Do you have a cough you just can’t seem to shake? Whether it’s racking spasms that leave you red in the face and gasping for air, an irritating distraction that interferes with sleep or other activities, or just an annoying tickle in the throat that has to be “scratched,” chronic cough significantly impairs quality of life.
Let’s take a look at some unusual, yet treatable—causes for this very common condition.
Control GERD, Eliminate Coughing. Coughing isn’t always initiated in the respiratory system. Another leading trigger is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition affects the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, which opens to let food and liquids pass into the stomach and closes to prevent backup of stomach contents. When this muscle becomes lax or weak, stomach acids flow back (reflux) into the esophagus. Although heartburn and indigestion are the signature symptoms of GERD, these strong acids can also cause difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, sore throat, and persistent cough.
I urge you to try a safe, inexpensive supplement called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). We use DGL at Whitaker Wellness to treat all types of gastrointestinal problems because it protects and regenerates the mucosal cells in the digestive tract. It is particularly effective for heartburn and GERD—and, in some cases, chronic cough as well. I had a patient whose constant cough and adult-onset asthma completely resolved after she began taking DGL.
Could It Be a Vitamin B12 Deficiency? Another hidden problem that may contribute to chronic cough is sensory neuropathy. Damage to nerves in the larynx can lead to hypersensitivity and increased responsiveness to allergens, reflux, and other irritants. Fortunately, there is a solution: increasing levels of vitamin B12, which is required for optimal neurological function and is a well-documented treatment for neuropathies of all kinds.
If you have an unresolved cough, give vitamin B12 supplements (1,000 mcg daily) a try. There’s an erroneous belief that injections or sublingual tablets are the only way to raise blood levels of this vitamin, but oral B12 works just fine. It’s safe, well tolerated—and just might be the answer to your chronic cough.
Drugs Could Be the Problem. Finally, do not overlook the possibility that chronic cough may be iatrogenic, or inadvertently caused by medical treatment, in this case by drugs. ACE inhibitors, a popular class of medications for heart disease, hypertension, and heart failure, promote a chronic dry cough in one in four patients who take them—and it’s severe enough that a good percentage of them discontinue the drug.
Beta-blockers, also used to treat cardiovascular issues, are problematic as well, though to a much lesser degree. If you’re taking either of these meds, talk to your doctor about replacing them, preferably with side effect–free, nondrug therapies.
Most people with COPD aren’t diagnosed until at least 50 percent of their lung capacity is gone, and this degree of damage makes it an uphill battle. But given the scarcity of conventional treatments, these natural therapies are certainly worth a try.