Is your cold medicine damaging your health?

by Dr. Ben Kim –

The next time you experience a cold or the flu, remember this: rather than take conventional drugs to suppress uncomfortable symptoms, it’s better for your health to allow the cold or flu to run its course while you get plenty of physical and emotional rest.

Conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical industry would have you believe that there is no “cure” for the common cold, that you should protect yourself against the flu with a vaccine that is laden with toxic chemicals, and that during the midst of a cold or flu, it is favorable to ease your discomfort with a variety of medications that can suppress your symptoms.

Unfortunately, all three of these positions indicate a lack of understanding of what colds and flus really are, and what they do for your body.

Colds and flus are caused by viruses. So to understand what colds and flus do at a cellular level, you have to understand what viruses do at a cellular level.

Do you remember learning about cellular division in grade seven science class? Each of your cells are called parent cells, and through processes of genetic duplication (mitosis) and cellular division (cytokinesis), each of your parent cells divides into two daughter cells. Each daughter cell is then considered a parent cell that will divide into two more daughter cells, and so on.

Viruses are different from your cells in that they cannot duplicate themselves through mitosis and cytokinesis. Viruses are nothing but microscopic particles of genetic material, each coated by a thin layer of protein.

Due to their design, viruses are not able to reproduce on their own. The only way that viruses can flourish in your body is by using the machinery and metabolism of your cells to produce multiple copies of themselves.

Once a virus has gained access into one of your cells, depending on the type of virus involved, one of two things can happen:

1. The virus uses your cell’s resources to replicate itself many times over and then breaks open (lyses) the cell so that the newly replicated viruses can leave in search of new cells to infect. Lysis effectively kills your cell.

2. The virus incorporates itself into the DNA of your cell, which allows the virus to be passed on to each daughter cell that stems from this cell. Later on, the virus in each daughter cell can begin replicating itself as described above. Once multiple copies of the virus have been produced, the cell is lysed.

Both possibilities lead to the same result: eventually, the infected cell can die due to lysis.

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Here is the key to understanding why colds and flus, when allowed to run their course while you rest, can be good for you:

– By and large, the viruses that cause the common cold and the flu infect mainly your weakest cells; cells that are already burdened with excessive waste products and toxins are most likely to allow viruses to infect them. These are cells that you want to get rid of anyway, to be replaced by new, healthy cells.

So in the big scheme of things, a cold or flu is a natural event that can allow your body to purge itself of old and damaged cells that, in the absence of viral infection, would normally take much longer to identify, destroy, and eliminate.

Have you ever been amazed by how much “stuff” you could blow out of your nose while you had a cold or the flu? Embedded within all of that mucous are countless dead cells that your body is saying good bye to, largely due to the lytic effect of viruses.

So you see, there never needs to be a cure for the common cold, since the common cold is nature’s way of keeping you healthy over the long term. And so long as you get plenty of rest and strive to stay hydrated and properly nourished during a cold or flu, there is no need to get vaccinated or to take medications that suppress congested sinuses, a fever, or coughing. All of these uncomfortable symptoms are actually ways in which your body works to eliminate waste products and/or help your body get through a cold or flu. It’s fine to use over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen if your discomfort becomes intolerable or if such meds can help you get a good night’s rest. But it’s best to avoid medications that aim to suppress helpful processes such as fever, coughing, and a runny nose.

It’s important to note that just because colds and flus can be helpful to your body doesn’t mean that you need to experience them to be at your best. If you take good care of your health and immune system by getting plenty of rest and consistently making health-promoting dietary and lifestyle choices, your cells may stay strong enough to avoid getting infected by viruses that come knocking on their membranes. In this scenario, you won’t have enough weak and extraneous cells to require a cold or the flu to work its way through your body to identify and lyse them.

Curious about how to differentiate the common cold and the flu?

– A cold usually comes on gradually — over the course of a day or two. Generally, it leaves you feeling tired, sneezing, coughing and plagued by a running nose. You often don’t have a fever, but when you do, it’s only slightly higher than normal. Colds usually last three to four days, but can hang around for 10 days to two weeks.

– Flu, on the other hand, comes on suddenly and hits hard. You will feel weak and tired and you could run a fever as high as 40 C. Your muscles and joints will probably ache, you will feel chilled and could have a severe headache and sore throat. Getting off the couch or out of bed will be a chore. The fever may last three to five days, but you could feel weak and tired for two to three weeks.

