As we trudge through winter we can be beset by sniffles, coughs, sneezing and the muscle weakness and fatigue that characterises cold viruses and the milder forms of flu.
At best these symptoms are annoying and at worst can result in lost hours of work, sleepless nights and generally feeling like rubbish!
Why we get more colds and flu in winter is a matter of debate and could be due to one or more factors including:
- Reduced sun exposure (leading to lowered Vitamin D levels—a key immune regulator…more about that soon!)
- Being indoors and in close proximity to others
- A ‘stress’ type reaction to lowered temperatures, and greater transfer of viruses due to colder, drier air
But irrespective of what’s causing it, we have all experienced those dreary days of winter colds and flu. There is, as yet, no ‘cure’ for the common cold. In fact, many of the treatments that are used, such as cough syrups, are likely to be little better than placebo, and while there are many natural treatments touted as effective, many do not have enough evidence to warrant lightening your wallet. Some though have good evidence to back their use for colds and flu.
Here is a rundown of the top supplements for boosting winter wellness and immunity.
Vitamin D is an important immune modulator. Vitamin D is usually created within the body in response to sun exposure. As this is much lower in winter we may become functionally deficient in this critical vitamin.
The old wives’ tale that Vitamin C cures or prevents the common cold is probably false…BUT a Cochrane Database Review (the gold standard of scientific reviews) has shown than Vitamin C reduces the duration and severity of colds and flu-like viruses, especially for athletes and others that are under appreciable levels of stress.1 The key finding from the accumulated evidence of these studies is that you need to take a regular, daily dose of Vitamin C to get the best effects, not simply take Vitamin C when you have a cold, or feel one coming on.
Zinc is also a commonly used supplement during illness. It is also one of the few supplements with good data backing its use. Taking zinc as soon as you start to get symptoms has been shown to also reduce duration and severity of the common cold.2 Note that zinc can be toxic if consumed in excess so check with your health practitioner if you plan to use more than the recommended daily amount. Zinc is commonly lacking in the diet,3 and as a critical nutrient for immune function, taking a regular supportive multi-nutrient that include zinc is likely to be a good idea for general health, immunity and winter wellness.
A majority of studies show that Echinacea shortens the duration of a cold if you take it when symptoms are present. A smaller (but not statistically significant) effect is observed for the prevention of colds with nearly all nearly all prevention trials pointing in the direction of (very) small preventive effects.4
Probiotics reduce episodes and duration of upper respiratory infections like common colds.5
Several studies have demonstrated a benefit from Garlic for prevention of common colds but a review of these RCTs suggested a relatively poor quality of evidence. The one trial included for review showed that Garlic can help to prevent common colds but more evidence to prove this is needed.6
Randomised controlled trials have also suggested a potential use for prevention and treatment of colds for: Andrographis, Eleutherococcus and Ginseng.7
Taking a base multi-nutrient formula like Nuzest Good Green Stuff helps to cover your nutrient bases on a daily basis and includes immune supporting nutrients Vitamin C, D and Zinc along with supportive herbs such as Ginger. Use Good Green Stuff as your immune supporting base and if you need additional support check with a qualified and registered practitioner to fine-tune your nutrition and supplement regime to meet your specific needs.
- Hemila H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2013;1:CD000980.
- Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2013;6:CD001364.
- Health. Mo. New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington: 2013.
- Karsch-Völk M, Barrett B, Linde K. Echinacea for Preventing and Treating the Common Cold. JAMA. 2015;313(6):618-9.
- Hao Q, Dong BR, Wu T. Probiotics for preventing acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015(2).
- Lissiman E, Bhasale AL, Cohen M. Garlic for the common cold. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2012(3):Cd006206.
- Natural and Alternative Therapies Database [Internet]. 2013.