Fighting the Common Cold

In today’s post, I want to juxtapose several ideas related to fighting the common cold. In the article at the top, it says vitamins and supplements are not effective at fight colds, nor is staying out of the cold outside or making sure one’s hair is dry when going out into the cold. What has been shown to be effective is staying away from people who are sick, washing hands frequently and keeping one’s hands away from one’s face.

I find myself sad if there are methods only for avoiding colds in the first place, and not effective methods for fighting colds once you have one. Fortunately, it turns out that while it is hard to do better than rest plus a placebo in fighting a cold once you have a cold, placebos are quite powerful in fighting colds. And there are many placebos commercially available :)

One reason it would be too bad if there are only methods for avoiding colds in the first place and not methods for better fighting them once you have one is the Hygiene Hypothesis that staying away from too many germs is giving our immune systems too little to do, so that our immune systems turn against our own bodies, causing autoimmune diseases. (Another possible cause of autoimmune diseases is diet. If you or someone you care about has an autoimmune disease, you might want to take a look at my post “What Steven Gundry's Book 'The Plant Paradox' Adds to the Principles of a Low-Insulin-Index Diet.” It is easy to try the diet Steven Gundry suggests and see if it helps.)

The second article shown at the top suggests that good bacteria in the nose and throat might help ward off flu. I wonder of the same is true for the common cold. This seems quite intriguing and promising to me. What kinds of bacteria you have in your gut certainly matters for obesity and other aspects of health (see “Anthony Komaroff: The Microbiome and Risk for Obesity and Diabetes,” “Evidence that Gut Bacteria Affect the Brain,”and Biohacking: Nutrition as Technology), so why couldn’t good bacteria in other parts of the body help with other areas of health?

I grew up in an era that thought that “germs are bad.” But scientists are moving toward a view that good germs can fight bad germs. Just as there are guard dogs, there are guard germs, too. But until the day when we design guard germs, it is only germs of types that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years that are likely to be good, since it is the slow selection pressure of human hosts dying that would evolve a germ that is good to humans. We are only beginning to understand or even recognize these old friends.

Don’t miss my other posts on diet and health:

I. The Basics

II. Sugar as a Slow Poison

III. Anti-Cancer Eating

IV. Eating Tips

V. Calories In/Calories Out

VI. Sleep

VII. Wonkish

VIII. Debates about Particular Foods and about Exercise

IX. Gary Taubes

X. Twitter Discussions

XI. On My Interest in Diet and Health

See the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life" and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation." If you want to know how I got interested in diet and health and fighting obesity and a little more about my own experience with weight gain and weight loss, see “Diana Kimball: Listening Creates Possibilities and my post "A Barycentric Autobiography.