According to nutritional therapy, eating certain foods and taking supplements can mean the difference between catching a lot of colds and few colds, as well as between colds that drag on and colds that disappear quickly.
A sound diet does go a long way toward fostering a strong immune system that can stand up to cold viruses. This sound diet means cutting down on sugars, fats, and alcohol and loading up on fresh vegetables, whole grains, easy-to-digest proteins, and essential fatty acids. Milk and dairy products should also be eliminated from the diet, either during a cold or year-round. They can trigger the body's production of mucus, compounding the problems of a cold.
After a cold has started, large doses of vitamin C can ease the symptoms and may even shorten the sickness. Numerous studies have proved this effect, which is usually attributed to the vitamin's antioxidant properties. Whether vitamin C can actually prevent colds is still being debated.
Zinc may also speed up the recovery from a cold, perhaps by blocking viruses from multiplying. Several studies have illustrated this effect: A group of Texas researchers, for example, compared the effectiveness of zinc gluconate lozenges to a placebo. After seven days of treatment, 86 percent of the patients who took the zinc got rid of their cold symptoms. Less than half of the patients who took the placebo were symptom free.
A common prescription is to take high doses of vitamin C each day until the cold symptoms go away, with doses spaced out during the day so excess vitamin is not simply eliminated in the urine. (Check with your practitioner, however, as high doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhea.) Eating oranges is helpful, but stay away from juices that contain a lot of sugar.