When you have a cold, you'll do anything to feel better. Chicken noodle soup, orange juice . . . there are plenty of home remedies. If only there was a common remedy for the common cold?
Zinc has long been rumored to be the answer. Could this mineral be exactly what you need to put down the tissues and get back to feeling great sooner?
A Bit About Zinc
You may not give the final nutrient listed on your multivitamin much thought, but zinc is a essential mineral for overall health and wellness. In fact, zinc is utilized by more than 300 different enzymes within the body's cells to carry out their daily functions. Here are the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for zinc, according to Health Canada:
Infants -- 2 mg
Children up to 12 years -- 3 to 7 mg
13 to 18 years (males) -- 9 mg
13 to 18 years (females) -- 8 mg
Male adults -- 11 mg
Female adults -- 8 mg
Zinc can be found in certain foods, like seafood, shellfish (namely oysters), tofu, wheat germ, red meat and poultry. Zinc is typically included in all multivitamins and can be found in supplemental form on its own. Like all supplements, speak with your doctor before adding more to your routine than the RDA, especially if you're currently being treated for a medical condition. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, whether they're in their adult or teen years, will need different amounts of zinc and should consult their doctor to guarantee adequate nourishment for both mother and child.
Zinc has many listed benefits. Among them are assistance in wound healing, fertility support, growth and development and protection against damaging free radical invaders. But zinc is also widely buzzed about for strengthening the immune system. Is it true?
Zinc and Your Immune System
The common claim with zinc is that if you take it right when you start to feel sick, it can shorten the amount of time you're actually sick with a cold and make the symptoms of a cold less severe. Those symptoms typically include congestion, runny nose, sore throat and coughing. This claim has been widely researched to determine if zinc is a good recommendation for those battling a cold.
A study published in May 2012 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal evaluated 17 published trials that involved taking supplemental zinc to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold. The researchers concluded zinc was effective in this way, but called for a larger study with a larger test group was needed.
Previous American research also supports zinc as a possible remedy for a cold.
Elderly participants in a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Medicine were given 45 mg of zinc gluconate daily for 12 months to determine its effectiveness in reducing inflammation and infection. The supplementation proved effective and also produced lower oxidative stress markers and increased plasma zinc.
A 2003 overview of published evidence concluded zinc to be effective in reducing the duration of a cold and the severity of its symptoms when taken within 24 hours of the first symptom. However, the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association also stated further study was needed to determine zinc's exact function within the body that produces this effect.
In conclusion, while larger studies are needed, zinc seems to be a safe way to help improve your chances of getting over a cold sooner than later. The only reported side effects were nausea or gastrointestinal upset, but only when large doses of zinc were taken for an extended period of time.
Other Ways to Stay Well
When you have a cold or feel otherwise under the weather, it's important to take care of yourself and give your body the time it needs to heal. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Sleep as much as possible.
Stay home from work if you can to avoid spreading the virus and overexerting yourself.
Don't engage in strenuous exercise.
Gargle salt water for a sore throat.
Keep yourself warm.
Sleep with your head elevated.
Take a hot shower to allow the steam to open your sinuses.
No one likes a cold, but they can be beaten. If you're symptoms persist for an unusually long amount of time, consult your doctor.
Try taking zinc at the first sign and see what it can do for you. Pick some up at eVitamins Canada and let us know how it goes!