How to

10 January 2017

Chicken Soup vs. the Common Cold

Chicken soup has long ago been incorporated into society as a cure-all for ailments. It’s a comforting call back to childhood, a reminder of mom’s caring touch; chicken soup has even had a run-in with existentialism (Chicken Soup for the Soul). If ever someone is sick, the first thing to be brought round is a clear soup, something light on the stomach, and oftentimes chicken soup is the go-to option. The great thing about chicken soup is that it has protein, veggies, and some kind of grain, offering the sickly a nutritious meal that is easy to digest. It’s an unrivalled success, really.

The versatile concoction has been referenced by physicians from as early as the 12th century as a cure for “infections of the respiratory system,” according to Irish Examiner. For the uninformed, chicken soup is the equivalent of lip service to the sick; it’s considered a remedy to sickness because it’s been around, not because it’s been proven. However, the science behind chicken soup shows that it has more merit than lip service.

Once the body has contracted an upper respiratory cold, it produces a large amount of white blood cells, mostly neutrophils, to eliminate the virus. These white blood cells go to the site of infection and proceed to fight the virus, eliciting bodily responses. Inflammation and a load of mucus are signs that your body is fighting the good fight. These responses are the cause of unpleasant symptoms: stuffiness and coughing.

Research has revealed that the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell to defend against infection, is limited by chicken soup. Restricting the movement of these infection-fighting cells is a good thing as it reduces the amount of mucus and inflammation. Cold symptoms are temporarily abated after a nice bowl of chicken soup.

A separate study found in the American Journal of Therapeutics revealed that a compound found in breast meat, carnosine, reduced inflammation. However, this benefit only lasts as long as the chicken soup is in your body.

Additionally, drinking or eating hot things can help thin out mucus, making it easier to clear from the body. A study published in CHEST examined how chicken soup affects air flow and mucus react when participants drank cold water, hot water and chicken soup. Hot fluids, as expected, allowed mucus to move more freely; chicken soup was more effective than hot water. A clear airway alleviates congestion. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).