Catarrh is a general term applied to sub-acute or chronic inflammation of the mucous membrane, its distinguishing feature being the discharge of mucus ranging from a thin watery fluid to an offensive thick mucus.
Most people apply the term catarrh only to the involvements of the nose and throat. However, catarrh may affect any portion of the body wherever there is a mucous membrane. Thus there may be catarrh of the stomach and intestines, which is quite common, or of the bladder, and so on. Catarrh is similar to a “cold” in regard to the mucous membrane discharge, but an acute cold rarely is called an acute catarrh. It is such, however.
Here we shall confine ourselves to catarrh of the respiratory tract because it is catarrh of the nose, throat, and bronchial tubes that are most prevalent. It is disturbing, not alone to the one who has it, but to the one who is forced to see and hear its manifestations. The symptoms of catarrh are due to the efforts of membranes to cast out the excess mucus which catarrh causes.
Various as these symptoms are they do not need enumeration here. The cause of catarrh is the vital forces working toward the purification of the body. The occasions for catarrh (usually considered the causes) are our numerous wrong habits of living. However, to simplify the subject we will dispense with the distinction and call all factors responsible for the catarrh, the causes.
The chief cause is excessive eating and defective elimination. If the reader will turn to the section on Toxemia the various causes of catarrh will be found clearly given. It is chiefly necessary here to point out the most pronounced case of catarrh – of the toxemic condition that makes the body produce the catarrh. The use of large amounts of starches, such as breadstuffs, pastries, and potatoes, rice, macaroni, etc., sugar and its products, rich desserts, fried foods, pancakes, syrups, and candies are among the chief causes and the chief perpetrators of the underlying toxemia. Combined with this usually is an excessive amount of meat-eating, so that there is both putrefaction and pathological fermentation in the intestinal tract, with the absorption of the detrimental by-products of these processes. All of these considered in addition to the absorption of an excessive amount of food elements and there are found many reasons for catarrh.
The catarrhal discharge may be considered as merely congealed impurities passed out of the body for its protection. The “inflammation” usually considered associated with this condition, as a rule, is insignificant. No attention need be paid to it. There is the burden of toxemia that must be corrected, and when it is corrected there will be no occasion for throwing out the waste products upon the mucous membrane surfaces. The normal eliminative channels will take care of them properly.
A leading disturbing cause of catarrh is an excessive amount of clothing and other factors which prevent normal skin action. One seldom finds catarrh among primitive people who wear little or no clothing. Another chief contributing cause is confinement too much of the time within heated houses or working quarters where the air also is super-dried. One finds little or no catarrh among the Eskimos or inhabitants of extreme northern regions. But explorers of these regions, although free from catarrh while in such regions, may develop catarrh within a few days after returning to the habits of “civilized” life. Insufficiency of fresh air during both day and night is almost certain to lead to the need for some sort of catarrh.
Inadequate bathing will have an effect similar to the use of excessive clothing. If the pores of the skin are not properly activated the entire functions of the skin will be retarded. Elimination through this channel will be ineffective, and the waste products that should be eliminated through this medium will have to have an outlet through the mucous membrane.
Constipation leads to the development of catarrh through the failure of one of the chief normal means of elimination, thus making it necessary for the mucus to find another outlet.
In a discussion of diet, it must not be considered that starches and sugars alone and the foods previously mentioned are the sole dietetic causes of catarrh. Too much protein or fats in any form will produce or aggravate the condition, as also will an insufficient amount of water taken into the body. Over-fatigue, when frequently repeated, causes such constant lowering of the vital forces that once catarrh has developed it may be some time before the vitality can be restored.
It may be considered that for those who live in cities or in any place where the air is laden with smoke and dust a slight degree of catarrh is considered by certain persons to be of some benefit, particularly when of the watery type. It will help to carry off a certain amount of foreign elements that otherwise would linger, to cause more or less damage. However, the body usually will be able to take care of these quite satisfactorily if one is entirely free from any catarrhal discharge, so it would be better to be free from this condition.
A condition usually considered as a result of catarrh is involvement of the Eustachian tubes leading to the cars, resulting in catarrhal deafness. The catarrh will not extend to involve these tubes unless the body requires additional surfaces of mucous membrane to keep it reasonably healthy internally. When there is an extension of catarrh from one part to another it can be taken for granted that the underlying causes have continued and intensified and that the body is merely calling on additional structures for elimination, thus sparing the internal mechanism involvements that will result in serious illness or chronic disease.
