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Do I need a supplement to get me through flu season?

It's that time of year again. There's a cough and a sneeze around every corner. Some of us are more prone to spending Winter sick, while others sail through, and the question I get asked the most at this time of year is "should I take a supplement?"

The short answer is "no, you do not need a supplement". For the most part, supplements make for expensive urine as the vast majority of vitamins that we need are water soluble, which means that anything we eat in excess is excreted by our bodies. That's why we need to eat foods containing vitamins regularly.

Being really specific now, the main supplements that I get asked about are vitamin C, and very occasionally Zinc. The truth of the matter is, that neither of these or any other supplements will prevent you from catching a cold. Our immune system is a complicated group of chemicals and cells that are impacted by our diet, our gut health, the amount of sleep we are getting and a plethora of other factors, many of which we probably don't yet understand.

There is a small amount of evidence that vitamin C can shorten the duration and severity of symptoms of your cold but not sufficiently so that I'd recommend a supplement. If you really want to do something to fight that cold, make sure you include a variety of foods in your diet that are high in vitamin C. Lemons, oranges and mandarins being the most obvious ones, but there are plenty of other sources like kiwi fruit or strawberries.

There's a little favourite concoction in my household if we do get sick, that I make. It's possibly the only time I ever make a juice, but you have to drink it straight away because the longer it sits the less vitamin C it has in it by the time you drink it:

Mix together:

  • juice of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp manuka honest (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
  • a pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger

I can't promise it will cure your cold, but I'd still choose it over a supplement.


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