Eating a varied diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats should provide you with all the recommended daily amounts of vitamins and minerals that you need. Sometimes, though, especially in the early stages of a cold or the flu, life gets in the way. Loss of appetite means loss of nutrition. Taking supplements may not stave off or shorten the duration of a cold or the flu, but taking in enough vitamin C, zinc and other nutrients can help support your body while it fights off the illness.
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There is absolutely no reason you cannot take vitamin C and zinc together, because they do not work at cross purposes with each other.
What You Need to Know About Zinc
Zinc supports your immune system, helps wounds to heal and supports efficient functioning of your metabolism, according to the Mayo Clinic. Zinc deficiencies are rare in the United States, but symptoms include inability to taste foods, slower healing of wounds, frequent infections and hair loss.
Taking zinc for colds when the very first symptoms appear may help you get over the sniffles a little faster, though it's best to take in lozenge form; zinc nasal sprays have been linked to loss of smell, which in some cases is permanent.
Read more: Side Effects of Not Enough or Too Much Zinc
Basic Facts About Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps support your immune system and promotes the formation of collagen, which makes up a large part of the connective tissue in your body. Collagen is also necessary for the production of the hemoglobin that carries oxygen throughout your body.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps scrub free radicals from your cells, lowering your risk of heart attack, stroke and some cancers. In addition, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, vitamin C might help ease the symptoms of a cold and shorten the time you need to get over it.
Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron and generally does not interfere or compete with other vitamins, so unlike taking calcium and magnesium — which compete with each other for absorption — you can safely combine vitamin C and zinc.
Read more: What Citrus Fruit Has the Most Vitamin C?
How to Take Vitamin C and Zinc Together
According to Randall Wexler, MD, at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, taking an over-the-counter cold remedy probably won't have much actual effect on your cold, but if it makes you feel better, that's reason enough to go ahead and take it. Read the label on any cold remedy to make sure nothing in it will affect the medications you take on a daily basis.
Taking magnesium and vitamin C together can help ease the digestive issues like upset stomach and diarrhea that high doses of vitamin C can cause, according to the supplement experts at ConsumerLab. You can also take each supplement — such as magnesium, vitamin C and zinc — in separate lozenges, tablets or gel tabs rather than relying on a premixed cold remedy.
When choosing zinc, the benefits of zinc orotate vs. zinc picolinate are minute enough to make no real difference. Both are formulated to be absorbed quickly. The recommended dose of zinc is 8 milligrams for women and 11 mg for men. If you wish to take more in order to stave off or shorten a cold, take no more than 40 mg per day. Take 250 mg of vitamin C at breakfast and another 250 mg at lunch to keep your levels up all day.
Read more: What Form of Zinc is Best?