Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Zinc is also found in many cold lozenges and some over-the-counter drugs sold as cold remedies.
Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes and it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescenceand is required for proper sense of taste and smell. A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system.
I recently found a podcast called “Food Heals Nation” which appealed to me greatly. The first episode I listened to was called “Cure the Common Cold Naturally” and I found it fascinating and I immediately subscribed to this podcast and began downloading all previous episodes I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in living a more natural lifestyle and learning more about why that might be a good idea. The hosts are fun and interesting to listen to and – probably the biggest, best feature for me – not preachy! There is a lot of information about being vegan and happy, healthy families but, if you aren’t vegan and/or don’t have a family, you can still listen and learn a lot, without feeling pressured into a whole new lifestyle! I will say, however, that it is certain female-centric. Men can listen and learn, but I think women will probably relate a bit more to the content.
I am in no way affiliated with this podcast, but I enjoyed it, so I am sharing the link in case you’d like to catch an episode yourself: http://foodhealsnation.com/20/
The Food Heals Podcast is hosted by Allison Melody and Suzy Hardy – two self-proclaimed natural chicks who will rock your world and change your beliefs about health! This sexy, savvy duo provides eco-friendly advice on a variety of issues – from picking the best non-toxic makeup and getting rid of wrinkles naturally, to learning about the benefits of a plant-based diet and the healing power of nutrition.
The reason I bring you the Food Heals Nation’s podcast in this particular blog post is because one of their first tips for curing or fighting off the common cold is to use Zinc. I had never heard of this before, but the way they explained it made me want to jump right on the internet and start finding more information on the topic. I thought you also might be interested in what I discovered…
According to the podcast, (in my own words) Zinc helps prevent and cure colds by clinging to individual virus molecules and stopping them from infecting you and your body. I quite like that idea. A quick google search had me questioning the reality of this, however, because the entire first page was articles about how taking zinc for a cold was utter nonesense. I tend to not believe much of what I read on the internet unless it is nicely sourced from a reliable study, so I kept digging.
The Mayo Clinic and Dr. Brent A. Bauer, MD, caution against using zinc in the Q & A “Will taking zinc for colds make my colds go away faster.” I more or less use this site to get to the sources behind the expert opinions, as I did this time as well.
The first source, and apparently the majority of the reason anyone in the world thinks of zinc as a cure of the common cold, was a study from George A. Eby. A synopsis from his study, Reduction in duration of common colds by zinc gluconate lozenges in a double-blind study, stated:
“As a possible treatment for common colds, we tested zinc gluconate lozenges in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. One 23-mg zinc lozenge or matched placebo was dissolved in the mouth every 2 wakeful h after an initial double dose. After 7 days, 86% of 37 zinc-treated subjects were asymptomatic, compared with only 46% of 28 placebo-treated subjects (P = 0.0005). Side effects or complaints were usually minor and consisted mainly of objectionable taste and mouth irritation. Zinc lozenges shortened the average duration of common colds by about 7 days.”
I also found this lovely little guide in my research: Handbook for Curing the Common Cold | The Zinc Losenge Story
It’s rather long and I honestly skimmed it very briefly. What I understood, however, is the following:
- “Results from field use lead the present author to believe nearly all colds can be terminated within a day or two (see Figure 27). The half-life of colds treated with ZIA 108 advanced design lozenges is expected to be 2 days, versus 7.6 days for placebo or no treatment. About 15 percent of patients can be expected to become asymptomatic within 12 hours, and 25 percent can be expected to become asymptomatic within 24 hours.”
- With very high of zinc, symptoms of headaches, nausea, and slight oral irritation may occur
Consumer Reports offers another – more fear laden – opinion on zinc as a cure for the common cold. The chief medical examiner there has decided that the weird taste and potential nausea is not worth the treatment, but the study they speak of (not sourced!) says there is only a 1 day difference in recovery times. You can read all about it here: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/12/6-reasons-not-to-take-zinc-for-your-cold/index.htm, but their most worrisome points – in my humble opinion – include:
- It can be toxic and it can cause health problems. For the purposes of curing the common cold, we are not considering long-term use. The maximum daily dosage recommendation is 40mg unless otherwise directed by a doctor BUT the lozenges I saw were typically between 10 – 25 mg tablets, so this seems a bit fear-mongery to me BUT I am not a doctor. This is just my nature-loving, big-pharma-skeptical opinion. Also, if you refer back to the opening quote of this post, you will see that it is an ESSENTIAL MINERAL and it is not naturally produced by the body so it must come from somewhere else. We need it to survive. That is what essential means.
- It can interact with other medications. Any time you are on any type of medication whatsoever it is very important to tell your doctor about any supplements or other medications you are using, so yes, please pay attention to this point.
- Some zinc preparations can be dangerous. Ok. I’m on board with this one because it plays into my big-pharma skeptic nature. I tend to believe that all things we ingest are going to be better for us if we can get them closer to nature. This topic is about ZINC, not necessarily zinc+all the other junk they put in nasal sprays and lozenges to make them consumer friendly. I will include a list or link to natural sources of zinc for your consideration.
There’s actually quite a lot more of great information out there, but the above references are more or less repeated, so I will stop here. The one thing I would like to say for absolute certain is this: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I am curating content from the internet and you should never take anything you read on this website – or any other, for that matter – as the gospel truth. This is purely informational and if you are suffering from a cold or are worried about getting a cold, then please go talk to your doctor.