Cure your cold with probiotics

I'm exposed to patients sick with the cold all the time, yet I haven't had a cold myself in years.

It's not good luck, a powerful drug, or even a magic trick. In fact, you can avoid the cold yourself if you optimize your immune system so it has the power to fight off the virus that causes it.

And even if you do happen to get sick, there are 100 percent natural remedies that can do what drugs cannot, reducing the symptoms so you're not as miserable and shortening the length so you're back on your feet as quickly as possible.

One new study even finds that a dose of friendly gut bacteria can help give your immune system the boost it needs to beat the coughs and sniffles.

Researchers gave 198 college students 1 billion colony-forming units each of two powerful probiotics in powder form, or a placebo, and then tracked both the duration and severity of their colds.

Those who got the placebo had the typical cold: Six days of coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and a nose that runs like it's training for a marathon.

Those who got the real probiotic had an average cold length of just four days as well as a 34 percent reduction in severity of the symptoms.

It's worth noting that the company that makes this particular probiotic blend also sponsored the study -- an obvious conflict of interest. However, it doesn't surprise me in the least that probiotics could help beat the common cold, since gut bacteria can play a critical role in overall immune health and other studies have shown that probiotics prevent colds in kids.

But don't rely on probiotics alone. Instead, make sure your cold-beating strategy is centered around more proven remedies -- and I don't mean NyQuil.

Start with zinc. One study I told you about over the summer found that zinc lozenges can shorten cold duration by 1.6 days -- and some studies have found they can actually cut cold duration in half.

In addition, don't forget the best natural immune boosters around -- vitamin D, which has shown to help beat the common cold and even the flu, as well as the old standby, vitamin C.

They may not cure the cold. But together, they're the next best thing.