What and why?
Catarrh is mucus made by the skin of your digestive and breathing passages, and is little understood for something so common. It results from anything that irritates or inflames the skin, which responds by trying to lubricate and protect itself; colds are a common example. But it can go on happening long after obvious irritation has ceased. Why?
In the first place, your body may use catarrh to get rid of something it cannot otherwise cope with; or once you have managed that, to dump the protein mucilage you no longer need to stop poisons from hurting you (see Overweight). Secondly it may be your exaggerated response to chronic irritation or allergy. Often, however, neither of these seems to apply. In that case you need to be told about something well known fifty years ago that has been forgotten lately.
All the catarrhal skins are quite closely related, having all developed from the same origin when you were small. Consequently they are all connected by a network of tiny nerves, built into their foundations. If one part of this network is irritated, the ripple spreads to all the others. So your nose may get congested when your bowel is loaded and needs emptying; when that happens you can sometimes feel a wave of ease pass through your body, reaching your nose in seconds.
In constipation this never does happen properly, so the catarrh goes on — just as if you had hay fever all the year round. The usual seat of catarrh is however not your bowel, but your stomach. This is commonly drawn as a single swelling the shape of a kidney bean, but during digestion it often looks more like an hour-glass.
The upper half works like a hopper to receive starchy food, which is given a chance to digest in your saliva before joining the rest of your meal — provided you eat things in the right order (see Food For Health). Correct operation of this hopper is vital if you are to digest starch grains from bread and cereals properly. They are like tiny balls of wool, and must be unravelled from the free end. If they go into your lower stomach too early that never happens, and the grains behave like grit — just as uncomfortable as sand in your shoe.
This not only provokes catarrh in your stomach, setting off your nose, sinuses and earache perhaps; but gives thrush and wind a chance to get going in your bowel.
How can I help?
Advice to maintain and maximise health
1. Stop eating bread, breakfast cereals and cakes made from white flour. These are too easily chewed so get too little saliva mixed with them, and become too sloppy to stay in your upper stomach. There are also far more starch grains per mouthful, since the fibrous padding (35% of wholemeal flour) has been taken out. Biscuits, crackers and thinly cut toast are better, because the starch grains burst open in cooking and can be digested from a lot more ’free ends’. Wholemeal versions of all these foods are best; the fibre makes you chew them longer, and binds each mouthful into a doughy ball that will stay in your upper stomach much longer.
2. Only eat bread or other starchy cereal food as the last part of your meal, after a vegetable or fruit first course and any rich protein dish as your second course. Potatoes’ starch is arranged differently but eat them last if you can. Dry wholemeal toast or savoury biscuits are most digestible forms of cereal. Do not drink after eating starchy food, or the arrangements for digesting it will be upset.
3. Stop using catarrh medicines regularly. They have only a temporary effect and are habit-forming; confine them to any attacks of sinusitis or earache before your catarrh has stopped. Only use them on no more than three days in a week.
4. Garlic is remarkably helpful in acute bouts of catarrh, so long as you can cope with the reek! This is minimized if you use a fresh whole clove of garlic, complete with its outside skins, as a lozenge for two socially acceptable hours twice daily. Do not chew the clove or bruise it.
5. To relieve sinus pain or intense congestion at any time, spray cold water from a shower nozzle full on your face for half a minute, at the highest pressure you can get. Do this anyway as routine after a hot bath.
6. Try Homoeopathic Merc sol, Aconite or Nat mur in short bursts. One of these may suit you; none will do you harm.
7. Check yourself for allergy. Food from the cow, or wheat, commonly provokes catarrh in susceptible people. Avoid them if they affect you, at least until your problem is well under control. You may then be able to tolerate occasional helpings without trouble.
8. Coffee, strong tea, smoke, spirits, spicy food, sugar and confectionery irritate empty stomachs.