Being under the weather can be especially difficult with little ones. As first time parents, trying to be more holistic in our approach, or juggling allergies breastfeeding which can make a lot of over the counter medicines contraindicated.
When it comes to over the counter meds paracetamol/acetaminophen is almost universally recommended as being “safe”. Unfortunately, this perceived safety has more to do with it being used pervasively a long time rather than it actually being safe. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (MTHFR101/…it’s genetic, but how?) paracetamol/acetaminophen impairs liver function, inhibiting the bodies ability to produce glutathione, and is associated with a huge number of known risks, liver damage and neurological disorders among them. These risks correlate in a dose dependant manor, from early exposure in pregnancy, through infancy and beyond. Paracetamol/acetaminophen is used widely to suppress fever, which the *vast majority* of people don’t need to do – fevers help our bodies fight illness and recover quicker.
Research shows that use of paracetamol at the time of immunisations reduces the efficacy of the immune response to the vaccine, reducing their overall efficacy; it is also known to significantly increase the risk of adverse events due to the impact on glutathione production.
If knowing all this you still want to use paracetamol/acetaminophen then bear in mind:
- Brand names (calpol/tylenol) tend to have more additional sweeteners/colorants/flavourings etc. that not only create more variables but can be toxic in their own right.
- For those who can’t find a safe oral form, suppositories typically have minimal ingredients and can be better tolerated, though in many countries will require a prescription.
- NAC, N-AcetylCysteine is known to counteract some of the negative side effects on liver function and can be taken along side paracetamol/acetaminophen or at a later date to help reverse damage.
Ibuprofen is another commonly recommended medication and it has a much longer lasting anti-pyretic (fever reducing) properties. Its recommendations during pregnancy have changed over the years and now some recommend it can be used. The NHS’s website says its generally not recommended as before 30 weeks it can increase miscarriage risks and after 30 weeks it can increase the risk of reduced amniotic fluid and heart problems in infants.
Ibuprofen as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can increase intestinal permeability “leaky-gut”, negatively impact gut flora and cause inflammation in the kidneys. NSAIDs are also an increasingly common allergy. Personally, I used to take them and then following inflammatory kidney pains from taking ibuprofen I developed an NSAID allergy. Aspirin is another form of NSAID, which is a concentrated form of salicylic acid – linked with salicylate intolerance, asthma and is no longer recommended for use with children due to its strong link with Reyes Syndrome.
Generally speaking, ibuprofen is considered preferable to paracetamol, but both are potentially harmful – especially to infants. With the ability to negatively impact liver function or gut health in potentially long lasting ways.
Vapour Rubs can be helpful, but it is worth noting that the vast majority widely available commercially are made using petroleum jelly and many contain essential oils that aren’t safe for young children. Eucalyptus and Peppermint especially are linked with reducing respiratory rates in children and are not widely considered safe for young children.
When pharmacists like LactMed and The Breastfeeding Network say things are or aren’t safe in breastmilk it is in large part due to the expected amount that transfers into breastmilk, or its impact on breastmilk production and not necessarily how toxic the product is. Like paracetamol “safe” but it’s still an underestimated toxic product. Many antibiotics are safe, not all, but even those which are can have a lasting negative impact on maternal and infant gut flora. Unfortunately there is a great suppression of the understanding of toxicity, downplaying the risks of chronic and accumulative exposures.
What alternative are there then?
Back to basics – Rest, Hydrate, Nutrients, Immune Support and Antivirals.
Whether someone with a virus is symptomatic or not can depend tremendously on their overall nutritional status and how well rested they are. If we’re ill our body is trying to tell us something. Supporting our overall immune system through Rest, Vitamin C and Zinc can go a long way to reducing and even removing symptoms of illness; though sometimes we may need more like elderberry, quercetin and garlic…
…it should be self explanatory, but for many mamas trying to put their kids first it isn’t. You can’t look after your kids if you can’t look after yourself. Rest up and let the house fall apart for a few days, it could help you feel better a lot quicker.
Should be “easy” enough, but many of us don’t get enough electrolytes, water with a little good quality salt can help so much. Electrolyte powders can be great, but pricey, or filled with sweeteners or fillers that are less than helpful. A simple Sole Water, or Adrenal cocktail can be made with a few ingredients and be great for the health and healing journey.
Vitamin C is a fantastic tool for the immune support tool box, not only does it support over all immune function; it is a potent anti-oxidant, and can act as a pseudo-antihistamine. The Mast Cells that release histamine during reactions are sensitive to oxidative stress – which can make them more trigger happy. Vitamin C is shown to support these mast cell to be more stable. Mast cells also have receptor sites for viruses so can be specifically triggered by some viruses.
Many advocate for high dose vitamin C in general because of how potent an antioxidant it is, though it is worth noting in large amounts it can cause GI flushing and deplete electrolytes.
Forms: Liposomal vs Ascorbic Acid & Sodium Ascorbate vs Wholefood.
Liposomal Vitamin C is ascorbic acid in a fat-soluble form with choline/lecithin which makes it have a longer lasting effect, but it is substantially more expensive than the vitamin C powders.
