Chicken Soup: Can It Relieve Cold/Flu Symptoms?

How Effective Is Chicken Soup in Managing the Symptoms of Colds and Flu?

For generations concerned moms and caring grandmas all over the world have been serving chicken soup to sick kids. They believed it could relieve symptoms caused by colds and flu. But was dear old Granny really right? Is chicken soup actually the ultimate cure-all?

 Research Findings About the Action of Chicken Soup

Research recently published in the medical journal Chest looks at soup intake. It suggests that consuming a bowl of steamy chicken soup and vegetables can have good effects.  Whether prepared from scratch or warmed from a can, chicken soup actually may be able to affect the action of neutrophils. Those common white blood cells protect the body from infection. Chicken soup seems to change the rate of movement, congregation and concentration of neutrophils. It may thus help regulate inflammation and prevent large amounts of mucus from being produced.

In addition chicken contains high levels of  cysteine. This amino acid is similar in chemical composition to pharmaceutical acetylcysteine.  Doctors often prescribe the drug to treat symptoms of bronchitis and respiratory infections. It helps to thin mucus and makes it easier to eliminate.

A 2001 study claims to show that such soup also may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Those researchers suggest it may be capable of relieving congestion too; however, this claim is still not well established.

The Chest study found soup to be most effective against symptoms of upper respiratory infections.  Low-sodium chicken soup can supply good general nutritional value and help keep the body hydrated as well. The hot soup may even thin nasal mucus and thus make breathing easier.

 How To Make a Basic Chicken Soup Recipe More Effective

To amp up the action of your basic chicken soup recipe, you might consider adding certain spices and vegetables to the hot broth. Including freshly chopped garlic in the soup, for example, can give your defense system a powerful boost. While garlic kills some germs outright, it also appears to stimulate the release of natural killer cells. These cells are part of the immune system’s larger arsenal of germ-fighters.

Try spiking your soup with red (chili) pepper flakes to increase the broth’s decongestant power. The spice may help open sinuses and then break up mucus in the lungs.

Consider also adding onions. They contain phytochemicals purported to help the body clear bronchitis and other infections. Other beneficial vegetables that support a quick recovery:

  • carrots, which are rich in beta-carotene
  • bell peppers, tomatoes and other vitamin C-containing foods

 What is the Verdict of Medical Professionals?

So, what is the final word from medical professionals about the reality of chicken soup’s health bemefits? “I believe that chicken soup does help with symptoms,” says Reid B. Blackwelder, M.D., professor of family medicine at East Tennessee State University in Kingsport, TN. According to Dr. Jill A. Grimes, a family medicine specialist in West Lake Hills, TX: “Eating chicken soup when you have a cold helps because you’re breathing steam, which loosens up congestion. You are also hydrating. And you are not taking antibiotics — all the right treatment for simple upper respiratory viruses!”

Interestingly, though, not all doctors agree that chemistry alone explains the soup’s apparent efficacy. “When you lean over a bowl of hot chicken soup and the vapor gets up your nose, you feel better,” admits William Schaffner, MD, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN. Dr. Schaffner also cautions, “… but some [of the benefit] is clearly emotional. It just makes you feel better having someone make soup for you.” And that’s not a bad thing after all, is it?

Bon appétit … and feel better FAST!!