The 3 downsides to using cough and cold medicines and what to do instead

health Jan 07, 2019
Dr Cheryl Kam - Blog - Functional medicine coach - Singapore - The 3 downsides to using cough and cold medicines and what to do instead

Cough meds may be doing more harm than good to your body. Learn how to fight off coughs and colds in healthier ways in this piece by Dr. Cheryl Kam.


Happy New Year my dear readers!


To kick off the year holistically, I'd like to begin challenging the hard stuff. 

Using easily available medications might seem innocuous and harmless once in a while, but think again.  What are we really doing here?  Are we working with or against your body?

As a holistically-minded physician, I'm a believer in working with, not against the body.

Here's my take on such drugs whose main purpose is merely to suppress symptoms that are too troublesome for us to accept.

The problem lies with our lifestyle expectations and life at a fast pace.  We no longer have the community's patience towards our own needs.  We also treat ourselves harshly, as a result of others' (and our own) expectations of our bodies and minds.  

Let's get down to the three downsides.



Suppressing symptoms jeopardizes recovery


Stopping mucus, and sneezing with antihistamines and decongestants, we impede the body’s natural mechanism to physically wash out germs.  While this is convenient and we can get through the day not even realizing we have a cold when we actually have one, this brings in the risk of chronic infection.

Drugs that stop us from washing germs out with mucus fight against the body’s own mechanisms for self-cleaning.  The body has to work harder and in more imaginative ways to clear infections.  

In the case of infants and young children, cough medicines can impair their ability to clear phlegm and lead to a worse congestion



The body requires a fever to fight infection


Yes, a certain level of fever is actually good for you.  It has been shown that an important type of immune cell, the T-cells that fight viruses and cancer, requires a higher temperature to be effective.  

It is only dangerously high temperatures that need controlling, with a health professional.  



Drugs are foreign substances that may not be removed efficiently from the body.


Yes, this is a reminder that nothing about drugs is natural, and while there is a role for them in a spectrum of care that is offered to the patient, we must know its limitations.  

Drugs invariable tax the liver to metabolize and clear them out of the body.  Many a time, metabolites do not clear out completely.  This is in the case of synthetic hormones, and certainly for paracetamol (acetaminophen).

There have been cases of fatal liver failure associated with ingesting as little as 10 paracetamol pills.

There you have it!

The three reasons why we should think twice before reaching to drugs in order not to face the consequences of being ill.

Being ill is a part of life, especially for children, where it is normal to catch a virus or cold once a month, in order to build up their immune system towards better resistance.  Lack of this natural immune stimulation leads to a skew of the immune cells towards autoimmunity, which is another topic altogether.




The holistic approach to illnesses


While a balanced viewpoint must be kept, and drugs may need to be used in certain situations, having a holistic approach has the long-term effect of working with your body not against it, in the long run. 

Herbs or nutrients may be used, complementary therapies that address the Qi and energy systems, and healing touch, sound, art, and access to the spirit and soul.



What is the meaning of this illness for you? 


Simply waving it off with over-the-counter medications and "Keeping calm and carrying on" may miss an opportunity to investigate a nutrient deficiency or even a lifestyle habit that may be causing the low immunity

If there is an immunity issue, we must address the reasons underlying that.  

This generation is so used to numbing and carrying on, and it is to the detriment of our spirits that we approach life this way.

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