From minor discomfort on inhaling or speaking, through to the full-blown lost-my-voice pain of pharyngitis or laryngitis, sore throats are a common ailment that will affect the majority of us at some time or another. And while in many cases they may only be a fleeting irritation, they can also be a sign of a more serious infection. So what causes them? What can we do to help?
Sore throats vary in intensity, and are the result of inflammation of the pharynx, or throat. They can be a sign of anything from having spoken or shouted too much for a prolonged period, through to a common cold, strep infection or other microbial illness. The causes vary hugely, and as such, so do their treatments.
Hydration and herbal remedies
For minor cases where there is a simple and obvious cause such as overuse of the vocal cords, the best treatment may be to simply rest ones’ voice and relax. Drinking fluid can help lubricate mucous membranes – either plain water, or an herbal tea made from demulcent herbs may be of use. In these cases it is important to remember to breathe through the nose, as mouth breathing can further irritate and dry the oral mucosa, leading to prolonged pain and inflammation.
In terms of natural medicine for more serious causes of throat inflammation, there are a number of approaches that may assist the body in dealing with infections. These include the use of herbal antimicrobials such as kawakawa, thyme, manuka and propolis, and herbs such as Echinacea and andrographis, that may assist the immune system’s response to infection. Demulcent herbs may assist the body by coating the mucous membranes with mucilage – a polysaccharide that may help to protect and soothe the inflamed tissues while bringing symptomatic relief. High-mucilage herbs include liquorice, hoheria, marshmallow, aloe vera and mullein.
Nutritional approaches – Vitamin C
Nutritional approaches are important, too. Vitamin C can be useful for helping the body’s immune response, and acts as a chief antioxidant in the body – aiding the body’s fight against free radical damage from day-to-day environmental toxins, bacterial toxins, and other sources of oxidative stress. In terms of respiratory illness, it can also help the body to thin and expel unwanted mucous, which can also be a source of sore throats from prolonged coughing and general irritation. Humans are one of the only species on the planet incapable of producing our own vitamin C, and being a water-soluble vitamin, we are unable to store it, so it is essential that it be replenished on a daily basis.
Good dietary sources of vitamin C include fresh, raw fruit and vegetables – kiwifruit, frozen berries and citrus are all readily available at this time of year and contain reasonable levels of it. However, in cases of poor diet or acute illness, supplementation may be helpful.
Vitamin D, Zinc and Selenium
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and is also important for immune function. Vitamin D is found in small amounts in animal fats, eggs and butter, but which we primarily form in the oils of our skin when they are hit directly by UV-B sunlight. When we use sunblock we stop the formation of it, so it’s important to ensure we have some time in the sun without it wherever possible and without burning. Unfortunately, during the winter months much of the country misses out on those critical rays due to the angle of the sun, so New Zealanders can be prone to vitamin D deficiency. Supplementation with vitamin D3 may be required to top up stores until the Spring and Summer months are on us and we can replenish our levels naturally.
Zinc and selenium are minerals critical to healthy immune function, and are involved in numerous processes throughout the body. Both are deficient in New Zealand soils, and as such are often lacking in the foods we eat.
Healthpost carries a carefully selected range of products, including lozenges, herbal medicines and sprays, that may help alleviate the symptoms of sore throats and assist the body’s response to infection, as well as an array of nutritional and herbal supplements that may support immune health. You can buy them now from our secure online shop.
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What are your natural remedies for a sore throat?
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