Natural cold remedies

  1. Probiotics can help beat the cold

    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.

  2. Mineral zinc can beat the common cold

    Zinc can beat the common cold

    The last thing anyone's thinking of this time of year is winter and winter colds.

    But they'll both be here soon enough -- and with them, the annual $4 billion market for cold meds.

    Some of those drugs are ineffective. Many are downright dangerous. And nearly all of them are overpriced -- especially when you consider that one of the best natural cures for the common cold can be had for just pennies a day.

    It's zinc, and a new analysis of 17 placebo-controlled clinical trials involving a combined 2,100 patients shows that these supplements can cut cold duration by an average of 1.6 days.

    That's overall.

    But adults who took doses higher than 75 mg a day got a much bigger benefit. They cut their cold duration by nearly three days -- turning an illness that could ruin a week into a few days of sniffles.

    On the downside, 17 percent of those who took zinc felt some nausea, and a little more than a third complained of the bad taste -- but I'd say it's a small price to pay for quick, cheap, and safe natural relief from winter's worst.

    And you can often prevent the nausea by taking your zinc with food.

    By the way, the study is new -- but the results are not.

    One analysis of 13 studies published last year found that 75 mg of zinc a day or more cut the duration of the cold by an average of 42 percent. And back in 2010, a Cochrane Collaboration analysis of 15 studies found that these higher doses cut cold duration in half.

    It's no fluke. Zinc is an immune system booster with natural antiviral properties, and studies have shown it can slow, or even stop, the replication of the rhinovirus that causes the cold.

    The most common form of zinc used for cold relief is a lozenge. If you choose one of these, don't bite or chew them -- let them melt in your mouth instead.

    Of course, the best way to beat the cold is to not get one in the first place -- so be sure to take immune-boosting vitamins all year long.

    I'll bring you more on that when cold season gets a little closer.

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