Jason Tetro is known as The Germ Guy. He offers his unique perspective on our mind-boggling, invisible microscopic world and how it affects our lives. He has co-edited The Human Microbiome Handbook, which provides an academic assessment of the impact of microbes on human health. The following is from his 2016 book The Germ Files: The Surprising Ways Microbes Can Improve Your Health and Life (and How to Protect Yourself from the Bad Ones).
Tetro discloses the microscopic data on kids, colds, and the value of chicken soup:
“It’s a gripe I have heard from parents for years. When it’s cold outside, their children are adamant they don’t need to wear warm shoes or boots. So the exasperated parents forewarn a microbial consequence: ‘You’ll catch a cold.’ This is not an empty threat; it’s actually quite true. Except that the common cold isn’t actually caused by having cold feet.”
Tetro describes the stealth assault on the vulnerable bodies of both kids and adults:
“When our bodies get cold, our blood vessels constrict in order to keep our blood warm. Even though only one part of the body is chilled, the effect is spread throughout. As a result, the defences of the immune system are not allowed free access to all areas, particularly the sinuses and upper respiratory tract. In the event a virus happens to be present – or is introduced shortly after the chill – it is left alone and not attacked. Sensing the opportunity, the virus quickly launches a campaign to cause infection and leave us with the sniffles, sneezes, coughs and other cold-like symptoms.
“The risk for catching a cold-feet cold is, of course, dependent on whether viruses are actually circulating during that time period. But it’s quite well known that these pathogens tend to be seasonal and are most prevalent during the cold months of the winter and early spring. It’s why parents should do all they can to ensure their children’s feet are warm and cozy during that time of the year, even if it’s not, well, cool to do so.”
Tetro describes the science of the benefits of chicken soup for kids and those more fully-grown:
“When I’ve got a cold, I avoid over-the-counter medication and instead head to the meat section of the grocery store. For me, a chicken provides more benefits than any pharmaceutical. It’s a natural way to deal with the sniffles, coughs and sneezes, and it improves my health sooner rather than later.
“Chicken soup contains vitamins to keep the metabolism strong, antioxidants to prevent the stomach from getting upset, and anti-inflammatories. But the entire mix has to be boiled so these can become readily available in the broth.”
What kind of mysterious, cloak-and-dagger processes are taking place? “The raging immune system is tempered. This can reduce fever, aches, and pains. It also helps to focus the defences on the job at hand, which is to take care of the viruses infecting the body. These pathogens have a habit of sending the immune cells on wild goose chases, leading to far more damage than necessary. The soup can counteract this by signalling the body to forego any unnecessary actions.”
The best chicken soup for the cold is not to buy the canned versions, but to make it yourself from scratch: “This requires more work than grabbing a can or package off the shelf, but it can be far more beneficial. Most processed soups have higher levels of sodium and other ingredients that you really don’t need. Making soup at home allows you to control these ingredients and determine how much you’ll use. You’ll also benefit from the aroma as the chicken soup boils. Even the steam can help to relax the mind and bring a sense of calm while you convalesce.”
6 Easy Chicken Soup Recipes
Classic Chicken Soup
Southwestern Chicken Soup
Ginger Chicken Soup With Vegetables
Mediterranean Chicken Soup
Mexican Chicken Soup
Slow-Cooker Chicken and Pasta Soup
Jason Tetro, The Germ Files: The Surprising Ways Microbes Can Improve Your Health and Life (and How to Protect Yourself from the Bad Ones), Doubleday Canada, 2016
More from Jason Tetro: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jason-tetro/