At the first sign of a cold, many of us are tempted to fill our shopping carts with oranges and ingredients for hearty chicken soups.
But do the foods we have trusted for generations really help us feel better? Or are their healing properties? more mythical than miraculous?
Let's see what science says.
Of all the homemade options, the chicken soup is probably the best known and most loved. Experts say that it is not a miracle cure, but it has its benefits.
"Certainly, the vapor of any hot drink is able to dissolve the nasal mucus to open the nose and blocked sinuses, providing relief for at least a few minutes," says Merlin Thomas, clinical scientist and professor of diabetes department of the University of Monash.
Many chicken soup recipes take more than an hour, but this plentiful number is ready in minutes. The trick? Chicken broiler.
A study from the 1970s examined airflow and nasal mucus in volunteers who drank cold water, hot water or chicken soup and discovered that chicken soup did the best job of moving nasal mucus. (Frankly, we do not envy scientists this mucus analysis work).
But taking a bath or a hot shower would have practically the same effect of unblocking the nose, says Professor Thomas.
On the positive side, chicken soup is not going to hurt you, and it can be comforting.
"He has some lean meat there, he has some vegetables and he's also nice and warm," says Dr. Yasmine Probst, professor of nutrition at the University of Wollongong.
"It will make you feel better inside, which is generally good for any disease."
Contrary to popular belief, chewing your way through your body weight in oranges will not prevent a cold, nor stop an existing cold.
"It's been a bit like an old-time story for many years that having enough vitamin C was a bit curative," says Dr. Probst.
When you are in the grip of a festival of misery fueled by phlegm, you may begin to feel a little desperate for any kind of relief. We explain what is most likely to help the treatments "to combat the cold."
In fact, while oranges and other foods that contain vitamin C are good for you, they should be part of a balanced diet (sorry), he explains. Getting out of breath is mostly having a balanced diet in general, as well as sleeping and getting enough exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
"All these factors work together and can help prevent diseases," says Dr. Probst.
However, if you have an actual vitamin C deficiency and are trying to work more on your regimen, look beyond the oranges: many other fruits and vegetables, such as peppers, broccoli, strawberries, mango and kale , they are even denser than the vitamin.
Your local pharmacy may have a whole aisle dedicated to vitamins and supplements, but some of these "solutions" are backed by much more evidence than others.
Here's how some of the most popular supplements qualify to fight the cold and the flu, as explained elsewhere in ABC Life.
Vitamin C: Some studies have shown that if you take this vitamin early enough in your disease, you can reduce the symptoms by up to a day and a half. But taking the supplement has not proven to have any kind of preventive effect.
Garlic: For a long time it was thought that garlic helps with the symptoms of colds and flu, but its impact on the prevention or treatment of cold symptoms is not clear.
Zinc: Similar to vitamin C, there is a small amount of evidence suggesting that zinc could reduce your cold symptoms in about a day if you take it as soon as you begin to feel the symptoms.
Echinacea: The evidence is not clear, and there are also some safety problems associated with the plant.
Hot drinks that include lemon and honey are an option for many of us when a winter illness arrives, but the evidence of its healing properties is varied.
For generations, parents have given their children a spoonful of honey at bedtime to relieve cough during the night, but how effective is it?
Dr. Probst says that honey and lemon drinks are probably popular among people with colds, mainly because of their "calming therapeutic quality".
Lemons are a source of vitamin C, but (as with the oranges above) they will not prevent or cure a cold on their own, he adds.
But there is some evidence that a spoonful of honey can reduce irritation in young throats. One study showed that a single dose of half a teaspoon of honey before going to bed decreased the cough and discomfort experienced by children and their parents.
However, you may want to limit the amount of hot honey drinks you consume.
"From the perspective of nutrition, it has a lot of sugar," says Dr. Probst.
There are some disagreements among experts on this, but it is probably a myth.
A Dutch study found that eating increased a type of immune response that fights the viruses responsible for colds. He also found that fasting stimulated an immune response that could help fight infections associated with fever.
Whether you're training for a fun race or trying to lose weight, feeling like you're getting a cold or flu can cause a dilemma.
But that 2002 study involved a small number of subjects, and other experts have questioned their findings.
"Whether or not you are feeding a cold or a hunger, the difference in the biology of a common cold is minimal," says Professor Thomas.
"In the end, most colds are fortunately short-lived and will disappear after a week, more or less."
There is also an argument that your body needs energy to fight both fevers and colds, which makes dying of hunger a bad choice in both cases.
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For some of us, there is no greater comfort than drinking a whiskey when we feel blamed, especially if it is a hot drink.
Enter: hot toddy (a night cap that includes lemon juice, honey, warm water and whiskey).
You are not at the door of death, but your throat is irritated and your nose is runny. Should you go to work? This is what the experts have to say.
Sadly, and something inevitable, experts say that alcohol is not a good option to develop immunity and fight viruses.
"Whiskey was historically called aqua vitae (the water of life) and its medicinal properties are widely recommended as a cure for all," says Professor Thomas.
"But, unfortunately, whiskey is almost unpleasant for many people." A story of small origins suggests that doctors invented "toddy" simply as a means to make whiskey enjoyable for women and children. "
There is nothing in a hot baby that directly helps a cold, says Professor Thomas, although alcohol has sedative and relaxing effects useful in low doses. The warmth of a hot toddy is also quite relaxing.
As Dr. Probst puts it: "It's similar to having a good bowl of hot soup."
. (tagsToTranslate) cold (t) flu (t) cough (t) winter (t) vitamins