Catarrh is usually curable. There are very few diseases more certain of correction than catarrh and yet this condition sometimes lingers on for a discouragingly long time, even under the most satisfactory treatment. One reason for this is that the body takes considerable time to reestablish normal functioning of the natural eliminative organs so that there will be no need for the great demand upon the mucous membrane. Usually, it is quite readily eliminated in children and young adults but is more stubborn in those in middle age and beyond. If there is a fair amount of vitality and will power and there is no disintegration of some of the vital organs or of the mucous membrane, catarrh can be cured in practically every case. The cases that cannot be cured usually are in elderly people, but though these may not fully recover they can greatly improve.
Treatment. In order to eradicate catarrh, it is necessary to re-establish not only elimination through all channels but the normal activity of all the vital organs and processes. Usually, a person needs no outside help in order to correct this condition. A great many people lose courage easily, especially when relief is not as rapid as they may have expected. No matter how slow the progress may be, one can be certain that a proper program of living will steadily improve the general health and in time there will be a disappearance of any discharge from the mucous membrane.
The fast for a short time is helpful in these cases, but this is one condition where we do not advocate the protracted fast. It seems that the eliminative functions of the body slow down appreciably during the fast, and since the body has more or less of a “habit” of eliminating through the mucous membrane it will continue this habit while the other eliminative organs decline to function. It is better in catarrh that a fruit diet is employed, to keep up elimination through the normal channels and at the same time to more rapidly alkalinize systemic acids and aid in detoxication. If the weight and general conditions permit, a person may remain on the fruit diet for several weeks with benefit. The citrus fruits are preferable, but any fruit except the sweet fruits may be used to advantage. It is well to confine the diet to a smaller quantity of fruit than is required to provide calories to maintain weight and energy. The equivalent of six or eight oranges a day usually will be enough fruit, but if the weight is dropping rapidly or is not high, to begin with, and if the energy is below normal, up to twice this amount may be taken without detriment. It is very important that a considerable quantity of water be taken, also that the bowels be emptied daily. If they do not function naturally on the fruit, an enema of from one to two quarts of tepid water should be used and repeated immediately if the results are not satisfactory.
The regular diet should be returned to very gradually and should consist of fruits of all kinds, salad and cooked green vegetables, with slowly increasing amounts of the root vegetables and if considerable improvement is noted, very limited amounts of whole grain cereals and milk in some form. Green vegetables and juicy fruits should form the bulk of the diet. Some meals should be exclusive of one or the other.
The question also arises as to the value of the milk diet in catarrh. If a person is much below normal in weight when beginning treatment or after a fast or fruit diet, the milk diet may be used to restore weight, strength, and energy to an appreciable degree. A certain amount of mucus is thought by some to be produced by the milk diet, but this diet will never aggravate catarrh. However, it is often as well to continue on a fruit diet for some time, later combining fruit with milk, rather than the strict milk diet. We even leave out milk entirely or largely in many cases. The foods mentioned early in this section as being detrimental should be avoided no matter how ample a diet is provided later on.
It is very important that the body is aided in burning up its waste products, and one of the best means of doing this is through exercise. Another is through a restoration of normal skin activity.
There should be a daily exercise, preferably sufficiently prolonged or strenuous as to result in increased perspiration. It should be out of doors, at least in part. Long walks are very helpful, especially when there is deep breathing.
To improve the skin activity the cold bath is of great value. The reaction required from this bath is beneficial not only to the skin but to the circulation, of the blood itself, and to every cell in the body. It helps the body to burn up considerable waste material to provide the warmth necessary for the establishment of reaction. Where the vitality is low a moderately cool bath may be used, or it may be necessary to use the hot or warm and cold bath, but some bath below body temperature should be taken practically every day.
As little clothing as possible to maintain warmth should be worn and as little bed-clothing as possible. Bundling up the throat and chest is not a good practice. It is necessary that the air reaches the surface of the body at all times. The nude sun-bath should be taken at every opportunity. One should get the practice of coddling. Friction baths, especially when combined with the air-bath and sunbathe, will greatly stimulate the circulation and elimination. One must secure plenty of relaxation and sleep in order that the nerve- tone may be restored to or maintained at normal.
One should bear in mind that when ridding the body of catarrh one is making it more immune to every other disease. Long ago Seneca said, “Man does not die: he kills himself.” Catarrh or the condition underlying catarrh is one of the things that help mightily in this almost universal suicide. It leads to other disease manifestations, and it often shortens life. To get rid of catarrh the patient must put into practice the necessary procedures. Any knowledge is worthless if it is not applied. In the case of catarrh, proper knowledge must be applied and continuously applied until the body habits have been corrected and until proper living becomes second nature to the individual.