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Dry cough killing me at night: Please help

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  • Dry cough killing me at night: Please help

    Hey guys,

    So I have been primal 100% for about a year and a half, so it's not a transition cough, but it is a gnarly one. I've been doing everything right, eating right, all grass-fed beef, a decent amount of veggies (mostly cabbage, garlic, and onion) and little fruit, plenty of vitamin D from sun exposure (but not getting burned), but this cough is brutal. It started last week and is a dry cough.

    It's strongest at night, from the hours of 11pm to 7 am, and keeps waking me up from sleep. I just dont understand it. I never get sick, but this cough is killing me. No other symptoms. Just the cough. I finally went to the doctor after trying to ride it out by fixing it with diet/sunlight, and the doctors insist it is "allergies", post-nasal drip, and asthma. I have had no asthma symptoms since age 6, so this strikes me as very strange. Same with the allergies. If ANYONE has any advice on how to fix a persistent dry cough, please chime in. It's been almost a week now and I am desperate.

    The doctor has prescribed Zyrtec, Tessalon Pearles, and an albuterol inhaler. I hate using western medicine, but primal/paleo hasn't kicked this cough, nor has herbal teas etc and its almost been a week. I hate waking up gasping for breath.

  • #2
    Justin, let go of the hatred of using western medicine. Hypoxia is bad news. Breathing is good.

    I would suspect that you've contracted pertussis (symptoms are different in adults than they are in kids) though the doc could be right and it just could be allergies. Have the meds been helping?

    Fwiw, my background is very alternative. Very. Snapshot: two homebirths, no drugs/meds for my kids until my oldest had strep at 5 yo....I went with the abx at that point because I have heart damage (we think) from untreated strep. My kids nursed for more years than most would find acceptable and were unvaccinated until recently. My homeopathy, herbal, naturopathic, nutritional background is extensive.

    Then my little one developed asthma. It was clear that without western medicine, she'd have died around age four. Remember that in a primal environment, people did have allergies, did have asthma (though probably not commonly) and did die from it. I've had pneumonia 9 times since 1995 (7 of those times were between sept 2001 and may 2007, the 8th was sept-dec 2008) and would have died without allopathic tx.

    See my document linked below for vitamin D information....this would be my first question. You're getting sun, but are you getting enough. For most, sun alone wont' do it. If you work indoors midday and can't get midday, full body exposure to the point just before a burn would occur then you're not getting sufficient D from sun. Remedying that is a top tier priority.

    Fwiw, both of my kids recently had some random virus wtih a cough as the main symptom and my older one who no longer requires asthma meds really ever, did need her xopenex (levalbuterol) inhaler nearly around the clock for about 4 days.

    If it is allergies (which I don' think it is....I think you have pertussis), then quercetin (2 500 mg caps 4x per day) will be helpful along wtih several thousand mg ascorbic acid in divided doses.

    If it's pertussis, you just have to wait it out. When my 10 yo had it last year, she ended up on oral (not inhaled, but real honest to goodness, scary strong oral steroids) for about a week.....along with frequent albuterol, inhaled steroids (not as concerning as they sound), an anti-cholinergic (like atrovent or spirovent) and hydrocodone.

    Wishing you the best and hope you feel better soon.

    iherb referral code CIL457- $5 off first order


    • #3
      Google magnesium and asthma. Our oldest son (28) has had asthma since he was 3 or 4. No family history ... he just has it. He has noticeable improvement when supplementing with magnesium.


      • #4
        Thanks for the thorough reply, cillakat. I'm coming around to western medicine, it's just taking some time. In relation to vitamin D, I live in Florida and go out almost daily at 12:30 pm for about 30-45 minutes. I am very light skinned, so I figured this would be sufficient. My skin is fully exposed during this time. I also make sure not to shower with soap for about 8 hours to make sure I don't wash off any metabolizing vitamin D (something I read online, who knows if its true).

        The medicine seems to be helping a bit, at least the tessalon pearles that I started last night. Didn't have to get up during the night (though I could only manage about 6 hours of sleep). Zyrtec seems to be doing nothing, though. I suppose I'm just taken aback that it has gotten me so hard. I usually skim over colds and such and am wondering why my immune system was so impaired to allow this to happen. I will wait it out, as prescribed.

