Easy Common Cold Prevention
Supplementing with a multivitamin-mineral and probiotic combination may boost the immune system and help prevent and fight the common cold, reports the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (2005;43:318–26).
The common cold is a nuisance infection caused by any one of 200 different viruses. Symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, and cough can create considerable discomfort, often leading to days of missed work or school. Colds can also cause mild fever (generally less than 101° F), muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue. Although most colds resolve within about one week, they can sometimes lead to ear infections (especially in children), chronic bronchitis, and sinusitis.
There is no known cure for the common cold. Antibiotics can’t be used to treat it, as they aren’t effective against viral infections. Analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be taken as needed for pain and fever, and saline nasal sprays may help relieve some of the congestion. Echinacea, zinc lozenges, and vitamin C may help shorten the duration of the common cold.
Previous trials have shown that supplementing with a daily multivitamin-mineral supports the immune system and may decrease the number and severity of infections in at-risk populations. Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that alter the intestinal flora. They have been shown to enhance immune function, prevent antibiotic-induced diarrhea, and relieve vaginal yeast infections. A previous study of healthy adults revealed that supplementing with probiotics might reduce the duration of the common cold and decrease the number of days with fever during a cold episode.
The new study evaluated the effect of a combination probiotic-multivitamin-mineral supplement on the duration, frequency, and symptom severity of episodes of the common cold. The study involved 462 healthy men and women, average age 36 years, who were assigned to take either a combination multivitamin-mineral and probiotic supplement one time per day for 3 or 5.5 months, or placebo. The supplement provided the recommended daily allowance of 26 different nutrients and a probiotic complex containing 500 million colony-forming units of Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
The participants kept a record of the number and duration of common cold episodes. They also noted the intensity of runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, hoarseness, cough, headache, muscle aches, red eyes, fatigue, loss of appetite, and fever. Before the study and again after 14 days, blood work was performed to assess the immune response to treatment in 120 of the participants.
Those participants receiving the combination supplement tended to have fewer colds that lasted for a shorter time than those people taking the placebo. The frequency of colds was about 14% less in the actively treated group. The occurrence and severity of fever, headaches, and red eyes associated with the common cold were significantly less in the combination supplement group. The numbers of several types of white blood cells were significantly increased in the supplement group compared with the placebo group, suggesting an immune-enhancing effect.
With the approach of cold and flu season, it may be wise to take a high-quality multivitamin-mineral and probiotic supplement to help prevent viral infections.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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