1.07.2015

Airborne Supplement As a Cold/Flu Preventive?

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On New Year's Eve or shortly thereafter, I picked up my first mild cold or flu bug of the winter. It started as a dry cough, followed by nasal congestion and drainage, leading to a sore throat. I had some mild body aches, which made me think it was a flu virus.

I decided to throw my usual armory or over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu remedies at it, so I drove to the nearby HyVee and perused their pharmacy section for some good options.

One of the available remedies was Airborne, a supplement of vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts advertised to support the immune system, help defend against free radicals, and promote overall health. The FDA forbids supplement manufacturers from making any cure or prevention claims on supplements unless clinically proven, and indeed, as a cold and flu remedy, Airborne has no strong clinical science to support its efficacy, per se. In fact, the maker of Airborne lost a class action law suit on claims it was making about the cold fighting powers of its product.

But the new generic advertising message was still quite clear...it can't hurt and it might help.

Given that the stuff was fairly cheap, I thought, "what the heck?" and bought a 10 count vial of the dissolvable tablets (lemon flavor) for about $5 (their marketing worked on me!).

I followed the directions, dropping an effervescent tablet into a glass of warm water every 3-4 hours and used the drink to chase down my other OTC remedies: Benadryl or Claritin for nasal decongestion, Robitussin DM for cough suppression, ibuprofen for the mild aches and probable fever. I sucked on Ricola herbal lozenges for my scratchy throat and also used (sparingly) an oxymetazoline based nasal spray at night so I could breathe through my nose while sleeping.

This barrage of OTC remedies seemed to do the trick and after about three days, the cold had been knocked back substantially and I was on the mend. That was a fast recovery compared with most of the colds I get around this time of year. They usually last seven to 10 days, or longer. But I had received a flu shot a few months ago, and that may have limited the intensity of the infection, if it was in fact a flu bug.

I have no way of knowing if the Airborne supplement had any impact on my cold whatsoever, but I did glance at the ingredients list and it contained a lot of things I knew (from my eight years in R&D at a vitamin company) were anecdotally reported to fight colds and flu.

Most notable, of course, was the high vitamin C content (about 1667% of the recommended daily value per tablet). Growing up, my mom would always megadose my sister and me with vitamin C whenever we got sick, though I don't recall it ever doing much good. Airborne also contains decent amounts of vitamins A and E (can't hurt...might help).

Of the minerals in Airborne, zinc is the one most closely associated with fighting colds and there is some mild clinical evidence for its efficacy when taken preventively or in the early stages of a cold. Airborne also contains selenium, a trace element with mixed effects on immunity. Selenium tends to be deficient in the general population and is essential for the function of many antioxidant enzymes used by the immune system. So there is a logical (if not clinical) case to be made for including selenium in the formula of the Airborne supplement.

Airborne also contains Echinacea, an herb long associated with immune support. Though not conclusively proven to be clinically effective against colds, Echinacea does appear to influence the immune system and may act as an adaptogenic herb, strengthening the immune system when taken preventively.

It is unlikely that Airborne does much to cure colds and flu. However, taken preventively during the cold and flu season, it might bolster immune defenses against colds and flu, thus minimizing the intensity and/or duration of colds and flu.

It can't hurt and it might help...

MORE INFORMATION: http://www.forbes.com/2009/10/12/cold-flu-treatments-lifestyle-health-swine-flu-h1n1.html

10.05.2014

A 30 Day Paleo Diet Experiment

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Today I foraged a little bit like a hunter gatherer. I agreed to participate in a 30 day study/documentary of the paleolithic diet that the pre-agricultural human ancestors used. Today was my first day.

The foundation of the paleo diet is that human nutrition is based on a genome adapted to what humans ate for most of our evolutionary history. It is somewhat of a tautology that if we eat foods we are genetically adapted to eat, we'll be healthier and hopefully leaner. The paleo diet is low glycemic, so it does not stimulate the fat storage endocrine machinery of the human body (insulin) as much. That's the logic anyway. This study I am in should shed more light on the reality of it.

Anyway, I was away from my home turf today, road tripping to Oshkosh. I adhered to the proscribed diet remarkably well. I ate a couple apples this morning and did a bit of hunting and gathering for paleo snacks in the early afternoon. I found raw mixed nuts and all natural Lara bars at a divy little health and nutrition shoppe in Oshkosh. That was more than ample to tied me over until my dinner of bison burgers. The bison was store bought (CostCo).

I actually was not very hungry today, in theory because I was providing my body with an optimal nutritional mix of foods. That's a good sign that it may pay off in health improvement and weight control.

Geeked to be doing the study because it forces me to be more diligent and compliant with the paleo diet.

9.15.2014

A Paleolithic Diet Guinea Pig?

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An opportunity may have fallen into my lap to be a guinea pig in a Paleolithic Diet study and documentary. I was talking to a friend of a friend on Facebook who is some kind of documentary filmmaker or something like that, and we got to talking about the Paleolithic diet. I think she brought it up.

I told her I try to follow a Paleo diet when I can and have trouble adhering due to all the non-Paleo foods that are everywhere in America and tempt me daily.

That’s when she told me about her study documentary and asked if I would be interested in being a subject, since doing so would require 100% adherence to the dietary guidelines of the study. Win-win. I told her I would love to participate and now I am just awaiting follow-up.

Right now, the possibility to be a subject in this study and documentary is on the table, but that’s all. I don’t have any further details, but I hope it pans out. Naturally, I will keep you updated.

If you need a little background, the Paleolithic Diet is based on human evolution and genetics. Its premise is that 10 million years of hominid evolution can’t be wrong. The genome and biochemistry of Homo sapiens has been modified by natural selection as our ancestors foraged an omnivorous diet in nature, before agriculture. Most humans thrive on this diet, because if they didn’t, they would not survive in nature.

The diet is made of up vegetables, lean wild-caught meat, fruits, nuts, and any other kinds of foods that grow wild in nature and can be foraged. Agricultural foods are a relatively modern development and our genome has not adapted to it yet. Because we are omnivores, we can get some nutrition from agricultural foods, but there are also negative side effects of a modern agricultural based diet. The latter is high in salt and the wrong kinds of fat. We are not optimized for processing grain and high calorie foods, so we process them inefficiently, and store a lot of tha calories as fat. The Paleo diet was a low glycemic one, high in fiber, so calories did not get stored as fat and hunter-gatherers were much leaner.