Coughing can be disruptive, painful and tiring. It can keep you up at night and limit your productivity at work. Cough medicines can leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth, and you may want to learn how to prevent future symptoms. Fortunately, there are vitamins and minerals you can take to speed up your recovery as well as help prevent you from getting sick again. Talk to your doctor about your vitamin intake, and find out what you may be missing.
Causes of Cough
The University of Maryland Medical Center website, UMM.edu, lists two types of coughs: productive and dry. A productive cough means you are bringing up sputum or phlegm when you cough. Most coughs manifest with a cold or the flu, and are considered acute; they only last a week or two. Chronic coughs typically last longer than four weeks. This type is associated with a more serious disorder, like bronchitis, asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or sinusitis with drainage into the throat. If you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke frequently, you can also develop a chronic cough.
Perhaps the most well-known antioxidant today, vitamin C has been shown to help prevent coughs, colds and even more serious disorders. According to a study in "Urologic Nursing" in November 2009, vitamins C has one of the largest benefit-to-risk ratio when it comes to preventing colds and may actually reduce the risk of pneumonia. As long ago as 1951 doctors began to look into the beneficial effects of vitamin C. In his article entitled "Vitamin C in the Prophylaxis and Therapy of Infectious Diseases," and published in the "Archives of Pediatrics" January 1951, W.J. McCormick, M.D. states that he believes whooping cough, dyptheria and other diseases like tuberculosis have decreased in the past century because of the availability vitamin C-rich foods. Citrus fruits, blueberries and tropical fruits are easy to buy at the local supermarket and are loaded with vitamin C.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, states UMM.edu, that helps to regulate the immune system and cells. Vitamin D can actually be stored in the body, and is released when the skin is exposed to sunlight. While having low levels does not necessarily cause disease, studies have shown that having adequate levels can prevent certain diseases. In a July 2010 article in the journal "Current Opinion in Gastroenterology," Dr. J. Sun states that vitamin D contributes to mucosal immune function, or the immunity of the mucosal linings, like in the lungs, of the body. The article also says that vitamin D and its receptor sites are involved in anti-infection and anti-inflammation activities. Talk to your doctor about vitamin D, and ask if it should be added to your vitamin regimen.
Vitamin A and Iron
The combination of iron and vitamin A might also be beneficial in preventing infections. A study published in "Nutrition" in May 2010 investigated the results of giving vitamin A and iron to school children ages two to six. Dr. K. Chen and colleagues discovered that children fed a diet fortified with both iron and vitamin A experienced fewer respiratory infections and coughs than did the groups given no vitamins or just vitamin A. Because too much iron can be toxic, talk to your doctor about how much iron would be good for you or your children.
The mineral zinc has recently been added to conventional cough and throat lozenges. According to UMM.edu, zinc has been used for thousands of years to help heal wounds and boost the immune system. The July 1996 issue of the "Annals of Internal Medicine" featured a study that tested zinc's effectiveness on the common cold. The group given zinc lozenges saw a significant decrease in cough, nasal drainage, and nasal congestion than the control group. You should not ingest too much zinc, however; UMM.edu states that you only need eight to 11 mg per day. Ask your doctor if you are getting enough zinc.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cough
- "Archives of Pediatratics"; Vitamin C in the Prophylaxis and Therapy of Infectious Diseases; WJ McCormack, M.D.; January 1951
- "Current Opinion in Gastroenterology"; Vitamin D and mucosal immune function; J Sun; July 2010
- "Nutrition"; Effect of vitamin A, vitamin A plus iron and multiple micronutrient-fortified seasoning powder on infectious morbidity of preschool children; K Chen et al; May 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin D