Frozen Spinach Pizza

This has been a staple for Mazen for years when I need a kid dinner like when we have a babysitter. I love that it has spinach and is single serving (no leftovers) and M is thrilled any night he gets to have one. I think Birch is almost ready to try it himself in tiny cut-up bites. (Warning: it does give kids garlic breath!)

4 // Chicken nuggets.

Fact: This is either the first or second time in my life my freezer has had chicken nuggets in it! Not because I am holier than thou but because Mazen has just never been a big nugget eater. And I haven’t found one I like! A friend recommended this brand to me and it has some pureed veggies and whole grains for a little boost. I cook these in the microwave for Birch if we need a fast lunch protein.

5 // Ready Pasta

I found this at Wegmans (most of the foods in this post are from Whole Foods). It’s just pre-cooked and vacuum packed pasta that you heat in the microwave. It was kind of amazing how fast the pasta was ready with not a dish to do! I added butter and parmesan and will also try pesto soon.

6 // Canned Salmon

I can’t say that Birch LOVES it, but it’s been nice to flake onto his tray, especially if I’m making a little salmon salad for myself!

7-8 // Freeze Dried Fruits + Veg

Another tip from a friend are freeze dried fruits. I’ve always loved these pea pods for Mazen, and Birch is just old enough to eat them. I also love those peanut butter bombas from Whole Foods. We also do fruit cups with soft pears or peaches if we’re out of fresh fruit.

9 // Soft Bars

“Nutrigrain” style for Birch because he’s not quite ready for nuts. These are good in a pinch for a snack or on the go.

10 // Pouches

Of course – the toddler staple. Birch can crunch one in less than one minute. These are also a our go-to if I’m eating lunch or dinner away from home and want to make sure I have something he can eat. (Say, if we’re going to a party where I’ll find some finger foods). He eats at least one pouch a day.

Please share some of your favorites!

I find that mom-to-mom recommendations are the best way to get more ideas!

More Posts On Feeding Kids

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