Yesterday, it was shown that exposure to cold weather may increase the risk of developing a common cold. For today, I’ll be discussing some preventive measures that can be used in the battle against this common illness.
- running/exercise — in an article published in Runner’s World magazine (Feb 2008), it was shown that doing moderte exercise for 30-75 minutes strengthened a person’s immune system, resulting to a lower occurrence of colds. However, for athletes working out longer than this or working out with more intensity, the incidence of colds increased. Why the discrepancy? According to the article, after 90 minutes of working out, the sugar stores of an athlete are depleted leading to an increase of “stress” hormones (cortisol, epinephrine) that weaken a person’s immune system. To help prevent this carbohydrate drop, it was suggested that endurance athletes should take in sports drinks before, during, and especially after working out. So for improved immunity, moderate exercise of 30-75 minutes is good for you, but if you have to go beyond that, make sure you bring along with you a sports drink and that you have to eat carbohydrates after your workout…
- Vitamin C — the role of vitamin C supplementation in preventing colds has been debated for over 60 years. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is touted to increase a person’s immunity. To settle the debate, a review of various published journals was done in 2004. A total of 30 trials, composed of 11, 350 subjects, was reviewed to determine whether ingesting a daily dose of 0.2g of vitamin C was protective. The results showed that for the general population, no benefit was noted in the prevention of colds between subjects who took vitamin C and those who did not. It was however noted that for people who exercise or are exposed to a cold environment, the intake of vitamin C provided them with some protection against colds. So for runners, a daily intake of Vitamin C of at least 200mg is advisable.
- Vitamin E and beta-carotene — these two vitamins, also anti-oxidants, were also believed to protect a person from colds. However, a study done in Finland in 2003, showed that among subjects who did heavy exercise, the intake of these two vitamins not only did not provide any protection from the common cold, they actually had an increased risk of developing a cold. So for runners who include both these vitamins in their daily regimen, the results of this study suggest that it is maybe better to discontinue them during training.
- probiotics — for a discussion on the role of probiotics, please click here.
- proper hygiene, drink fluids, and get enough sleep — though this should be done always, it becomes more important after doing a long, or intense workout since this is when an athlete is most prone to infections.
Tomorrow, treatment options for the common cold.