Zinc fights the common cold?

Recent research has highlighted how supplementing with zinc can help fight off colds and flu. Zinc is a powerful immune boosting supplement that stops the multiplication of viruses – but have we finally found a cure for the common cold?

A closer look showed that zinc supplementation shortened the duration of a cold by 1-2 days. A small but significant amount of time. Maybe if deficiencies were corrected earlier the duration of the illness would be shorter still or perhaps the cold wouldn’t take hold at all.

Zinc deficiency is common

Many individuals are deficient in zinc and tell-tale signs include reflux, morning nausea, stretch marks and poor immune function. However, to think that one nutrient alone could be the cure-all for the common cold is a bit hopeful. This approach smacks of the ‘pill for an ill’ mentality we have all been groomed into following. Don’t get me wrong, I know all too well the effects of zinc deficiency on health and the power of it as a nutrient, but I don’t think it is going to single-handedly stop us from getting sick.

Most people have more than one nutrient imbalances and supplementing one nutrient can be to the detriment of others. Zinc supplementation needs to be balanced with an individual’s need for competing nutrients such as iron and magnesium.

What about other factors?

What’s more, we are completely disregarding the role of antioxidants in keeping cold symptoms at bay. Surely we cannot neglect the role of vitamin D in keeping the immune system chugging along nicely. With vitamin D deficiency approaching epidemic proportions in the UK I’m surprised that this isn’t  being investigated further. It is at this time of year when our stores from the summer become depleted and this is also the time of year when colds stop people in their tracks – this is not a coincidence I assure you. Vegans and those who are exposed to little sunlight, or keep themselves covered up are most at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Testing is simple and topping levels up is easy.

Not forgetting stress.

But there are other influences on our immune system too. It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the stress weakens the immune system. Nutrients that support the bodies stress response will also help fight off viruses. Not to mention the importance of recuperation and a good night’s sleep. There are other factors that put  ‘stress’ on the body from underlying infections, chronic inflammation to food intolerances. All might predispose you to lingering illness.

And our gut bacteria..

And lastly perhaps the biggest influence on our health is that which has been at best neglected (by us) and at worse decimated (by antibiotics) – our gut bacteria. With the majority of our immune system in our gut it is our biggest defence against illness. It also has a huge affect on our mental and physical health. As we enter the post-antibiotic era we will realise just how important our gut flora are in preventing illness and hopefully probiotic supplements and the right diet will become part of a programme of treatment for the sick.

Zinc is a super powerful, effective mineral and is often deficient – but it is rarely the only factor in health and illness. Trying to find that one nutrient that will nourish your immune system is futile. Nutrients work in synergy and our bodies systems interact with each other. When one is under functioning others will be impacted. Supporting your health by finding out what nutrition protocol works for you as an individual is the best approach.

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