Ascorbic Acid (AA) and Sodium Ascorbate (SA) are powdered forms of concentrated vitamin C which can be quite affordable for large amounts for higher doses or other uses. Ascorbic acid is very acidic where as Sodium Ascorbate is buffered (or you can home buffer AA with sodium bicarbonate) and is more alkaline. Either can prove problematic for those with reflux as the amount of acidity/alkalinity can cause an “acid battle”. Personally, I suffer with reflux and thought I would be better with SA as its buffered, when actually it aggravated my reflux much more than AA. I would imagine its highly dependent on current acid management. Many with reflux are acid insufficient so increasing acidity can help but needs to be a gradual transition otherwise it can cause the dreaded acid battles.
AA/SA can be controversial because it is typically manufactured from mould cultures grown on GMO corn; though it is possible to get it through non-GMO sources from corn, tapioca or sweet potatoes to name a few.
Whole-food Vitamin C is generally ideal because it provides Vitamin C with its accompanying co-factors which can maximise its benefits through optimising bioavailability and utilisation within the body. That being said it is substantially more expensive, and almost impossible to get the same high doses that are recommended for therapeutic dosing. Camu-Camu, Rosehip and Baobab are great natural supplements for whole-food vitamin C. Though it can be found in most fruit and vegetables in much smaller amounts.
Zinc is vital for immune function; it also plays a vital role in bone health, the production of stomach acid and stabilising of the toxic burden from environmental toxins including heavy metals. So, it is generally a good supplement to trial and have in the immune support tool box.
Zinc is one of the micronutrients (along size B-vitamins and Choline) most significantly noted in literature for varying in breastmilk depending on maternal levels. Zinc can be found in food sources, it can also be supplemented in liquid drops and tablets.
Zinc deficiency is linked to more frequent and prolonged illness with viruses, it is also linked to reflux and allergies as it is key for immune health.
Zinc works synergistically with copper in the body, but they also compete, and high doses of zinc (or for those who are copper toxic zinc supplementation at all) can result in “copper dumping”. Copper dumping can result in a plethora of unpleasant symptoms; including but not limited to rashes, diarrhoea, anxiety and liver pains.
Elderberry can be quite controversial in allergy and mast cell groups because its function specifically increases immune response. This has the potential to have negative side effects in those with autoimmune or mast cell conditions; as they already have misfiring immune systems that need to be stabilised – not more active. For this reason I personally avoid using it unless it is a particularly acute virus that I’m struggling with.
For those who are able to take it during the winter months it has been shown to have potent anti-viral properties and a dramatic impact on the speed of recovery from illness.
It can be taken as berries, juice, syrup, jellies or capsules.
Quercetin is a flavonoid, anti-oxidant, with potent mast cell stabilising and anti-histamine properties. It can be a great thing to have in the tool box for allergic reactions and is also shown to help with avoiding contracting viral illness, including the flu, too.
For those who are severely limited in their diet, I would hope that the added stability to mast cells could reduce the chances of loosing safes to illness. This has happened to use many times. Rotating foods when possible can also really help with reducing the risk of loosing foods to illness.
Garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties, as well as being a high sulphur food supporting detoxification and being great for heart health. When garlic is crushed a chemical reaction happens creating allicin which is a potent antibiotic.
Garlic Mullein preparation of garlic and muellin is commonly used to treat ear infections, the garlic providing anti viral and antibiotic properties and the mullein acting as a de-humectant to dry things out.
Garlic is most therapeutic when raw, it can be:
- Crushed sliced and steeped in honey to retain its properties and reduce astringency to make it more palatable.
- Minced and mixed up in a safe oil, with a stick blender if you have one, to make a vapour rub for chests/feet or “garlic butter”.
- Added to food liberally.
- Taken in a supplement form.
Personally, I’ve taken high doses of it while nursing and noticed it significantly help my nurselings to fight off infections and avoid secondary infections.
Colloidal silver can be quite controversial. There is no doubt it is a potent antibacterial agent and will kill the vast majority of bacterial infections. But, it is also a metal with no known chelating agent and can bioaccumulate and potentially increase mast cell issues.
As a liquid it can be used on cotton wool for eye infections, or wounds, taken in a nebuliser or ingested. It may have potential negative effects down the line – even if it seems to do a fantastic job at treating infections in the short term. The quality can vary too so trying to source a well recommended brand can also be important if you chose to use it.
Personally, I’m not completely against it but I would undertake serious caution and restraint if I felt it was necessary. There are so many other potent and effective alternatives which could be used first.
Improving Lymph flow can really improve recovery rates from illness. This can be done from massage, a warm/hot bath, lymph massage, rebounding on a trampoline, castor oil packs, walking and staying active.
There are other traditional methods that have been used as per “old wives tales” like adding onions, potatoes or garlic to socks before bed, rubbing animal fat to the chest, and a small alcoholic spirits “tipple” could perhaps help adults suffering from acute illness due to alcohols anti-microbial properties – but would put additional strain on liver/kidneys. One Mama in our group swears by “warming socks”, I shared the link for more information below.
Flu & Elderberry: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056848/
Flu & Quecertin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728566/
Colloidal Silver and Mast Cells: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0041008X19303540
“Warming Socks”: https://drlisawatson.com/warming-socks
Eucalyptus and Peppermint oil: https://theherbalacademy.com/using-essential-oils-for-children/