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About.com - Cold/Flu
"Q. Can Chicken Soup Help A Cold?
A. As there is no actual evidence that chicken soup can help cure a
cold, most doctors agree that it can have positive results when
treating your cold.
First, the steam from the soup can help unclog congestion in your
chest and nose loosening up mucus. So why not just have a hot cup of
tea instead you ask?
There is another reason you might want to make yourself some of
grandma's chicken soup.
Researchers found evidence that the broth has anti-inflammatory
properties that aid in soothing your sore throat and helping to stop
the movement of neutrophils (white blood cells that encourage the flow
of mucus that accumulates in the lungs and nose)."
Chicken Soup Does Soothe a Cold
A cure for the common cold may still be out of reach, but temporary
relief could be right in your kitchen cupboard.
Chicken soup apparently does more than work wonders on the soul. Some
doctors and researchers -- not to mention grandma -- say chicken soup
actually helps reduce the inflammation and mucus production so
characteristic of a cold.
They think it may help flu sufferers, too.
"Does it cure you? No. But it makes you feel a lot better, and that's
the bottom line," says Dr. Jordan S. Josephson, an otolaryngologist
and sinus specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "As
anyone who's ever had the flu will tell you, you sit there praying to
God [for] anything that will make you feel a little bit better."
"The flu -- which actually is a contagious, respiratory illness caused
by influenza viruses -- strikes the nose, throat and lungs just like
the common cold. However, medical experts say it comes on more quickly
and severely, usually accompanied by more intense aches, fever and
tiredness. Both ailments feature coughing, nasal congestion and sore
And that's where chicken soup can help, Josephson says.
"Colds and the flu naturally make you produce mucus," he says, "but
research showed that chicken soup inhibits the mucus production."
"That means my nose will be less stuffy, my throat won't be as sore, I
won't be coughing as much, I won't be as congested and I will feel
better," Josephson says.
Indeed, a doctor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center tested
his wife's grandmother's chicken soup recipe in his laboratory,
finding it did have medicinal value because it limited the movement of
neutrophils, the white cells in the blood that fight infection.
Neutrophils actually remove bacteria from the body, but in the process
they stimulate the production of mucus -- one of the irritating
symptoms of colds and the flu.
The Nebraska study, published in the October 2000 issue of Chest, did
not clarify what in the soup produced the health benefit. But it
suggested the ingredients -- which included chicken, onions, sweet
potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, parsley, salt and pepper
-- somehow worked together to create a beneficial brew.
[See next link: CBC MARKETPLACE: FOOD CHICKEN SOUP - Is chicken soup
Josephson speculates it's a combination of things, from the vitamins
and minerals in the ingredients to the heat of the soup -- although
the study found hot water didn't produce the same results, he says.
Even the soup's fat content, which "has a soothing effect on the
throat," could play a role, he says.
And, of course, soup is a liquid, and medical experts always recommend
fluids for cold and flu sufferers to stave off dehydration.
"The take-home message when you have a cold or the flu is to bundle
up, stay warm and drink plenty of fluids, and chicken soup is a real
good one," Josephson says. "It tastes good and it hydrates you."
Jay Parker, who owns Ben's Best Kosher Deli in the Rego Park area of
New York City, calls it the "Jewish penicillin."
It's what you always take people who are sick, he explains.
His deli offers a "get-well flu basket" -- two quarts of chicken soup,
with four matzo balls on the side, a mug to drink it from and a box of
tissues, all in a basket. "We've been doing it for years," he says,
"but this year the need is just a little bit greater."
It's fun, Parker says, and of course there's the nutritional value.
But chicken soup has something more to offer as well, he says, touting
a psychological connection that makes it a true comfort food.
"When mom gave you chicken soup, she felt like she was helping you,"
Parker says. "You felt the love that came through the soup."
CBC MARKETPLACE: FOOD CHICKEN SOUP
Is chicken soup good medicine?
"While Goodbaum needs no convincing, an American scientist in Nebraska
wanted to look deeper into his broth.
Dr. Stephen Rennard, a pulmonary specialist at the University of
Nebraska's Medical Centre, wanted to see if there was science behind
claims that chicken soup had medicinal qualities.
"What we study is inflammation," Dr. Stephen Rennard, a pulmonary
specialist at the University of Nebraska's Medical Centre. "In fact,
inflammation in the lungs or airways is likely a very important cause
for the symptoms people get when they get a cold."
Soup has been in the medicine chest since time immemorial. A thousand
years ago trusted healers were prescribing "the broth of fowl" for
patients. In the 12th century, the famed physician to ancient kings,
Maimonides wrote extensively of the soupy elixir.
"The meat taken should be that of hens or roosters and their broth
should also be taken because this sort of fowl has virtue in
rectifying corrupted humours," the ancient healer wrote.