One final note on this topic: because the common cold and the flu are both caused by viruses, antibiotics are not necessary. People who take antibiotics while suffering with a cold or flu often feel slightly better because antibiotics have a mild anti-inflammatory effect. But this benefit is far outweighed by the negative impact that antibiotics have on friendly bacteria that live throughout your digestive tract. In this light, if you really need help with pain management during a cold or flu, it is usually better to take a small dose of acetaminophen than it is to take antibiotics.

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Peppermint’s origin is a mystery but has been around a long time.  Dried leaves were even found in the Egyptian pyramids!

While it was highly valued by the ancient Romans and Greeks, it didn’t become popular in Western Europe until the 18th century.

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It’s key actions including the ability to increase sweating, relieve muscle spasms, stimulation of the secretion of bile and as an antiseptic.  As an oil it is strongly antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-fungal, cooling and also has anesthetic affect on the skin in spite of it being an irritant.  The whole plant has an antispasmodic effect on the digestive system and in clinical trials during the 1990’s confirmed it’s value in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Peppermint is excellent for the digestive system, increasing the flow of digestive juices and bile and relaxes the muscles of the gut.  it reduces cramps, gas and colic and helps in soothing an irritable bowel.  In the process of soothing the lining and muscles of the colon, it helps diarrhea and relieves a spastic colon, which is often the cause of constipation.
Applied to the skin, peppermint reduces sensitivity and relieves pain.  It also aids in the relief of headaches and migraines linked to digestive weakness.  

Diluted oil is used as an inhalant and chest rub for respiratory infections.  The whole herb is important for digestive infections.
Do not give peppermint to children under 5 and as an essential oil should not be taken internally except under professional supervision.

Work Smart, Save Money, Eat Great!

 Muffin tins and ice cube trays are two of my hardest working kitchen gadgets.  Being a former restaurant person, I’m big on portions.  Not only for serving but for prep as well.  A little “short order” style prep will make your life a lot easier, save you money and keep your family eating healthy and away from hitting the drive thru at lunch time (and breakfast).  It’s just as easy to make a double batch of something and freeze half for later. 

All different portion sizes are at your fingertips… ice cube trays, mini muffin, regular muffin and even “Texas” muffin pans.

Freeze portions, and when they’re solid turn them out and store in Ziploc freezer bags!  When you don’t have enough mac & cheese for another entire family meal, put what’s left in a muffin tin and freeze it.  When you have those two leftover slices of meatloaf, grab that mac & cheese and voila, lunch!

That pot of soup that you’ve been eating for a couple of meals, no problem.  Kid’s lunches made easy!

Do you only make zucchini bread while the zucchini is in season?  Use your food processor to do the prep for you, then package so it fits your favorite recipe.

  1. Shred zucchini and drain, squeezing out excess moisture. You can toss it with a little sugar or salt to help draw out excess moisture.  I put mine in cheesecloth and let it sit for about a half hour or so then it squeezes out quite easily.
  2. Measure out shredded zucchini in ½ or 1-cup portions (or whatever measure is most appropriate to the recipes you follow).
  3. Freeze the pre-measured portions into “pucks” on a sheetpan or into a oiled muffin tin of the appropriate size.
  4. When the pucks are frozen solid, toss them into a zip-top freezer bag or other freezer safe container.
  5. When you want to make some holiday zucchini bread, just pull out as many pucks as you need for your recipe and let thaw while you preheat the oven and assemble the rest of your ingredients.

(Be sure to check out the recipe for Zucchini fritters, they amazing!)

Lunches, kids meals and dinners are easy when you can grab only what you need… from homemade marinara sauce, or diced tomatoes from your favorite farmers market

To a little bit of pesto from your garden

To the half-cup of buttermilk that you only use when you make pancakes, but have to buy by the quart.

Even breakfast can be quick and easy…. Spray your muffin pan with your favorite oil

… then fill with eggs and cook at 350F until solid (approx 15 minutes).  When cool, turn out and place in a freezer bag, ready to grab.

While your English muffin or bagel is toasting, pop one of these in the microwave. 

Breakfast in 3 minutes, healthy (very frugal) and no added gas or time to sit in line at the drive through!

And when you’re not prepping, you can still feed the family!

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