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Preventive Maintenance: Catching a Cold Is No Laughing Matter

Q) "What travels faster, hot or cold?"...

Q) “What travels faster, hot or cold?”

A) “Hot. You can catch cold.”

Catching cold is no joke, and you’ll likely catch (at least) one this year. So, when you’re packing your truck, pack extra Kleenex and Aspirin, because the cold season is back. And don’t forget the Vitamin C.

Vitamin C is also called “ascorbic acid.” “Ascorbic” means “anti-scurvy.” The vitamin was so named because it was first used to prevent/treat scurvy. Today, taking a cruise is a great holiday. But 250 years ago, sailing on large shipping vessels was bad for your health. On each voyage, over half of the sailors died, mostly of scurvy. However, when sailors began eating and drinking citrus concoctions, they lived. Still, no one understood why.

Now we know that the Vitamin C in citrus fruits prevented the scurvy. Today, if you’re just worried about getting scurvy, 10 milligrams of vitamin C each day will be enough. However, this is the absolute minimum amount. You need more. Studies show that at least 100 mg more daily is needed to maintain a healthy level, especially if you smoke, drink alcohol, or are diabetic. That’s because these conditions use up Vitamin C.

Vitamin C is for more than avoiding scurvy. Every cell in your body needs this vitamin. It helps build healthy bones, teeth, blood vessels, cartilage, glands, tendons and ligaments. And it’s particularly important for building strong collagen (connective tissue) found in the skin, and the lining of your mouth and bowels. Collagen keeps these tissues strong and flexible.

Collagen is like the seals on your truck. When your seals break down, contaminants get in, upsetting sensitive systems. Maintaining your seals protects your rig. Maintaining your connective tissue protects you. When these tissues break down, germs and toxins get in, attacking your body systems. So strong collagen creates a strong shield against sickness.

Although not everyone believes that Vitamin C cures the common cold, many people swear it does. It certainly helps. For one thing, it acts as an antihistamine, clearing up your sinuses. It also makes you feel better. As a natural Aspirin, it fights inflammation and pain. As well, it builds your immune system, helping your body fight off all kinds of illnesses (including colds).

How? It builds lymph cells which are the fundamental bacteria/virus fighters in your immune system. As well, it stimulates your body to make white blood cells to fight bacteria/viruses and to make more antibodies and interferon to fight viruses and cancer.

Over and over, studies have shown that Vitamin C can protect you from certain cancers: mouth, tongue, larynx, esophagus, lung, pancreas, stomach, colon, rectum, breast, ovary, endometrium and prostate.

How? It kicks your liver (your body’s biggest filter) into gear, sending out enzymes to flush out toxins and cancer-causing pollutants like ozone, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, pesticides and heavy metals, coal tar and styrene. Driving truck, you encounter many chemicals every day, starting off when you fuel your truck and breathe in the fumes (and who knows what else?) Since you can’t pull into a garage to get your liver changed, keep it flushed by feeding it lots of Vitamin C every day.

It keeps your circulation system working well, too. By helping break down fat, Vitamin C can prevent clogged arteries. It also keeps your nervous system up to snuff by changing certain proteins into neurotransmitters (cells that carry electrical messages from the brain to the body through the spinal cord), helping you think clearly.

It can also keep you seeing clearly. As we get older, the concentration of Vitamin C in our optic lenses begins to get lower, making us prone to cataracts. Enough Vitamin C can stop lenses from clouding. As well, age-related macular degeneration (deterioration of the macular region of the retina) can be prevented with more Vitamin C.

Your grocery store is full of foods replete with Vitamin C.

This nutrient is found in fruits like oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, limes, papaya, strawberries and cantaloupe.

Vitamin C and bioflavonoids (the water-soluble substances that help to protect your capillaries) are found in the white linings of these and other plants.

Don’t forget that some vegetables also have a lot of Vitamin C: tomatoes, broccoli, green and red bell peppers, raw lettuce and other leafy greens.

To get your full day’s supply (100 mg) of Vitamin C from only one food, you could eat: 4 medium tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups of broccoli, one red pepper, 1 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 large grapefruit, or 1 1/2 cups of strawberries. Just remember, since Vitamin C dissolves in water, your body doesn’t store it. Any extra gets flushed when you flush, so spread your servings out over your day.

With so many health benefits, it’s easy to see why you need enough “C.”

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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