Q: When the nurse in my doctor's office asked me what supplements I take, I mentioned vitamin C and told him that I up the dose if I feel a cold coming on. He laughed and said that had been disproven ages ago.
I am convinced that it works for me. What do you say?
A. Taking vitamin C for preventing colds has been controversial for decades, ever since Linus Pauling recommended this strategy back in 1970. Since then there have been numerous studies but only limited evidence that this vitamin actually prevents colds.
Studies among marathon runners and people under severe winter conditions show that vitamin C cuts the risk of a cold in half under these circumstances (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Jan. 31, 2013). Other research indicates that people taking vitamin C regularly, as you do, are sick for fewer days if they catch a cold.
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For more information about a variety of strategies to treat cold symptoms, including ginger or elderberry tea, vitamin D and zinc, we offer our Guide to Colds, Coughs and the Flu. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. Q-20, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. I have been using soap in my bed for five years to manage my restless leg syndrome (RLS). I keep a bar on the couch, too. I even travel with a bar I can use in hotel rooms. I've given bed soap to people with chronic leg cramps or RLS, and they are amazed at how quickly it works.
A. Not everyone gets benefit from soap, but
those who do are often as enthusiastic as you are. Most health professionals assume this is due to a placebo effect, but an anesthesiologist reported in medical literature that the fragrance in soap does appear to ease muscle cramps (Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, September 2008).
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."