Q: It’s cold season, so I want to remind people that simple chicken soup helps when you have a cold. Here’s how I make it: chicken, an onion, two cloves of garlic, two celery stalks, two carrots, parsley and a little salt and pepper. I also add a bit of sage and thyme. Maybe that’s where the song came from: “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.”

A: Thanks for the reminder. There is actually some scientific evidence supporting chicken soup to ease cold symptoms. Researchers found that chicken soup (made following a recipe similar to yours) reduced inflammation associated with infection (Chest, October 2000). All the vegetables, as well as the chicken, were also active individually.

If you lived in China, you’d probably add astragalus root to the broth. This Chinese herb has a reputation for boosting immunity. It, too, has been shown to protect against inflammation (American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2016).

Q: For more than 15 years, I suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, which caused gas attacks, flatulence and diarrhea. My doctor told me that there was nothing that I could do to stop these symptoms.

On my own, I decided to see if avoiding all dairy products would help. That did make a difference.

Then I had to take an antibiotic that gave me constant diarrhea. I decided to try taking a probiotic that offered more than 30 billion live intestinal bacteria daily. Within two weeks, my diarrhea stopped. Now, four months later, I can eat anything, including dairy products — without diarrhea, gas or bloating.

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A: Scientists analyzed nine placebo-controlled studies of probiotics for symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (World Journal of Gastroenterology, March 14, 2015). They concluded: “Probiotics reduce pain and symptom severity scores. The results demonstrate the beneficial effects of probiotics in IBS patients in comparison with placebo.”

Q: I would like to know how to keep my macular degeneration from getting worse. Are there any supplements that can help? I strongly prefer a product that has a clinical trial to support it.

A: There have been two major clinical trials that demonstrated benefit from supplements to slow the progression of macular degeneration. These were termed AREDS and AREDS2 (JAMA, May 15, 2013; Advances in Nutrition, January 2017). The AREDS formula contains vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), beta-carotene (15 mg), zinc (80 mg) and copper (2 mg). AREDS2 discovered that switching out beta-carotene for lutein and zeaxanthin worked just as well and was safer for smokers.

You should be able to find a supplement that is based on the AREDS2 formula. It will tell you so on the label.

You may also want to make sure you get plenty of antioxidants in your diet by eating berries, dark-green leafy vegetables, corn and avocado (Antioxidants, April 2019). Learn more about macular degeneration and strategies to slow its progression by listening to our free one-hour interview with Dr. Peter McDonnell, director of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. You can find this podcast (Show 1154) online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.