Given the popularity of “immune-boosting” supplements, most of which are packed with vitamin C, you’d think that all it takes is a healthy dose of vitamins to avoid the sniffles. We imagine vitamin C like it’s Popeye’s spinach: a handful of orange-flavored pills will give your white blood cells instant strength to fight off any cold or flu.
Unfortunately, for anyone trying not to get sick right now, that’s not quite the case. As nice as it’d be to drink a glass of orange juice and suddenly be Popeye-strong, it doesn’t work that way. In fact, taking a bunch of vitamins could have some not-fun consequences. “Really high doses of vitamin C gives you diarrhea,” says Abinash Virk, MD, from the division of infectious diseases at Mayo Clinic Health System. “Besides, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that the body will only absorb what you need and then pee out the rest.