How to Prevent the Common Cold

This week marked the beginning of autumn. This means it’s officially cold season … and all the sneezing, sniffling, coughing that it brings.

It’s estimated that the average U.S. adult typically has two to four colds each year, while children may have up to a dozen. Each year, between 5% and 20% of the U.S. population also comes down with flu-like symptoms, according to Medline.

I don’t know about you, but even the smallest of colds can largely affect my performance at work.

For many of us, we simply cannot afford to bring anything less than our best each and every day. This is why I would like to share with you today some simple strategies for preventing the common cold … before it’s too late.

How Do You Catch a Cold?

The common cold is actually caused by a variety of viruses, not bacteria.

The most common way these viruses spread is by hand-to-hand contact. For example, if someone with a cold blows their nose and then shakes your hand or touches surfaces that you also touch, you’re more than likely going to catch a cold as well.

So, first and foremost, it’s crucial to wash your hands throughout the day to lessen your chances of catching the cold virus.

However, just because you are exposed to this cold virus doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to catch the symptoms.

The determining factor in whether or not you get sick boils down to your immune system. Whether you catch a cold or not is not dependent on simple exposure to the virus, but rather the quality of your immune system.

If your immune system is operating at an optimal level, then your body should ward off the virus relatively easily. But if you have a weak or compromised immune system, then such a virus can easily take hold of your body.

5 Major Immune System Dangers

Listed below are five common factors that can depress your immune system and put you at risk for catching a cold.

1. Eating Too Much Sugar — Particularly Fructose and Grains.

Fructose, a type of sugar, can devastate your immune system by unbalancing your gut flora. Sugar is "fertilizer" for pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi that can set up your immune system for an assault by a respiratory virus.

Most people don’t realize that 80% of your immune system actually lies in your gastrointestinal tract. That is why controlling your sugar intake is critical for optimizing your immune system.

Related story: How Cinnamon Can Control Your Blood Sugar

The average American consumes around 75 grams of fructose a day. Doctors recommend it would be wise to limit your total fructose consumption to below 25 grams a day if you’re in good health, or below 15 grams a day if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or if you’re insulin-resistant.

2. Vitamin D Deficiency

It’s no coincidence that cold season occurs during the time of the year when we receive significantly less sunlight and, as a result, our bodies produce less vitamin D.

In the largest and most nationally representative study of its kind to date involving about 19,000 Americans, people with the lowest vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu. The risk was even greater for those with chronic respiratory disorders like asthma.

At least five additional studies also show an inverse association between lower respiratory tract infections and vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D is a very effective antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. Optimizing your levels of Vitamin D will not only help you recover faster if you have a cold … but it will also prevent viruses from invading your body in the first place.

Related story: The Little-Known Vitamin Essential to Your Health

Because access to sunlight is limited during the fall and winter months in a lot of the country, taking a quality vitamin D3 supplement could help.

3. Not Getting Enough Rest

Over time, lack of proper sleep has been shown to lower what are called "T-cells." Produced by the thymus gland, T-cells are a type of white blood cell critical to the immune system.

T-cells have what you could call "X-ray vision," as they are able to see inside our bodies’ own cells simply by scanning their surface.

This mechanism allows T-cells to hunt down and destroy cells infected with germs or that have become cancerous.

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T-cells orchestrate an immune response and play important roles in all facets of immunity because they are in charge of:

  Alerting other immune cells of ingested germs, and/or

  Making antibodies.

T-cells are also responsible for the body’s response to all autoimmune disease including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc …

As you can see, proper T-cell levels are essential to the immune system. If you routinely get less than seven to nine hours of sleep, then this may one of the major reasons you always seem to catch a cold.

4. Lack of Exercise

There is evidence that regular, moderate exercise can reduce your risk for respiratory illness by boosting your immune system. In fact, one study found that people who exercised regularly (five or more days a week) cut their risk of having a cold by close to 50%.

And in the event they did catch a cold, their symptoms were much less severe than among those who did not exercise.

It is not exactly known how exercise increases your immunity, but there are several theories. According to MedlinePlus:

  Physical activity may help by flushing bacteria out from the lungs (thus decreasing the chance of a cold, flu or other airborne illness) and may flush out cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) by increasing output of wastes, such as urine and sweat.

  Exercise sends antibodies and white blood cells (the body’s defense cells) through the body at a quicker rate. As these antibodies or white blood cells circulate more rapidly, they could detect illnesses earlier than they might normally. The increased rate of circulating blood may also trigger the release of hormones that "warn" immune cells of intruding bacteria or viruses.

The temporary rise in body temperature may prevent bacterial growth, allowing the body to fight the infection more effectively. (This is similar to what happens when the body has a fever.)

Exercise slows down the release of stress-related hormones. Stress increases the chance of illness.

