I grew up in a fairly “average” manner from a medical standpoint. We took Tylenol for fever, aches, and pains and Antihistamines for cold symptoms—pretty stock-standard, right? It never really occurred to me that suppressing these symptoms might be doing more harm than good until I really started learning more about why these symptoms exist and what they mean in terms of overall health. Now, as a mother and health professional, I react very differently to my family’s health “expressions” and have learned to trust the body’s innate healing mechanisms.
Let us look at the common cold, for example: One of the most prevalent causes being the “Rhinovirus”, so named not because it conquers our respiratory tract as a Rhino could, but from the Greek “Rhin”, meaning nose, where the virus lives. Symptoms include runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it to a certain degree at some point in our lives! These symptoms are merely the body’s mechanisms of trying to eliminate the intruder! If we were to shut these mechanisms down, like we do when we take a cough suppressant or nasal decongestant, the body will intelligently find another route to dispel the rampant viruses.
If the virus isn’t kicked out the “front door”, as with coughing, vomiting, sneezing, or nasal discharge (snot), then the body often attempts to sweep it out the “back door”! We all know what this means…no need for descriptors here.
If we were to then, foolishly, block the rear door with things such as anti-diarrheal meds, the body has no choice but to find an alternate route yet again. This time perhaps the skin is available, so we sweat…or get exzema, psoriasis, or some other skin condition. Skin creams, corticosteroids, lotions, and oils often block the skin from purging the necessary contents to a point where the body has to internalize the damaging constituents and find a spot for them to fester. This can manifest in many ways, from gut dysfunction to chronic inflammation, to tumor development, to…the list goes on.
Now, I’m not advocating that you ignore all signs that something serious might be going on with your own health, but I’m merely pointing out that we all too often reach prematurely for the quickest suppressant to any unpleasurable symptom. We have really become kind of “wimpy” when it comes to enduring a little “sickness”. An alternative way to look at these symptoms is, “why wasn’t my immune system able to fight off the intruders in the first place?” Is it because I’ve been “burning the candle”, so to speak? Or have I been putting things in my body that are less than ideal for optimal health (i.e. sugar, which the intruders LOVE to snack on!)? Or perhaps there’s something else in my life that isn’t congruent with me achieving an optimal state of being—a toxic relationship/job, etc… As a Chiropractor, I must also mention that perhaps your nervous system is compromised by spinal misalignment, which could result in decreased immune function.
Whatever your particular state of health and philosophy are currently, I believe that there is always benefit from looking at things from a different angle, whether you agree and/or adopt changes in habit or not.
So, the next time your son/daughter or partner (or even yourself, as I write this with a sniffle) wakes up at 2 a.m. with a coughing fit (obviously, please use your own intuition and judgement here—it may truly need medical attention)*, instead of reaching for the Dimetapp, take a deep breath and visualize all of those little “germs” being expelled out of their precious little mouth and how much healthier they will be for getting rid of them. You can then cuddle, nurse, or use whatever soothing techniques you tend to use and sleep better knowing that you've allowed a body to heal naturally and intelligently.
*This blog does not constitute true medical advice and you should therefore consult your family physician if you have questions about the seriousness of any given symptoms.
There are also many natural remedies such as herbs, essential oils, and homeopathics which can be used to assist the body’s natural immune processes, rather than suppress them.
About the Author
Dr. Jennifer Morrow is a Chiropractor and Massage Therapist with a background in Kinesiology and Rehabilitation. She is the owner of Gorge Chiropractic at TrueMed Institute in Hood River, OR. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+.