There are great things about the winter months. Playing in the snow, getting cozy by a fire and warm tea to name a few. However, there are at least a couple down-sides to winter. Immune stress and the pain of overexertion from shoveling as well as slip and falls are all common complaints I see in the office in winter months. It can be very tempting to turn to the medicine cabinet for relief when winter ailments hit. Before doing that this winter, let’s examine how that affects the balance in the body long-term.
Free radicals are toxic compounds that can be created in the body by the process of your cells creating oxygen (oxidation). Once these free-radicals are created they require “antioxidants” to devour them and remove them from the body. These free radicals need to be removed from the body to prevent them from damaging the cell’s blueprint (DNA). One of the most powerful antioxidants in the body is a compound called glutathione. Glutathione does a great job of neutralizing these free radicals within the cells. If the body is stressed by a large amount of “oxidative stress” (toxic chemical exposure, lack of sleep or nutrient deficiency) at one time, the body’s glutathione can be zapped. The resulting depletion of glutathione can cause significant oxidative damage to the cell’s DNA. Glutathione is of particular significance because it is an antioxidant that is active in the brain. We all understand that brain cell health is extremely important. Ultimately, glutathione depletion can result in inflammation in brain cells and even brain injury.
One big glutathione-hog is a common household pain medication and fever reducer. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is frequently used in pediatric patients as well as adults while sick
or in pain. The majority of acetaminophen is processed in the liver and creates sulphate and glucuronide conjugates. However, about 4% of the drug is converted to a very toxic inflammatory compound called N-acetyl-p-benzoquinoneimine (NAPQI). NAPQI has to be neutralized by glutathione and excreted in the urine.
Hopefully you’re already concluding that acetaminophen is counter-productive for fighting illness and inflammatory pain. Acetaminophen simply blocks pain signals and has no anti-inflammatory effect on tissue. In fact, it creates a chemical that increases cytokine cells (cells that create inflammation). (1) While the process by which Acetaminophen reduces fever is still a bit of a mystery (2) one thing that is clear is that it easily penetrates the brain barrier and the mode of action for pain and fever reduction seems to be the result of its effect on the brain itself. (3)
“Tylenol is by far the most dangerous drug ever made” according to Aric Hausknecht, M.D.. He elaborates by saying "Each year a substantial number of Americans experience intentional and unintentional Tylenol (acetaminophen) associated overdoses that can result in serious morbidity and mortality. Analysis of national databases show that acetaminophen-associated overdoses account for about 50,000 emergency room visits and 25,000 hospitalizations yearly. Acetaminophen is the nation's leading cause of acute liver failure, according to data from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes for Health. Analysis of national mortality files shows about 450 deaths occur each year from acetaminophen-associated overdoses; 100 of these are unintentional." (4) This statement is from 2107, In light of the current opioid crisis, I would argue that opioids are the most dangerous drug ever made. However, I would also argue that switching to tylenol as a less addictive option needs to be executed with caution.
Tylenol use during pregnancy, infancy and childhood is especially concerning. Glutathione depletion coupled with unknown effects on brain tissue and liver stress during times of immune activation is counter-productive to moving the body back into balance. The effects on the brain during critical development remain untested. I have read a number of times that, if Tylenol had to go through testing today for approval, it would not pass. Acetaminophen was approved for use in 1955, almost 65 years ago! The main goal for the health of my own kids and patients is to assist the body to move back into balance. Pain and discomfort can be endured for a short time in order to achieve wellness and balance more effectively long term. It can be beneficial to be uncomfortable for a short time to achieve the ultimate goal of balance and health and achieve it more rapidly. I have found that letting my kids have a fever for a short time has resulted in shorter illness times compared to relatives and classmates with similar infections. I think the reason is, in part, due to the positive effects of fever in boosting interferon production which is the bodies most important defense against viruses (5), and in part due to maintaining healthy levels of glutathione during times of immune stress. If you have used acetaminophen in the pas and are concerned about your glutathione levels try grass-fed beef or whey protein, pastured eggs, raw asparagus, spinach, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, garlic, tomatoes and cucumber.
To stay healthy in the winter I like to use Vitamin D at approximately 35IU per pound/ day, increasing temporarily when you have signs/ symptoms of cold or flu. (Having your Vitamin D levels checked yearly with your blood work is recommended when supplementing with Vitamin D). Our 2 favorite oils for immune boosting from Plant Therapy are Germ Destroyer (6) and Immune boom (7).
For the aches and pains I recommend our favorite natural topical analgesic, Cryoderm. For kids and pregnant moms, Arnica is a fantastic natural pain-relief option. You can find Arnicare cream by Borion at Meijer or any health store. You can reduce pain by balancing your body’s inflammation naturally. Reducing sugar intake and supplementing with a high-quality omega-3 supplement and tumeric supplement are great, natural ways to reduce inflammation.
Of course, Adjustments help reduce pain and inflammation in affected joints by restoring proper motion and alignment. Regular adjustments also help balance the nervous system and have been shown to boost T-fighter immune cells. Don’t just be pain-free, be healthy!
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2. 34 Davison C, Guy JL, Levitt M, Smith PK. The distribution of certain non-narcotic analgetic agents in the CNS of several species, J Pharmacol Exp Ther , 1961, vol. 134 (pg. 176-83)