        I'll also look into magnesium.


        • #5
          Yeah, I have a friend that lives in Florida.... and has had enough sun to acquire skin damage, AND was crazy low in Vit. D. Needed major supplementation... Just being in the sun is NOT a given for adequate D. And supplementation makes a HUGE difference (as I'm low too, living in a Valley in California, sun all the time!)

          cillakat: Thanks for the info, I bet this is what I have. Dr. won't treat. But I'm not feeling asthmatic this time. Never had asthma a day in my life.


          • #6
            Dry cough is often indicative of narrowed airways. Air collects in the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs and cannot fully escape with each exhale because the airways are too narrow. Thus, complete air exchange cannot take place to allow new, fresh, oxygenated air to fill the air sacs. Coughing starts as a way to help force the deoxygenated air out of the lungs.

            What causes narrowed airways? Usually it is some kind of inflammatory reaction. It could be caused by infection, such as a bronchitis. But in that case, one usually feels sicks to some degree as well while the immune system fights the virus (most commonly) or bacteria. The mucus production is also increased, causing the cough to be not truly dry, althoguh it may be difficult to cough up thickened mucus.

            If the cough is truly dry, no symptoms of illness otherwise, it is usually termed asthma, or is now more frequently being termed "reactive airway disease". The lining of the airways is reacting to something in the environment causing them to become inflamed and swollen, thus narrowing the passageway for air exchange. Your doctor may very well be correct that you are allergic to something that is triggering these airway attacks. Airways that are in a reactive state can also "react" to changes in temperature (most commonly colder temps), emotional states including laughter or crying, exercise, as well as common allergens like pollen, dust, and mold spores.

            The cough can occur mostly at night due to several possible factors: Mouth breathing can lead to inhaling more allergens because they are not being filtered out by the nostrils; the pillow or bedding may be a source of allergens (especially feathers or down); mouth breathing does not warm the air as much prior to entering the airways so you are breathing in cooler air, the prone position allows the abdominal organs to slide up against the diaphragm, making breathing shallower and allowing more "stale" air to collect in the air sacs, thus triggering the cough. You may find you have a strong urge to sit up when awakened by this type of cough because it allows fuller breathing.

            I have found the primal eating has not completely eliminated my allergies. They are much better, but the allergy to grass pollen has definitely NOT gone away and I am having to go back on antihistamines to cope. I have a history of this type of reactive airway disease as well and the only thing that calmed it down was a steroid inhaler (beclamethasone) taken for a couple of months to calm down the underlying reactivity and then it just never came back when I stopped taking it. My philosophy is to take as good care of myself as I can with alternative and natural methods, but I don't hesitate to avail myself of western medicine to alleviate problems when that has failed.

            I did learn a nifty breathing technique that calmed the cough once it got started just as well as any albuterol inhaler. Do this sitting up or at least with head raised on pillows 45 degrees. Imagine your air sacs as little balloons. Think of the cough as your body's way of trying to empty your air sacs of stale air. Everytime you take big gulps of air, you are overfilling your balloons, making it harder to empty them, inducing more forceful coughing. Instead, try to take the very smallest breath possible ("take just small sips of air") and then wait as long as you possibly can before taking another "sip" of air. This lengthened period of exhalation allows the air balloons to empty more completely without coughing. Coughing is irritating and as a muscular activity increases your need for oxygen, fueling the cycle. Just stay as still and quiet as you can (minimizing oxygen need), taking as small inhalations as you can, waiting as long as possible before taking that next inhalation, letting your air escape naturally as the balloons exert their elastic force. The only reason you are coughing is to forcibly exhale the stale air. If you can get your balloons to empty by inhaling less and exhaling over a longer time. you will stop coughing. You don't need a drug to do this.

            However,please consider treating the underlying inflammatory condition so that you are not awakened by these symptoms. You may yet find a natural method of doing this, but western meds will work if all else fails. take care.


