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Can't Shake That Cough?

Digestion, Asthma, Immune | June 5, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, Gastro intestinal, Asthma, Digestion

Can't Shake That Cough?

When you have an upper respiratory infection you sometimes get a cough. This cough can be a good cough as it allows mucus to shift off the lung and be expelled from the body, but some coughs can be an indicator of other conditions and should be investigated.

Mechanism for coughs

The reason we cough is a protective reflex serving a normal physiologic function of clearing excessive secretions and debris from the pulmonary tract.

Coughing is directly induced by stimulation of a subset of bronchopulmonary C-fibres (nerves of the peripheral and central nervous system that are unmyelinated) and a reflexively sensitive, acid-sensitive subtype of myelinated airway mechanoreceptors (sensory nerve endings that respond to touch, pressure, sound and muscular contraction). [2] Put simply, sensory nerves that end primarily in the larynx, trachea, carina, and large intrapulmonary bronchi (in the lung), along with other bronchopulmonary sensory nerves located in the chest wall, diaphragm, and abdominal musculature, regulate cough patterning and cough sensitivity. (1).

Put more simply, coughing is controlled by nerve fibres.

It is suggested chronic coughing occurs because there are more triggers for coughing in the airways or in other organs associated with coughing.

Reasons for coughs

  • Upper respiratory illness
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly known as COPD
  • Acid reflux, GERD (gastroesophageal disease), Laryngopharyngeal (silent reflux)
  • Dysphagia 
  • Allergies

Upper respiratory Infections

Most upper respiratory infections resolve in one to two weeks but some leave behind a persistent annoying cough that just won’t go away.

This could be caused by unresolved bacterial infection or can be from the cycle of coughing causing inflammation of the airways – causing irritation – causing coughing – causing inflammation.

A check up with your health care provider to eliminate bacterial infection is advised. Your Doctor may suggest anti-inflammatories to sooth the irritation.

Natural Therapies that may help include:

Herbs to soothe:

  • Turmeric
  • Marshmallow
  • Chamomile

Herbs to treat infection:

  • Echinacea
  • Andrographis
  • Elderflower and elderberry
  • Olive leaf
  • Garlic
  • Reishi mushroom

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Aspiration pneumonia occurs when food, saliva, liquids or vomit is breathed into the lungs or airways.

Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder often occurring with other more serious diseases. It is a condition where it takes more time and effort to move food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach.

Reasons for coughsAsthma is a condition of inflammation of the lung often with production of mucous. Asthma is a common, chronic condition which is often triggered by the immune system responding to inhaled substances such as pollen, house dust mites and mould spores. Asthma attacks can also be triggered by the common cold, exercising or by environmental irritants like cigarette smoke and pollution. [3]
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A persistent cough if you are an asthmatic, could be a symptom of the condition not under control or a more serious health disease and should be investigated by your doctor.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly known as COPD

This is a term often used to destribe conditions of the lungs defined by airway restriction and abnormal inflammatory response. This can be from any number of causes such emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis and chronic airway obstruction. The symptoms of this disease will often include a chronic cough.
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Acid reflux conditions

Acid reflux, GERD and silent reflux have one thing in common, acid. Often in these conditions the sphincter at the top of the stomach fails to close fully after eating, this then allows acid from digestion to rise up irritating the oesophagus and the throat causing pain or a burning sensation, a bitter taste in the mouth, and coughing.  Check with your doctor to see if you have a reflux condition and follow the guideline for treatment. This includes:

  • Eating smaller meals
  • Reducing foods that can cause irritation; high sugar, processed foods, high fat foods and spicy foods, carbonated drinks and alcohol.
  • Not eating close to bed time – at least 2 – 3 hours before retiring
  • Lose weight if overweight (especially around the mid rift)
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing
  • Include probiotic foods in diet or take a probiotic

Herbs to help

  • Slippery elm
  • Chamomile
  • Turmeric

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An allergen is anything that causes a reaction in the body. This could include food, pollens, dust mite, plants or animals amonst many others.

AllergiesConditions such as hay fever will cause swelling in the sinuses and throat, excess mucous production and post nasal drip.

The drip down the back of the throat causes irritation leading to cough.

Reducing the allergens, supporting the body’s immune system and treating the symptoms will often reduce the cough.

Herbs to help with allergy include:

  • Albizia 
  • Perilla
  • Horseradish
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary

Include a probiotic for immune enhancement and Vitamin C with bioflavonoids – especially Quercetin.
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A constant dry cough maybe a symptom of a thyroid issue such as hypothyroidism, goitre, or cancer of the thyroid. The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the neck that is like a master controller of systems in our body. If other causes of cough, such as colds and allergy, have been ruled out a check up with the doctor is important to eliminate thyroid concerns.

In conclusion

Coughing is most often due to post nasal drip, acid sensitivity and poorly controlled asthma. Australia’s best online discount chemist


[1] Anatomy and Neurophysiology of Cough


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Mills, S. & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of Phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

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Aspiration pneumonia

Risk factors for gastroesophageal reflux disease: the role of diet

Probiotics against neoplastic transformation of gastric mucosa: Effects on cell proliferation and polyamine metabolism

Frequent cough in unsatisfactory controlled asthma – results from the population-based West Sweden Asthma Study


[4] Complementary Therapies in Allergic Rhinitis

Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis with Probiotics: An Alternative Approach

Efficacy and safety of Astragalus membranaceus in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity

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