Tuesday, January 15, 2008

C'mon-Fight That Cold!

You already know how to catch a cold. Now learn how to knock one out. Flip through the Old Farmer's Almanac and you'll see how utterly pathetic we've been in our battle against the common cold. Take this strategy employed by American colonists: "(They) pared orange peels, rolled them up inside out, and stuffed them into the nostrils."Using rinds against the rhinovirus sounds brilliant compared with the device patented by Norman Lake in 1977 -- a modified clothespin. As the Almanac tells it, "the FDA told Lake he could not advertise his device as a cold cure but only as a way of 'keeping foreign material out of the nose.'"Not exactly our best moments. But the next cold season is going to be different. Our tactics? Speed and science. We've assembled the latest research on how to arm your immune system so it'll strike at the first tickle in the throat. Or immediately after a suspicious double sneeze. Or right after that vague, blah feeling begins creeping in. In the past we've always allowed the cold virus to establish a beachhead in our bodies before fighting back. This time, the second it lands, we hit and we hit hard.
STRATEGY #1: EAT THE ANTIVIRAL BREAKFAST Woke up sick and tired? Research shows that the right morning meal can help quash the cold virus. In a recent study from the Netherlands, researchers analyzed the impact that consuming a 1,200-calorie breakfast has on a man's immune system, versus eating nothing at all. They found that eating big and eating early increased blood levels of gamma interferon, a natural antiviral agent, by 450 percent. (Going hungry actually caused a 17 percent decrease.) More research is needed to determine if fewer calories will have a similar effect, but in the meantime, shoot for 1,200 every morning until your cold symptoms disappear. Not, however, 1,200 calories of pancake syrup. Instead, hit your quota by eating a bowl of Kellogg's Raisin Bran (with 2 percent milk), a glass of orange juice, and a toasted English muffin with peanut butter and grape jelly, followed by a Stonyfield Farm--brand smoothie.

STRATEGY #2: STRESS OUT YOUR SYSTEM If you get attacked at the office, strike back with stress. Expose yourself to short-term stress, the kind you have some control over, and you'll supercharge your immune system. Stress response is a normal protective coping mechanism, The body prepares itself for potential harm and activates its immune resources.To use stress as medicine, taking on a small extra project at work or helping a coworker with a task. It shouldn't take longer than a day or half a day. If the stress response is continuous, then the immune system will be suppressed. Already swamped? Play a video game when you get home; Bosch found that Xbox stress can also boost SIgA levels.

STRATEGY #3: BREW THE COLD-VIRUS KILLER Swap your 3 p.m. coffee for a caffeine-toting cold buster: green tea. When Canadian researchers added green tea to lab samples of the adenovirus (one of the bugs responsible for colds), they found that it stopped the virus from replicating. All the credit goes to EGCG, a chemical compound found in certain kinds of tea, but in the highest concentrations in green tea. Start pumping green tea into your bloodstream at the first sign of a cold and you should be able to stop the advance of the adenovirus. The best brand to brew? Tetley; it was one of the most effective in Weber's study. Note: To brew the maximum amount of EGCG, boil a mug of water in the microwave, toss in a tea bag, and let it steep for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey.

STRATEGY #4: RECHARGE YOUR IMMUNE RESPONSEWe love Carson, but call it a night. if the amount of sleep you're logging decreases by 40 percent or more (for instance, you sleep 4 hours instead of the usual 7), the effectiveness of your immune system will decline by 50 percent. And for the immune system to operate at full strength, you'll need to sleep a straight 8, the amount shown to produce the highest levels of "natural killer cells," which attack viruses. But don't knock yourself out with alcohol, including alcohol-spiked cold medicines like NyQuil. A single dose of alcohol impairs your sleep, Instead, wear light clothing--shorts and a T-shirt--during your waking hours at home; Japanese researchers found that this adjusts a person's core body temperature enough to improve sleep quality and boost the immune response.

STRATEGY #5: WORK OUT THE WHITE BLOOD CELLS It's harder to hit a moving target, and that goes for a cold virus that's throwing punches, too. In a recent University of Massachusetts study of 547 people, researchers found that the most physically active people had 25 percent fewer upper-respiratory infections over the course of a year than did the couch potatoes. Researchers believe that exercise may strengthen immune function, in part by increasing the body's production of white blood cells. If you exercise, you should see two benefits: One, you'll have a reduced risk of catching a cold, and two, if you're unlucky enough to get a cold, you should have it for a shorter period of time, That said, it is possible to sweat yourself sick. (Marathon runners are at a greater risk of upper-respiratory infections after a race.) So do this: Aim for 60 to 90 minutes of moderate activity daily, with walking counting just as much as weight training.
THE PREVENT DEFENSE: There are two ways we commonly catch a cold: by unconsciously putting our mitts in our noses or mouths or by sucking in the germs from someone else's sneeze or cough. Compulsive hand washing takes care of the first avenue of infection, but what about the airborne attack? Do the obvious--hold your breath for as long as you can after someone sneezes or coughs near you, . Think of germ-laden air as colored smoke, If you hold your nose, the colored smoke won't go in.

1 comment:

The All Seeing Eye said...

For a brand new blog, you sure have a whole lot of helpful advice...

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