Immune system

How do zinc and vitamin C help to lower the risk of a cold?

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Our immune system is constantly busy, keeping away intruders like viruses, bacteria and other germs. In the cold months of the year, when everybody is closer together and more likely to stay inside, our immune system is especially challenged. The dry heated air dries up our mucous membranes and if a sneeze does not land on the handkerchief, the cold viruses have an easy living. In this case, the immune system needs our full support. Find out how zinc and vitamin C help to support the normal function of the immune system (especially during the flu season).

How to reduce the chances of getting a cold in time

Every year in Germany, the average adult must expect to endure the flu from two to four times, and children even up to twelve times. Therefore a certain risk level is always present. Through smear- and droplet-infections, rhinoviruses spread quickly from one host to another. Within just 24 hours, they reproduce quickly in the nose and throat that cold symptoms (e.g. sore throat, coughing, runny nose) set in and spread to people nearby. The average cold is over after 7.4 days, but sometimes it takes up to 14 days. Since there are numerous cold viruses that reproduce very quickly and mutate, there are often veritable flu seasons responsible for many sick notices and missed days at work and in schools. Especially in already weakened or more susceptible persons, the flu can lead to more serious secondary diseases such as middle ear infections or sinusitis. In this case, quick action or better preventive measures should be taken to strengthen the immune system and to resist the flu every time it strikes.

High doses of zinc shorten colds and make them less intense

Several studies have shown that zinc can be successfully used to prevent and treat colds. The number of colds that actually broke out decreased significantly among the subjects. Even the probability that an existing cold would last seven days becomes very low. In addition, the cold symptoms among the subjects were a lot milder. However, to benefit, high zinc doses must be taken immediately after the first cold symptoms appear, and no later than 24 hours after the cold has started.

The correct zinc compound is also important, as this effect could be seen only when high doses of organic zinc compounds, that exceeded 75 mg, were taken. Organic zinc compounds are readily biologically available and can be specifically taken in consultation with your physician when zinc deficiency is detected.

Together with other biofactors, zinc and vitamin C help us to have a healthy immune system and to reduce the risk of disease. 

This is how zinc can help you during a cold

Zinc is effective in fighting colds because it prevents the adherence of cold viruses to the host's cells in the nasal mucosa – it simply drives them out due to the fact that it occupies their docking location. Additionally, it inhibits the growth and stops the reproduction of these germs. Finally, zinc helps to alleviate the possible inflammation reactions caused by a cold because it prevents the release of histamine and stops the prostaglandin metabolism. Thus, the nasal mucosa does not swell as much, allowing the person to breathe easier. Owing to these findings, zinc should be taken in the form of a lozenge or gurgled as solution from an effervescent tablet before being swallowed. Although many complain of the taste, this is the only way that zinc can have a direct effect on the mucous membranes, fighting the viruses where they are instead of having to take the detour through the digestive tract.

Vitamin C helps to lower the chances of catching a cold

A balanced vitamin C level (a good supply of vitamin C) contributes to the healthy function of the immune system. Once the cold viruses have reached our mucous membranes, vitamin C becomes active in various places. It induces the formation of white blood cells, adheres to free radicals, neutralizing them and regenerating more of the body's own antioxidants. In this way, it keeps our immune system going and reduces oxidative stress. When a cold starts, the vitamin C level occasionally falls drastically owing to the increased expenditure. If this happens, it is advisable to take high doses of vitamin C quickly to support our body’s defense system that it is not brought down to its knees.

As little as two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice a day (1,000-2,000 mg of vitamin C) help us to have a healthy immune system. This was shown by some studies, in which a balanced vitamin C level could shorten the duration of a cold somewhat and alleviated symptoms. If you notice the first signs of a cold, it is therefore a good idea to fill up the vitamin C reservoir immediately and not to give up until you have hopefully recovered quickly from the cold.

Lowering the risks of catching a cold with zinc and vitamin C

To lower the risk of catching a cold, it is advisable to pay attention to the vitamin C and zinc balance, and not only during the flu season. The German Nutrition Society recommends healthy adults a daily intake of at least 7 to 10 mg of zinc and 95 to 110 mg of vitamin C, depending on gender, to satisfy the normal need. If there is no illness or another acute deficiency situation, this can be accomplished simply by a balanced diet. Zinc is found, for example, in cheese, peanuts, and oatmeal, whereas vitamin C is found in products like citrus, onions or bell peppers, as well as in various berries. Together with other biofactors, zinc and vitamin C help us to have a healthy immune system and to reduce the risk of disease. 

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