This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
A cough is your body’s way of clearing breathing passages, and it often signifies an underlying disease is present.
Below are the conditions that produce coughs, the difference in their manifestations and natural approaches for their remediation.
A cough caused by asthma is dry and has a wheezing or rattling sound. It worsens at night or during physical activity. In addition, the airways are inflamed, which makes breathing difficult. The cough may be associated with shortness of breath, chest tightness and fatigue.
Many experts recommend an intervention called the Buteyko method to alleviate chronic hyperventilation. Improving gut bacteria by eating probiotic and high-fiber foods may also help asthma related coughing.
This type of cough may be either wet or dry. Allergies or a cold can cause mucous to drip down the throat, which stimulates the cough reflex when it comes in contact with nerve endings. Postnasal drip coughs worsen at night. If they stem from allergies, the symptoms of sneezing and itchy eyes are also present.
Saline irrigation is a natural remedy that thins mucous, removes bacteria and reduces swelling inside the nose. You can buy kits for home use, but one word of caution: According to Live in the Now Medical Editor Kevin Passero, tap water is not to be trusted for home nasal rinses due to the organisms that it can expose you to (think dangerous amoebas). He recommends using only distilled or boiled water adding, “taking this simple step will ensure your safety.” A recipe for the homemade rinse is to mix 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of lukewarm water. You can add an optional pinch of baking soda to make it more soothing. You can read more about DIY nasal irrigation here.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a disorder that allows the contents of the stomach to back up into the esophagus, produces a dry, spasmodic cough. The condition is a common cause of chronic cough, responsible for approximately 40 percent of cases. Eating or lying down makes the cough worsen, and it may be accompanied by hoarseness or heartburn.
According to Mercola, allopathic doctors believe GERD is caused by too much acid, but the condition actually may often be due to insufficient acid. He says the solution is to restore normal stomach function through eating a diet high in vegetables while avoiding sugar and processed food. Mercola also advises consuming fermented foods to balance flora in the gut.
ACE inhibitors, a class of medications used to treat high blood pressure, can produce a dry cough. It begins a few weeks after starting on the drugs.
Mercola says not to stop taking the medication without your doctor’s consent. However, he asserts blood pressure can be reduced through lifestyle changes that primarily consist of avoiding the consumption of sugar, processed food, trans fat and processed salt. Getting regular exercise is also important.
Smoking is the primary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This type of chronic, hacking cough produces much mucous, especially in the morning; but it tends to improve as the day progresses. Associated symptoms involve wheezing, chest tightness, fatigue and shortness of breath, particularly with exercise.
The most important step in dealing with COPD is to stop all forms of smoking, including electronic cigarettes. Doctor of natural medicine, chiropractic and nutritionist Dr. Josh Axe says diaphragmatic breathing and a respiratory therapist may help. He also recommends exercise, increased water intake, stress management and avoidance of exposure to chemicals in products such as household cleaning agents and perfumes. An additional advisory is to consume a healthful diet of fruits, vegetables and fatty fish.
In pneumonia, a dry cough will develop into a wet cough with green, yellow or red mucous after a few days. Other symptoms include chills, fever and difficulty in breathing, along with pain upon deep breathing or coughing.
Some people can recover at home through resting, eating chicken soup and drinking plenty of fluids. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required for oxygen therapy, breathing treatments and intravenous fluids.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Although whooping cough has been rarely seen since the 1940s, its incidence is on the rise in recent years. Characteristically, it’s an extremely severe, hacking cough with a whooping sound on inhalation. The initial symptoms are similar to the common cold, and the intense coughing starts after a week.
If you suspect you have this disorder, get medical attention immediately. It’s treated with antibiotics. You can augment medication with measures such as taking vitamin C for seven days, eating soup with garlic and staying hydrated, as well as using a warm-air humidifier with essential oils like eucalyptus or peppermint. Get plenty of rest and assume a more upright position while sleeping. Acupuncture may also help.
A common theme among the above natural health recommendations for coughs is consuming a diet of high quality. The importance of eating healthy foods and avoiding those that are unhealthy cannot be overemphasized.