by Serenity Aberdour, ND
Cold season is here, and people are talking about natural approaches to reduce risk for catching a cold, or at least improve recovery time. One of the old standbys for this season of sneezes and sniffles is vitamin C.
Vitamin C has long been thought to support the body and immune system, and although there has been controversy over this for decades, there is now evidence to support the efficacy of this vitamin in helping those of us who are under stress to reduce risk for the common cold.
An updated review published in July 2007 concluded that for the average person, taking vitamin C as a preventive measure offers a slight reduction in the duration of cold symptoms, when compared to placebo. For athletes (such as skiers or marathon runners), vitamin C supplementation may cut the risk of the common cold in half. The same was found for soldiers training in very cold temperatures. What do these two groups have in common? Stress–particularly the physical kind–and plenty of it.
Stop a Cold in Its Tracks
As a result, I often recommend vitamin C supplements to those who are leading very active lives, especially if they are training for an athletic event of some kind. However, I also recommend vitamin C for those who are under a lot of stress of other kinds, whether it be long hours working for a demanding boss or cramming for exams. There have not been any studies looking specifically at the use of vitamin C in these kinds of stressed-out individuals; with that said, to the body’s immune system, stress is stress, and the effects of stress, whether physical, mental, or emotional, are similar.
So, boosting your vitamin C intake in times of stress makes sense to me, and I have seen good results with it in my practice, particularly for those who seem to catch every cold that goes around.
Where to Get Your C?
When looking for more C, a lot of people reach for the OJ. But there are other sources of vitamin C, and I encourage people to reach instead for veggies such as broccoli, bell peppers, and kale–all great sources of vitamin C plus many other important nutrients, including magnesium and vitamin K.
If your diet during times of stress is richer in convenience foods than it is in kale and peppers, or if you want to make sure you are getting the higher doses of C used in studies, consider a vitamin C supplement. I recommend one that is nonacidic, making it less likely to upset sensitive stomachs.
About the Author
Serenity Aberdour, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Vancouver.