Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chicken soup for the cold?

With the wave of sickness that's been hitting our little neck of the beach in Southern California, it's no surprise that many of us are sharing our personal cold remedies. In fact, just last week a friend whose entire family had been sick mentioned that she fed everyone lots of chicken soup.  Ah yes, chicken soup! Why hadn't I thought of that when my family was sick a few weeks ago?

Touted as "Jewish penicillin", a few investigators have found that chicken soup may have properties that make it beneficial in treating the common cold.  In one study conducted over 30 years ago, scientists found that the consumption of hot chicken soup briefly sped up the movement of mucus through the nasal passages.  Basically, it made for a temporarily runnier nose.  What this could mean for the cold sufferer is greater relief of nasal congestion and less exposure of the nasal passages to the cold virus (mostly rhinovirus, which binds and replicates inside the nose).  In another trial, investigators found that homemade chicken soup, as well as several commercial versions, suppressed the migration of neutrophils (white blood cells that move toward the site of viral infection and produce an inflammatory response that contributes to cold symptoms).  Essentially, chicken soup may act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent that lessens cold symptoms, such as phlegm production and coughing.  One major caveat of both studies is that they were conducted on healthy volunteers rather than people who were actually sick. So far, no studies appear to have evaluated the direct effect of chicken soup on infected individuals.

Though the evidence doesn't really cut it for Mama's favorite cold remedy, I say go for it as it's very unlikely to hurt and may actually make you feel much less miserable.  Not only could the hot chicken soup alleviate lung and nasal congestion, but it's also a great way to hydrate while sick, which is also important for helping to loosen up those secretions.  And there's just something to be said about having a comfort food like this when you're sick with the cold or flu.

Here's to some happy and healthful soup slurping!


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