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Putting Your Favorite Cold Remedies to the Test

Find out if your go-to cold remedy (i.e. tea, vitamin C) is legit or a waste of time and resources.

Vitamin C/Zinc

Another remedy he is quick to shoot down is the growing popularity of vitamins and zinc supplements. "No evidence to suggest that it helps and a lot of people do it. You just have to be careful not to overdo it," he says. Abusing these vitamins can actually be harmful. He warns, "You're basically taxing your clearance systems, which consist of your kidneys and the liver. So if you're providing mega doses, you're not necessarily gaining extra benefits."

Echinacea/Astralgus/Goldenseal Root

He says the same of herbal supplements as well. "There's never been any proof that these supplements actually provide any benefits." However, consumed as tea, they can help. "In tea forms, I think they're therapeutic," he says. But he points out that the bigger problem that taking these supplements causes is the illusion of wellness. "There's not a lot of evidence to support vitamins and minerals and zinc and a lot of the things people go to instinctively and they neglect the bigger picture, which is to take good care of your body."

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Some might be concerned about hitting the gym when they're not 100 percent, but Lin sees big benefits. "You're treating your body well," he says about exercising sick. "If you feel like you want to exercise, that's not a bad sign. And if you do exercise, just remember you need to hydrate even more so you don't dehydrate. So the whole concept of 'exercising it out,' getting the 'evil spirits' out of your body, that could set you back if you don't replenish the lack of fluid balance."

Spicy Food

Others swear by spicy foods to clear your sinuses and make you sweat out a cold. While Lin can't provide definite evidence that it works, he doesn't see any harm. "This is interesting, actually, there's something called peptide C and they're starting to use it in nasal sprays to achieve some decongestive effects. There's no proof behind it, there haven't been studies yet, but I do have patients who use it as an over-the-counter spray and they swear by it. I think there are a lot of natural ingredients out there that probably have beneficial effects that we just don't understand yet. So, again, I don't see any harm in eating spicy foods and the whole concept of 'sweating it out' that crosses many cultures." 

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