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June Russell's Health Facts

Alcohol - Colds and Flu

What Prevents or Reduces the Effects of a Cold

It is extremely helpful if you are able to either prevent or greatly reduce the effects of a cold. The approach to fighting colds is twofold. First strengthen your resistance to infection so you won’t come down with a cold, and then follow a course of action to lessen its length and severity. For prevention, eat a wholesome diet, take a good daily vitamin, exercise regularly, control stress, and get enough rest. If you have a cold, eat smaller, lighter meals which contain immune-boosting phytochemicals, and little or no meat, so that the body can put more energy to fighting off the virus. Drink lots of water, as it will help ease a dry throat, improve your blowing possibilities, and will encourage washing out the sinuses.

What Doesn't Help a Cold

There has been much misinformation about the use of alcohol being ‘good medicine’ for a cold. For example, when reporting on a recent Spanish study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the media’s headlines stated that the use of wine could be helpful for a reduction in the risks of colds. Yet a closer look at this study shows: the researchers suggested that the benefit could be the flavonoids (the grapes in the red wine). Earlier research had shown that flavonoids fight the rhinovirus, a common cause of colds. Even the researchers were surprised by this study’s outcome because of the previous studies showing that alcoholic beverages lowered immunity. There was no information about who sponsored this study. There was no mention of the apparent benefits of wine having been due to: (1) healthier lifestyles of the wine drinkers; (2) individuals who had a cold or suffered from some chronic respiratory disease having been culled from the study; and (3), no balance in reporting the resulting dangers of this same amount of (moderate/heavy) alcohol use that was used in the study. This media report irresponsibly encourages the public to drink wine.

Bahi Takkouche of the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, the lead researcher, who calls himself ‘almost a teetotaler,’ expressed concern about how the public will interpret the findings. These same researchers previously reported that those who are under the most stress succumbed to twice as many colds. Research also shows that the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables (for the flavonoids), regular exercise, and meditation are not only very effective in prevention of the common cold, but safer, without the risks of the alcohol. The public should get a responsible balance of the facts about alcohol. Alcohol is a drug, a depressant and tranquilizer, and a known class “A” human carcinogen, and can be dangerous in smaller amounts. The media can easily omit facts to cause negative studies to become a positive.

Medical advice warns to avoid alcohol when you have a cold because it swells the bronchial tissues and makes congestion worse. Alcohol is a diuretic, resulting in increased urine output which can dehydrate the body and make the mucus dry and thick. This diuretic effect may result in blockages to the openings of the sinus cavities, and when air is trapped with an obstructed sinus, along with pus and other secretions, it can cause pressure and intense pain. Alcohol interferes with the body’s temperature control mechanism, stealing crucial warmth from the internal organs while dilating peripheral blood vessels. The use of alcohol increases the body’s stress, and has been shown to decrease antibody production resulting in a weakened immune system. This winter, making healthier choices can help you prevent or lessen the symptoms of a cold.

{Sources: - October 2002; - October 2002; - October 2002; - October 2002; - October 2002;  Alcohol, Health & Research World (Division of Infectious Diseases 1992);  Sinus Survival, book by Robert Ivker, D.O., 1995}

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