The common cold is a viral infection that primarily affects the nose and throat. It is a highly contagious illness that is caused by various strains of viruses, most commonly the rhinovirus [I] [ii] [iii]. Read our other articles: Sore Throat, Viral Infection, Chest Infection, Respiratory Tract Infections
At some point, we have all experienced the common cold, but some of us seem more prone to picking up a cold than others. What can we do to increase our defences?
Sleep: ensuring we are getting enough sleep will give the body the best chance of being able to fight off infections. Our body’s natural circadian rhythm has an in-built time for optimal immune function. If we interrupt our circadian rhythm, we also interrupt our immune cells operating at their best. Additionally, being ‘under-slept’ means we are more likely to lean on other unhealthy habits like caffeine and sugar fixes which in turn can disrupt the immune system. There are lots of things we can do to support our natural sleep cycle. Reducing exposure to screens 2 hours before bed, getting into the rhythm of a bedtime routine and supplemental support like 5-HTP and magnesium which both play a role in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin [iv]. Read our article on sleep here.
Tip: Ask one of our qualified in-store nutritional therapists for advice on how supplements can support your sleep.
Supplements and products to try to aid sleep:
Stress: Stress can cause havoc on our immune systems. If we are operating in our sympathetic nervous system, or ‘fight or flight’ our bodies will prioritise protecting us from the immediate threat that it is detecting. When we live permanently in this state, much of the important maintenance work to keep us healthy is de-prioritised, leaving us vulnerable to catching an infection [v]. Read our article on stress here.
Tip: Simple breathing exercises, especially box breathing has been shown to help switch us from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) into rest and digest (parasympathetic)
Supplements and products to try to aid stress:
Vitamin C: Vitamin C supports both the body’s innate and adaptive immunity through a variety of cellular functions. It is also a powerful antioxidant. High strength vitamin C can be very effective against colds, but there are plenty of everyday foods which are great sources: citrus fruit and their juice, kiwis, green vegetables, peppers, broccoli, red cabbage, strawberries, papaya and mango[vi]. Vitamin C 500mg + Zinc
Tip: Start your day with the juice of 1/2 lemon in water to re-hydrate with a natural dose of vitamin C! (Use a straw to protect your teeth)
Garlic: The active element of garlic known for its immune function is Allicin which is also responsible for the distinctive garlicky smell. Research has shown that daily garlic supplementation can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing a cold. Allicin is also thought to support our gut function via its prebiotic properties and microbiome support. As a large number of our immune cells are in our gut, supporting gut health is a crucial part of overall immune system health[vii]. Allicin Max
Tip: Use a mixture of garlic, onion and ginger as the base for immune boosting sauces.
Beta Glucans: These support the balance of our immune defences by acting as immunomodulators. They work with the immune cells macrophages and natural killer cells. Research has shown them to reduce upper respiratory tract infections like cold and flu in those who are vulnerable. They are gaining popularity as an adjunct therapy to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Beta glucans are found in the fungal cell wall of mushrooms, especially lesser-known medical grade mushrooms like Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, they can also be found in the prebiotic fibre of oats, barley, seaweed [viii]. PS-7 Mushroom Formula - Organic Powder
Tip: Supermarket oyster and UK forest mushrooms can also be a great source of Beta Glucans to incorporate into your diet. Extra tip: keep your mushrooms out on the counter as they will continue to create vitamin D if exposed to light.
Black Seed: Black or Nigella seed has been used in Asian and Middle Eastern medicine for generations. Studies are now catching up with this ancient wisdom and showing that black seed oil can enhance the action of various white blood cells. Other research suggests that black seed oil can reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals which can lead to disease[ix]. Black Seed 400mg - Organic
Tip: Nigella seeds are available in most spice aisles, add a teaspoon over roasted veg for a spicy kick
Echinacea: this traditional plant has long been used as a tool to fight infection caused by bacteria and viruses by stimulating the white blood cells. It also has powerful antioxidant properties. There are many forms of echinacea including: tinctures, extracts, capsules and tea[x]. Echinacea Elderberry Extract
[I] Lavinder, J.J., Ippolito, G.C. Boosted immunity to the common cold might protect children from COVID-19. Nat Immunol 23, 8–10 (2022).
[ii] Pappas DE. The Common Cold. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 2018:199–202.e1.
[iii] The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 195, Issue 6, 15 March 2007, Pages 765–766
[iv] Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan;463(1):121-37. doi: 10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0. Epub 2011 Nov 10. PMID: 22071480; PMCID: PMC3256323.
[v] Segerstrom SC, Miller GE. Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychol Bull. 2004 Jul;130(4):601-30.
[vi] Bucher A, White N. Vitamin C in the Prevention and Treatment of the Common Cold. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016 Feb 9;10(3):181-183.
[vii] Lissiman E, Bhasale AL, Cohen M. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Nov 11;2014(11):CD006206.
[viii] Nobunao Ikewaki, Masaru Iwasaki, Gene Kurosawa, Kosagi-Sharaf Rao, Johant Lakey-Beitia, Senthilkumar Preethy & Samuel JK Abraham. (2021) β-glucans: wide-spectrum immune-balancing food-supplement-based enteric (β-WIFE) vaccine adjuvant approach to COVID-19. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 17:8, pages 2808-2813.
[ix] Tavakkoli A, Mahdian V, Razavi BM, Hosseinzadeh H. Review on Clinical Trials of Black Seed (Nigella sativa ) and Its Active Constituent, Thymoquinone. J Pharmacopuncture. 2017 Sep;20(3):179-193. doi: 10.3831/KPI.2017.20.021. Epub 2017 Sep 30. PMID: 30087794; PMCID: PMC5633670.
[x] Karsch-Völk M, Barrett B, Kiefer D, Bauer R, Ardjomand-Woelkart K, Linde K. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Feb 20;2014(2):CD000530.
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.