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We all know the horrors of getting a cold – the stuffy nose, congested chest, pounding sinus headaches, annoying cough, fever, mucus explosion, and a throat that feels like you’re continuously swallowing razor blades just for the hell of it. Cold are incredibly unpleasant, and unfortunately many homemade or pharmaceutical remedies for treating them tend to include high FODMAP ingredients that could trigger IBS symptoms … as if we weren’t suffering enough!

In situations such as these cough mixtures and throat lozenges, despite appearing helpful, are most likely NOT your friend. It is very common for these medications to contain sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, erthritol, xylitol and isomalt, which, even in small quantities, can wreak havoc in a IBS sufferer’s stomach. Even when ‘naturally sweetened’ this may mean honey (high in fructose) has been added. If you are opting for medications like lozenges, look for those that have been sweetened using glucose, sucrose, dextrose, or other low FODMAP sweeteners like maple and rice malt syrup. It’s also important that you talk to your pharmacist/doctor about your symptoms so they can prescribe the best medical solution. Keep in mind though,  they’re not dietitians so still do a double check and read the label before investing in expensive medications.

Remember to follow any recommended dosages stated on the labels, as it’s easy to overdose on delicious lozenges. This can mean a first-class ticket to the loo, as these medications, when taken in excess, are associated with a laxative effect … the last thing an IBS/cold sufferer (who is already likely to be dehydrated due to excess mucous production) needs.

Natural remedies for the common cold should be your first treatment strategy, as they are associated with less potential side effects or complications. These can be relatively low cost, often draw on materials you may already have lying around the house, and can offer just as much (if not more) relief than their chemist counterparts. Some examples include:

  • Gargling warm salt water to moisten and soothe your scratchy throat
  • Elevating your head higher than usual at night (e.g., using a pillow to allow any mucus to drain out and avoid you re-swallowing … attractive stuff)
  • Using a warm compress placed over your sinuses to promote vasodilation and ease sinus headaches
  • RESTING to allow your body to heal … that means ZERO exercise (yup, finally have a legitimate excuse!)
  • Eating small meals frequently to nourish your body. Viruses and illness can interfere with normal digestion, making our stomachs even MORE (if possible!) sensitive so it may be worthwhile reverting to the FODMAP elimination diet until the cold passes – limit digestive distress as much as possible
  • Neti pots or sinus rinse bottles are a great alternative to saline drops to rinse out your sinuses … again, not the most attractive of activities
  • Stay hydrated to keep your throat moist and help the body’s internal flushing system

While you should always hold out before opting for the pharmaceutical route, there are several over-the-counter medications that can assist with symptom management. These include:

  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen to reduce fever and headache pain / body aches
  • Vapor rubs that contain menthol and eucalyptus oil to decongest that stuffy nose – note: these are strong so don’t go applying them like you would a normal moisturizer
  • Saline nasal drops to rinse out your sinuses and reduce congestion
  • Phenylephrine Hydrochloride can help relieved blocked noses

Remember, if symptoms persist, it is worthwhile booking in to see your doctor as there may be an underlying cause of your illness.  

Finally, perhaps even more important than treatment is prevention. There are several low FODMAP foods that support immune health due to their unique antioxidant or anti-inflammatory actions in the body. These include citrus and kiwi fruits (rich in vitamin C), bell peppers, broccoli, ginger, turmeric, spinach, sunflower seeds, shellfish, poultry, and green tea. Never underestimate the power of a warm cup of tea or homemade soup  when hauled up in bed with a cold either.  These comforting foods often ease digestion and will help soothe a swollen throat.

With a combination of low FODMAP medication, nourishing food and rest your cold should subside quite quickly (fingers crossed). Remember to take it easy until then … sending healing vibes your way!

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