Most of us will do whatever we can to stay healthy during cold and flu season, so we can keep up with our responsibilities at work and at home. For example, you might stock up on vitamins and supplements and increase your vitamin C intake in an effort to boost your immune system if you feel like you're getting a cold. But does taking vitamin C and other supplements actually help with colds? And is there a limit to how much you should take? Physician Dr. Ian Smith explains.
Should You Take Vitamin C For Colds?
"Most people who eat a reasonable diet with plenty of fruits and veggies get most of the immune-boosting nutrients they need from their diet, so a lot of the vitamins in immune-boosting supplements aren't necessary," Dr. Ian says. "However, for various reasons people may still be deficient, and the biggest culprits are vitamins C and D, which are really important for the immune system."
"A lot of vitamin D is activated by the sun, and people aren't going outdoors much because of quarantine, and going into winter the sun obviously isn't as bright. So supplementing with C and D can help, but more isn't necessarily better," the doc explains. "Make sure that you're taking the right amount, because too much is not good for you."
Vitamin C vs. Vitamin D
Can You Take Too Much Vitamin C?
"Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, so that means that it dissolves in your blood. If you take too much of it, you're not going to get a great effect. People claim the more the better — well not necessarily, because if you take too much, your body's just going to pee it away," Dr. Ian says.
Can You Take Too Much Vitamin D?
"Vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning anything you don't need will be stored in your liver and fat deposits, and too much can potentially be dangerous. Think of it like pouring oil into water – it doesn't dissolve into the water, the same way fat soluble molecules don't dissolve into the cells. So if you take too much, it builds up."
If you are taking an immune-boosting supplement, Dr. Ian says to make sure it's from a reputable company, and only take the proper dosage in the short term. These are not meant to be taken in high doses or long term, he stresses. "Now, there are people who have chronic deficiencies of certain vitamins and should supplement daily, so talk to your doctor if you think you might have a deficiency," Dr. Ian says.
Always consult your doctor before starting a new medication or supplement.