The Battle of the Common Cold

Posted by mcm0704 on January 31, 2011 |

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.

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