Over the last 2-3 weeks, several of my friends had their little ones down with flu, coughing, runny nose. I was crossing my fingers and counting my lucky stars. But alas! I too caught it from my boy who caught the bug from his friend in school just last Friday.
Typically when he catches a flu, he'd have fever for 1 day max. However, it was better for him this time, because there was no fever at all. Nevertheless, I took him out of school to limit his exposure to the virus.
The conventional question I would get, is whether I've fed him medicine. Or for me as well, since I'm down too, have I seen doctor and taken medicine. Well, are medicines definitely the answer to getting well? Perhaps we need to understand a little more on what they do in the first place, isn't it?
For a typical flu, most of the time we get FEVER and INCREASED MUCUS PRODUCTION, whether it be from the nose or at the throat. We need to first understand why these symptoms happens.
Fever. It happens when our body temperature is raised above its normal range. When it is fever due to the common flu, it is due to a viral or bacterial infection. Our body raises its temperature, so that our immune system can fight these viruses and bacteria off more efficiently.
Common medicines to reduce a fever would be paracetamol and ibuprofen. So what do they do then? They're a class of medicines called antipyretics. Essentially what this means is that it reduces our body temperature. So when our body temperature is reduced, does it mean the battle against the virus or bacteria has been won?
How many of you are familiar with this scenario: After taking paracetamol, the fever goes off. However, after the medicine wears off, temperature rises again. Then repeat taking paracetamol. And the cycle goes.
When the temperature rises after the medicine effect wears off, our immune system is kickstarting the fight all over again, isn't it? So does antipyretics help our body to complete the battle against virus or bacterial infection? I'm sure you have the conclusion.
Phlegm or mucus, its annoying isn't it? Why does our body produce this sticky goey yucky stuff?
Our mouth, nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract are all lined by mucus-producing tissues. Mucus produced here act as a protective layer over the tissues preventing it from drying out. At the same time, the mucus doubles up as a trap for unwanted substances, preventing it from entering our body. Some examples of unwanted substances could be dust, viruses, bacteria...etc.
The regular looking mucus looks like a sticky goo. However, do you know that it contains many of our immune cells as well? Antibodies that recognizes bacteria and viruses, enzymes that kills off invaders, different type of cells and proteins amongst other substances are also present. They act as the first layer of protection in our respiratory systems.
When we find it annoying, what are our options when we see the doctor? In general, it can be classified into three types of medicines: antihistamines, decongestants and expectorants.
Histamines are released as part of our immune system response when our body undergoes an allergic reaction. As the name suggests, the role of anti-histamines is to suppress the release of histamines. This effectively stops any mucus production, quickly addressing the symptoms often encountered in a cold or allergic reaction. Although we no longer get increased mucus production, sneezing, runny nose, does it mean that the cold virus has been taken care of?
Decongestants work differently from anti-histamines. However, they reach the same outcome which is less mucus production.They decrease blood flow to the nose by narrowing the blood vessels in the lining of the noise. With this, it eases of congestion in the nose and reduces mucus production. With this, do you think the cold virus has been taken care of?
Expectorants work by thinning out our mucus, making it easier to get it out of our body. The reason why mucus thickens during a cold, is because our immune system is gathering more help to attack the infection and get rid of the bacteria or virus. Without this troop of immune cells, will the battle go as effective as our immune system would like it to be?
Medicines are not a big no no. Medicines have their role to play in emergencies ie. if body temperature goes too high. However, we need to be aware of the purpose of the medicines, what do they do and the side effects they bring about. Medicines are not without risk. As a wise consumer, we need to weigh the risks and rewards as well.
In face of a flu or cold, my preference is to allow my immune system free reign in the fight, without use of any medicines to interrupt. Using the principles of Nutritional Immunology, I would make use of superfoods to give my immune system some nourishment for the fight. Here are my usual choices:
It contains rose, which helps to battle against colds.
It helps to increase the activity of our NK cells by 38-45 times, allowing them to quickly get rid of the viruses.
Usually, these would help me to get back to action within just a few days! 🙂 Read more about them by clicking on their respective links above. For more about the extensive safety testing these wholesome foods go through, you can read more here.
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