New research shows how zinc helps fight infections, including the common cold. Are you getting enough?
Many of us (myself included!) approach cold and flu season with a steely attitude and a laundry list of germ-fighting and immune-boosting strategies, including washing our hands obsessively; not touching our eyes, nose, and mouth; getting a enough sleep; trying to stay away from sick coworkers and friends; knocking on wood (this is especially effective); and of course—taking immune-boosting supplements.
One of these supplements is zinc, a hearty mineral that does a lot of good for our bodies. And now a new study is showing how effective it is for fighting infection.
The new study found that zinc halts inflammation in an immune response and helps to balance the response. If the body is low in zinc, inflammation will be increased and can become out of control. Zinc wastes no time in the body and heads straight to the source—into the cells that are first-responders against infection.
Getting enough zinc
Food sources of zinc include oysters, crab, meat, miso, yogurt, soybeans, and even baked beans. Zinc supplements are also available at health food stores, and many people take zinc lozenges at the onset of a cold. A 2011 study found that zinc lozenges (depending on their dosage and composition, of course) may help reduce the severity and duration of the common cold by up to 40 percent.
However, keep in mind that it is possible to get too much zinc, so check with a health care practitioner to make sure supplements are right for you.
And while zinc may indeed by a useful tool in fighting infection, we also shouldn’t stop our other cold-preventive strategies such as getting enough sleep and washing our hands (except, maybe, for knocking on wood).
Check out our recent article “Zinc” for more info.