            • #7
              Originally posted by JustinKN View Post
              Thanks for the thorough reply, cillakat. ...snip.... I suppose I'm just taken aback that it has gotten me so hard. I usually skim over colds and such and am wondering why my immune system was so impaired to allow this to happen. .
              Because if it's pertussis, it's actually a minor illness and your immune system responded beatifully. You didn't even 'get sick'. You just have a cough. The problem with pertussis occurs as the bacteria dies produces a toxin that paralyzes the cilia. You're totally fine, until gripped by a coughing spasm. Then after it passes you're fine again. Besides the cough, you're not sick - right? Your immune system functioned perfectly!

              Fwiw, when dd11 got pertussis, she also had no illness prior to the onset of coughing. We were in Italy at the time and she was getting midday summer sun every day...and had been vitamin D sufficient for years. It's just the after effects of pertussis that are deadly (for infants and toddlers)....the orginal illness is nothin'.

              WRT florida sun - you need summer sun, midday, to the point just before a burn occurs, full body, every day. In FL, depending on latitude, summer could be may-sept or even longer in, say miami

              Originally posted by twinmama View Post
              cillakat: Thanks for the info, I bet this is what I have. Dr. won't treat. But I'm not feeling asthmatic this time. Never had asthma a day in my life.
              Please get tested. It can be deadly if little tiny kids are exposed or if pregnant women get it and pass it on to their newborn.

              Taking the abx doesn't reduce the symptoms or length of illness but it DRAMATICALLY reduces the spread of the illness.

              iherb referral code CIL457- $5 off first order


              • #8
                Your cough is at night when you are probably lying down. I am not a physician, but that would lead me to believe that it is post nasal drip. During the day you would most likely be clearing your throat and eliminating what settles there during your sleep. Do you have anything going on in a sinus? Have you tried sleeping while propped up a bit? Have you been tested for allergies?

                To soothe the throat you could try a bit of tea with lemon and some honey. A ginger tea also could be beneficial. The aroma of eucalyptus could help too. But check for sinus problems and allergies.

                Have you heard of a neti pot? A daily cleanse of the sinuses with a neti pot could be very beneficial.
                Tayatha om bekandze

                Bekandze maha bekandze

                Randza samu gate soha


                • #9
                  I ran into the same issue, not a lot of clear Asthma information available. Each Asthmatic must find what triggers their symptoms. Some is allergy induced, whereas, some are adrenal function. However, since you're taking Singular, your asthma is allergy induced, same as mine. Through my own studies I found that Asthma is a immune disorder. Your body does not fight bacteria or infection very well. Other diseases are very similar such as Multiple Sclerosis.

                  Brief Asthma Background: Been taking Albuterol inhaler every 10 days for 25 years. I have had been hospitalized for weeks at a time on multiple occasions.

                  The paleo diet will clear your mind and help you seek the inner support to change from within. You are addicted to your inhaler. Everytime your chest gets tight you think of your inhaler. I have been there.

                  The supplements that helped me are:

                  Magnessium oxide: BRAND: Mag400rx - I dip two pills every 4-6 hrs. It calms the lungs and body.
                  Mullien: Will help you kill bacteria and fungis that sits in the bottom of our lungs.
                  Vitamin C and A: These will help your body cleanse itself of bacteria daily. min 10,000 milligrams per day.

                  For asthma attacks I use: Badger (Aromatic Chest Rub) I do breathing exercises with beard and chest coated. 3 to 4 mins. and Im great.

                  Foods: Onions, Garlic, pineapple, ect...

                  I recommend this book: Prescription for Nutritional Healing. This book has been around for 30 years and updated every so often.

                  More questions? Please direct to my new facebook community page. This 'Ole Paleo House | Facebook


                  • #10
                    For dry cough I drink ginger tea and we have a humidifier running while we sleep, together with the aircon, since then i don't experience dry cough anymore. I do the steam as well especially if i have sinus with cough..


                    • #11
                      Something else worth checking out. is it possible there is any mold in your bedroom.. ie under/behind bed or behind dressers etc?

                      I had this problem a few years ago, as soon as I went to bed it would start, dry cough. drove me nuts, couldent sleep... fine as soon as i got up (& out of the bedroom) in the morning etc.. we live in a 300year old stone cottage & finally realized the damp was causing mildew/mold under the bed. got rid of the mold & I havent had a problem since.
                      Every time I hear the dirty word 'exercise', I wash my mouth out with chocolate.