As we prepare to head into what most people consider to be the “cold and flu season”, it seems to me the marketing efforts for cold and flu remedies comes earlier each year along with the widespread push for the flu vaccine. Hundreds of over-the-counter medications, natural remedies, products, and services which claim to make you feel better faster.
But could your sick habits actually be making you sicker? In other words, what do you DO when you start noticing the signs of sickness and is it actually helping or hindering?
At the first sign of ailment, many people run to the pharmacy, Urgent Care or their doctor looking for a magic pill that will allow them to continue going about their busy lives without skipping a beat. The problem with this is that feeling better and being better are often thought to be the same thing, but that’s not the case.
So, what causes those annoying symptoms in the first place?
If we look at how the body functions instead of just going by how you feel, we know that our sick symptoms are actually the immune system at work. Fever, sore throat, cough, and congestion are a direct result of the army of cells inside us which fight off infections and foreign invaders. We couldn’t survive without the immune system, yet many over the counter remedies (OTC) and prescription medications work by suppressing the body’s immune system. By suppressing the immune response, you feel better. However, your immune response is vital to fighting off the infection.
What a conundrum.
It’s become so easy and mainstream to just pop a pill, few even question the safety or effects of doing so.
Here are 4 common offenders to use with caution:
Over 80 percent of the body’s immunity is built in the intestinal tract by the friendly bacteria balance that resides there. The beneficial bacteria protect us from opportunistic infections. Antibiotics don’t discriminate between the beneficial bacteria and the offensive ones. Killing off your beneficial bacteria leaves you vulnerable to other types of infections. Many physicians support a “watch and wait” approach to seasonal symptoms but who has time for that? A study by University of British Columbia found that receiving antibiotic treatments early in life can increase susceptibility to specific diseases later on. Yikes!
2. Prednisone and other corticosteroids
These mimic the effects of hormones your body produces naturally. When prescribed in doses that exceed your body’s usual levels, corticosteroids suppress inflammation. This can reduce the signs and symptoms, but not the cause of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and asthma. According to Web MD, The Mayo Clinic and other reputable sources, corticosteroids also suppress your immune system leaving you vulnerable to secondary infections.
3. Fever reducers
Medications like Acetaminophen, an active ingredient in Tylenol and many other prescription and non-prescription medications are not fully understood. Acetaminophen “seems” to work on the parts of the brain that perceive pain and control body temperature. During a fever the body raises the temperature to create an unfavorable environment for foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. It also mobilizes the immune system which you certainly want when you have a cold or other infection. Lowering the body temperature with fever reducers when there is an infection reduces the effects of the immune system.
4. Other common cold remedies…
are often a cocktail of various chemicals that aim to knock out multiple symptoms at once. They may include Pseudoephedrine (stimulant and decongestant), antihistamines, Dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) Guaifenesin (an expectorant), and usually also include a pain reliever and fever reducer. Multiple medications may overtax the liver and have other effects we aren’t even aware of.
5. Popsicle and Ice cream for a sore throat…
Once again, the cold on the throat may feel better when it’s raw and inflamed. The high levels of sugar in popsicles and other frozen treats suppress the immune system. If there is dairy involved, please be aware that dairy products are mucous forming and will increase congestion when you are already feeling crummy. Opt for a natural sugar alternative like an all-fruit smoothie or honey infused with garlic to coat the throat.
Scenario: you’re starting to feel a little fatigued and if you really start to think about it, you’ve got a tickle in your throat, a little post-nasal drip. What you do next is very defining. It defines your health paradigm, how you view your body, and quite possibly how long and how frequently you are sick. Your sick habits will imprint on your kids and affect their health for the rest of their lives.
1. Make the symptoms go away so that you can keep working and share with others?
2. Support your body’s natural function and build a strong immune system, even if it means feeling worse for a little while?
What are your sick habits? Leave a comment below. Follow Dr. Kelli on Google