Beating the Common Cold
By Dale Peterson, MD – Building Health
Colds are the “bread and butter” of a general medical practice. I remember when the clangor of school bells and the cadence of marching drums signaled not only the start of a new school year but a surge in office visits that would continue throughout the fall, winter and well into spring.
When patients presented with cold symptoms in the fall I knew the odds were great that I would be seeing them on several more occasions before the seasonal viruses retreated and the summer break began. Things changed, however, when I began teaching people how to stay well. Suddenly I found myself seeing individuals not three or four times each cold and flu season, but once or not at all.
The common cold is, indeed, common. It is estimated that over 500,000,000 cold episodes occur in the United States each year. That averages out to 2.5 colds for each person. The economic impact is enormous.
The impact of cold viruses in our society is not an indication of their great potency. It simply demonstrates that people who make poor dietary choices, lack physical activity, and are profoundly deficient in basic nutrients are unable to withstand even the most trivial health challenges.
Reducing cold frequency and severity is not a difficult task. The success in my medical practice was achieved by suggesting that a few simple lifestyle precautions be taken, that a comprehensive nutritional supplement be taken on a daily basis and that vitamin A, vitamin C, and an immune stimulant such as Echinacea be added if cold symptoms appeared.
The mucous membranes that line the nose and throat are the body’s first line of defense against cold viruses. Keeping them moist by drinking enough water to keep the urine pale, humidifying the heated air, and using a saline (salt water) nasal spray if the nose begins to feel dry will allow them to do their job well.
Refined sugar has a paralyzing effect upon the body’s immune system. Seventy-five to one hundred grams of sugar, the amount found in 1 to 2 twelve ounce cans of soda, has been shown to cause a 40 to 50 % reduction in the ability of white blood cells to engulf invaders. The effect is noted within 30 minutes of ingestion, peaks in 2 hours and lasts for up to 5 hours. In contrast, eating fruits and vegetables increases the body”s resistance to infection by providing needed nutrients.
Shifting from carbonated beverages to water and from sugar-based snacks and desserts to fresh fruit is an excellent strategy for cold avoidance. Milk and similar dairy products should be limited or avoided because of their tendency to thicken nasal secretions. I have seen many infants and toddlers whose frequent colds and ear infections subsided with this single dietary restriction.
Regular and adequate rest, which I define as being able to awake without the need of an alarm, is necessary to maintain immune system function. Moderate exercise such as a brisk walk can also boost the immune system and reduce cold frequency.
Simple hand-washing has not been proven to reduce the number of colds at work or school, but using a disinfecting hand gel before eating and after using the restroom has been shown to reduce the number of colds by up to 50 percent.
Nutritional supplementation is vital. A comprehensive vitamin and mineral support should be taken daily. If there is a history of frequent colds, adding colostrum, which is an excellent immune system support, will be helpful. If a cold does occur, supplements of beta-carotene, which is a non-toxic source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and an immune system stimulant such as Echinacea will significantly reduce its severity and duration.
If you want your family to stay healthy throughout the school year, I highly recommend that you drink optimum amounts of water, use a humidifier when needed, eat sensibly, remain physically active, get adequate rest, and use appropriate nutritional supplements. If you attend school, work with or around more than six people each day, or have school-age children, use a disinfecting hand gel regularly.
Those measures should keep you from contributing your fair share to the nearly $40 billion price tag of this winter’s cold season. I hope you put your savings to good
Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health. His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges. He is the author of Building Health by Design: Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .
Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at www.drdalepeterson.com.