Health Team

Produce aisle may provide better cold, flu remedies than pharmacy

Posted February 28

During cold and flu season, many people search the pharmacy aisles for help, but some remedies work better than others.

WRAL Health Team's Dr. Allen Mask says many patients will see a doctor with over-the-counter supplements, such as Airborne, Cold Calm or Emergen-C, and want to know if these products are effective in warding off the flu or the cold virus. Some of the supplements contain hefty amounts of Vitamin C.

A 2013 review of 29 trials showed a small but significant 8 percent reduction in the duration of cold symptoms in adults who took at least 200mg daily of vitamin C supplements on a regular basis. But Vitamin C given after the onset of illness did not reduce symptom duration or severity.

Zinc sulfate lozenges and syrup may reduce cold symptom severity. However, because of the uncertain benefits and potential toxins, they are best avoided, Mask said.

Studies on the dietary supplement Echinacea are mixed. The extracts do seem to have an effect on the immune system, but it's unclear how much it helps: Two studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine did not find them effective in adults or children.

There is no evidence to support the use of antibiotics, antihistamines or vitamins and herbal remedies in the treatment of the flu or the common cold.

Antibiotic treatments cause more harm than benefit.

No vitamin or herbal product has been shown to conclusively impact the incidence of the flu or the common cold. Instead, Mask recommends drinking plenty of fluids, getting rest and keeping good nutrition.

Saline nasal sprays may help nasal congestion, and medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are effective in reducing headache, achiness and fever.

Dextromethorphan has been shown to be an effective cough suppressant.

Flu vaccination, hand washing and staying six feet away from sick people greatly reduces your risk.

Fresh fruits like oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are great sources of natural vitamins and provide the good nutrition we need while we are sick. A trip to the produce department may be preferred over a trip to the pharmacy during this cold and flu season.


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  • Susan Olvera Feb 28, 9:08 p.m.
    user avatar

    Consuming more greens and cruciferous vegetables when you're sick isn't going to raise your coppers levels up. Consuming massive amounts over long periods of time may be an issue.

    Our soil is actually deficient in copper, thus so is our food supply and copper is a needed mineral. Our soil is so deficient in copper that farmers ( like myself ) need to supplement copper in their livestock's diet or they will have serious birthing or fetal issues.

    My annoyance is really that this article doesn't provide factual information. It's basically saying " get the flu shot and eat some oranges" . Why is it even an article?

  • Rod Runner Feb 28, 1:33 p.m.
    user avatar

    Plus, citrus and other fruits are tastier. So if you want people to be healthier and get some vitamins, it's probably easier to get them to eat some fruits than it is to get them to eat kale.

    Especially if they don't know enough about kale to know which to buy in the store. If you buy the wrong kind, it's not going to be great in a salad.

    Or you could just eat all of these fresh things for a balanced diet.

  • Rod Runner Feb 28, 1:30 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Kale, however, has a lot of copper in it. Copper is required in your diet for neuro development, but too much copper can cause you to be jittery, unable to calm down or sleep well.

    So if you eat Kale everyday or drink lots of it in a smoothie or something, you could be affected by this.

  • Janet Ghumri Feb 28, 12:04 p.m.
    user avatar

    Red, yellow and orange peppers offer more vitamin c than citrus fruits. Not a massive amount, but still a little easier for snacking than kale. (I would opt for both in a salad)

  • George Orwell Feb 28, 8:52 a.m.
    user avatar

    Garlic, and more garlic. Broccoli and other crucifers. Citrus fruits.

  • Susan Olvera Feb 28, 8:29 a.m.
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    A study showing higher doses of Vitamin C reduces the symptoms of Vitamin C.

    It's important to make sure you have a very good quality of Vitamin C.

  • Susan Olvera Feb 28, 8:27 a.m.
    user avatar

    Vitamin C and Produce :

  • Susan Olvera Feb 28, 8:26 a.m.
    user avatar
    Elderberry Study

  • Susan Olvera Feb 28, 8:25 a.m.
    user avatar

    Fact : Doctors receive very little nutritional training while in medical school.
    And this article illustrates this perfectly.

    Kale and other greens provide FAR more Vitamin C than berries and oranges.

    There are indeed studies that support higher doses of good quality Vitamin C as an effective measure to shorten the duration of the flu. There is an study that shows Elderberry Extract shortens the duration by of symptoms by three days.

    The title of this article is misleading - it's a veiled pharmaceutical promotion with faulty nutritional information provided by an ill-educated physician why does what for a living? Pushes pharmaceuticals.

    Get your flu shot if you want, but please educate yourself on nutrition if you want to use the produce aisle to treat your col/flu symptoms. Reach for produce in the cole crop/brassica family not an orange.