Maimonides used his fowl brew to treat hemorrhoids, constipation, even
leprosy. But he especially praised its healing power for respiratory
illnesses like the common cold.
Chicken soup has been called "Jewish penicillin." But many cultures
have their own version. The one thing all have in common - besides
chicken - is the belief a cup of soup can help cure a cold.
But tradition means little to scientists. Many dismiss the idea of
soup as a remedy. They say it's an old wives' tale. They're spending
millions looking for a modern scientific cure. They question the
evidence so far that anything brewed in a kitchen can do what research
"What is the apriorir evidence that chicken soup makes you better,
faster in an objective fashion?" asks Dr. Allison McGeer, a contagious
disease specialist in Toronto. "Nada!"
There has been no evidence regarding the healing powers of chicken
soup that has been close to conclusive - perhaps until now . Dr.
Stephen Rennard thought his family's soup really did work. But as a
scientist, he needed proof.
"One day we were discussing chicken soup," Rennard explains. "My wife
says that grandma says this is good for colds, and I said maybe it has
some anti-inflammatory action."
So Rennard put his theory to the test. He added his wife's home made
soup to white blood cells called neutrophils. They're the cells which
rush to attack an invading virus. That can cause the buildup of fluids
in the chest.
Taking chicken soup samples for laboratory testing requires the
skilled hand of a professional.
Rennard suspected the soup would slow the cells' movement and reduce
congestion. So he tested the homemade chicken soup and thirteen
Rennard found that his wife's homemade soup did slow the neutrophils.
But a third of the store bought soups slowed the cells even more.
Knorr's chicken noodle was most effective followed by two kinds of
Campbell's, a Lipton and a Progresso chicken soup. (Click for
details.) Rennard can't explain why.
"Without doubt there are biologically active compounds in the chicken
soup that can slow neutrophil migration," Rennard said."
"Mainstream remains unconvinced
Many doctors remain skeptical. Contagious disease specialist Dr.
Allison McGeer says just because something happens in a lab,doesn't
mean it will work for a human being.
"We used to treat syphilis with arsenic and we used to bleed people to
make them better," McGeer explains. "The world is full of treatments
including recent treatments that are utter and errant nonsense and
don't stand up to scientific examination and the fact we believe
things does not make them true."
Rennard admits there does need to be more study, but he believes his
is one more morsel of evidence to add to the mix.
It's enough for soup chef Ester Goodbaum.
"They just proved we've been right all these years," she says.
The research to get the full scoop on soup would cost millions. And
because chicken soup can't be patented, a company would not be able to
recover the research costs. So until chickens can talk and explain
what their secret ingredient is, we may never know what good medicine
chicken soup really is."
More 'effective' soups
See the list of soups Rennard used - in order of how effective they
were in slowing the progress of colds and flu.
Chicken Soup: Nature's Best Cold and Flu Remedy?
"Although a 12th century physician named Moses Maimonides first
prescribed chicken soup as a cold and asthma remedy, its therapeutic
properties have been studied by a host of medical experts in recent
decades. Findings vary.
Some say the steam is the real benefit. Sipping the hot soup and
breathing in the steam helps clear up congestion.
Irwin Ziment, M.D., pulmonary specialist and professor at the UCLA
School for Medicine, says chicken soup contains drug-like agents
similar to those in modern cold medicines. For example, an amino acid
released from chicken during cooking chemically resembles the drug
acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory
Spices that are often added to chicken soup, such as garlic and pepper
(all ancient treatments for respiratory diseases), work the same way
as modern cough medicines, thinning mucus and making breathing easier.
Another theory, put forth by Stephen Rennard, M.D., chief of pulmonary
medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, is
that chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory. The soup, he says,
keeps a check on inflammatory white blood cells (neutrophils). Cold
symptoms, such as coughs and congestion, are often caused by
inflammation produced when neutrophils migrate to the bronchial tubes
and accumulate there."
University of Maryland Medical Center
HOW ARE SYMPTOMS OF COLDS AND MILD FLU TREATED?
The following are some food and fluid recommendations. Most will not
cure a cold but may help a person endure it:
"Chicken soup does indeed help congestion and body aches. The hot
steam from the soup may be its chief advantage, although laboratory
studies have actually reported that ingredients in the soup may have
anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, any hot beverage may have similar
soothing effects from steam. Ginger tea, fruit juice, and hot tea with
honey and lemon may all be helpful."
Chicken Soup Takes on the Flu
"Some doctors and researchers say that chicken soup really does have
an effect on colds and other flu-like illnesses. They say that chicken
soup helps reduce the inflammation and mucus production,
characteristic of flu-like illnesses. This means that you will feel
less stuffy and congested and your throat might not be as sore. For
cold or flu sufferers that is a great feeling."
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