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This leads me to the final factor that may compromise your immune system …

5. Stress

As we covered before, T-cells are critical to a healthy immune system. There is a stress hormone called corticosteroid, which can suppress the number of T-cells in the body. The more stressed we become, the more corticosteroid we produce, resulting in weakened immune system.

Another direct effect stress can have on the immune system is through inflammation, which can show itself as redness, itchiness, swelling and pain.

Inflammation occurs when the immune system spots an infection. It is a vital first step in fending off disease. However, when it persists, it not only raises the risk of colds, but many other illnesses.

Sheldon Cohen, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said of the impact of stress on disease:

"The immune system’s ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease."

When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control. As a result, they produce levels of inflammation that promote disease.

Because inflammation plays a role in many conditions such as cardiovascular disease, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress affects them as well.

Knowing this is important for identifying which diseases may be influenced by stress … and for preventing disease in chronically stressed people.

Related story: Don’t Let the Stress of the Markets Destroy Your Health

As you can see, proper stress management is also very important to a healthy immune system and preventing colds.

I hope these five factors will help you prevent illness this cold season so you can remain functioning at optimal levels all year long.

Happy and Healthy Investing,

Brad Hoppmann


Uncommon Wisdom Daily

Your thoughts on “How to Prevent the Common Cold”

  1. Brad, ALL of this makes PERFECT COMMON SENSE IF you are health conscious and focused…It is literally amazing despite years and years of all this good knowledge, how many people still over eat, eat too much junk food, over drink alcohol, smoke, don’t exercise, don’t seek calmer personalities, don’t value sleep, stress over very little things, take too many drugs for too any issues etc..etc..etc. You could literally cut medical expenses in the country in half if people focused on just the above issues…

  2. With regard to stress, the active hormone is cortisol, not corticosteroid which is a prescription medication used to reduce inflammation in conditions such as asthma.

  3. There is a CURE, yes a cure for the common cold!
    Not for the flu, that I’v found, but there is a cure for colds.
    I got it from a doctor, but no one seems to know it, because of the heavy advertising by pharma companies.
    It works, 100% of the time; I’ve tried it out on friends with total success every time. And it is cheap.
    Homeopathic: Hepar Sulph Calc, 30X.
    I’ll help you learn how to use it if you are interested.

  4. I stopped getting the ‘flu and colds every year since adopting the Blood Type Diet for my blood type (B) (circa 1998). I might get the ‘flu once every 3 or 4 years (‘flu shots don’t work well for B’s), now.

    Colds? I can’t remember the last one.

    I never use sunscreen. Sunscreen reduces Vitamin D production, and Vitamin D is vital to prevent skin cancer (and other things). Also, I try to get sun directly, not through glass, as glass prevents the good frequencies, and lets the bad ones come through, encouraging skin cancer.

    Dietary needs is very individual, and O’s and A’s need different diets. The digestive system is where the immune system lives, and where it transfers food into the blood. The immune response to the wrong food is what causes inflammation and other issues. Beware “one size fits all” advice.

  5. Yup zinc works good have not had more then a very mild cold in years even when I have had a house full of people with the worst colds going around. Some people are very stubborn about taking zinc. By the way if you like oyster they are very high in zinc, also pumkin seeds are great way to put zinc into your diet.

  6. Ditto on the use of Zinc lozenges. Life Extension sells a long lasting lozenge. These should be used for three days on a regular basis. The symptoms are reduced and duration shortened because the Zinc blocks the viral invasion and allows the immune system to deal with a smaller viral assault. . Plenty of research literature to back this up.

  7. Sensible advice. In addition, when I feel a cold coming on, I gargle several times a day with salt water and run salt water through my nasal passages (sounds gross but it definitely alleviates cold symptoms – I think by reducing secondary bacterial infection) – one can buy nasal saline rinses which also contain aloe and lessen inflammation.

  8. The minute that bad feeling first comes on (scratchy throat, etc.)……I go find my zinc cough drops. Viruses grow in the throat. The zinc stunts or prevents that growth so your immune system can catch up. Works 90% of the time for me to either totally knock it out or render it a puny 1/2 day cold. (BTW….suck on the cough drops slowly… not chew them).

  9. Your article has several flaws. While hand washing may help to some extent, the primary cause of colds comes from aerosols after someone sneezes (viruses hang in the air especially when there is low humidity as in heated buildings in the winter; in the summer there are fewer colds because viruses absorb the humidity and fall to the ground).

    Also, T cells don’t produce serum antibodies. B cells ( another type of lymphocyte) are the antibody-producing cells.

  10. All good points and without trying to sell any “miracle” products. I’m impressed. Personally I have them all covered well except for sugar intake. Although I’m well below the national average I need to cut back more and I’m working on it.

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