The world's best expectorant. What is it?
March 11, 2011 8:50 AM   Subscribe

The world's best expectorant. What is it?

Yes, I have health problems and YANMD and I am seeing several already about the junk in my throat, but assume for purposes of answering this question that it is allergic in nature. Outisde of preventing the allergic reaction to airborne things happening altogether, with prescription nasal sprays & antihistamines (and moving to the Arctic) what solutions have you guys got that do NOT include these things I have previously tried:

- guafenisin (I have taken up to 2 grams of this and it does nada. I weigh around 155 if that matters).
- spicy foods
- bunches of aerobic exercise
- steam
- sinus rinsing
- saline spray
- nasalcrom (now OTC mast cell inhibitor)

[cue crickets]

Thanks mefiters : )
posted by bitterkitten to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it possible it's being caused by post-nasal drip? Sudafed (read pseudoephedrine) is what I use. It makes a huge difference. My throat stuff also gets worse when I have acid reflux, so something for that might help.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:55 AM on March 11, 2011

Try sipping iced apple cider vinegar. It's pretty gross, but it's throat-soothing and does a good job of breaking up the crap.
posted by phunniemee at 8:55 AM on March 11, 2011

Hydration? Everything's cloggier if you're dehydrated, and sinus congestion tends to cause dehydration.

Aside from that... <chirp>.
posted by richyoung at 8:57 AM on March 11, 2011

It's been my understanding that expectorants like guafenisin are meant to help clear congestion from the lungs, not the throat. Maybe you've been searching for the wrong terms/advice?
posted by dodecapus at 9:02 AM on March 11, 2011

Treatment for GERD. Seriously, even with no signs at all of heartburn. Acid reflux in the throat can cause exactly the symptoms you're describing, without any chest pain.
posted by Ery at 9:05 AM on March 11, 2011

PhoB: yep, that's the problem (post-nasal). Decongestants tend to dry out my nose too much.

Dodecapus: Aw crap. I forgot to list mucolytics. Thx Dod, ya, I've tried Clearease from Dr. Grossan which helps a little, but not much either. These guys here indicate trachea also. I'm fairly certain that is true.... if it turns out after all these years that's total bunk about expectorants and the throat, I'd almost consider an anti-campaign again the makers of those medicines for not telling people "not for post-nasal drip".

Ery: Gracias, but please assume we are talking about allergy. Yep, I am being tested for all kinds of stomach stuff as we speak, and have already been to the Mayo Clinic for it, and! have had (nearly) every gastrointestinal test known to western medicine. Doesn't mean I don't have GERD, but even so, that's brand new health junk for me comparatively speaking. However, I've had the allergic drainage thing on and off since I was a kid, which allergy medications defitnitely helped to some degree (I weep that Nasalcrom no longer conjures the drip away. That stuff was totally magic for about 2 years).

Thx again!
posted by bitterkitten at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2011

When I have a lot of congestion, I rub Menthalatum on my chest, and then put a little bit under both of my nostrils. This on its own, or coupled with head + towel + bowl of steaming water (with a few drops of lavender oil) usually breaks up my congestion pretty quickly.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:02 AM on March 11, 2011

If it's post-nasal, I'm honestly doubtful that anything is going to make a huge difference besides prescription nasal sprays or other decongestants. I mean, the problem is in your nose, not in your lungs or throat or anywhere else. Keeping well-hydrated on top of Sudafed and avoiding dehydrating stuff like coffee and alcohol should help with being dried out.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:08 AM on March 11, 2011

If it's a sinus issue, Neti pot.
posted by cooker girl at 10:22 AM on March 11, 2011

You know, I've found that certain beers, like a strong IPA, sometimes help break up throat mucus. Though of course you shouldn't use this remedy in combination with anything containing acetaminophen or naproxen.
posted by limeonaire at 10:37 AM on March 11, 2011

It's been my understanding that expectorants like guafenisin are meant to help clear congestion from the lungs, not the throat. Maybe you've been searching for the wrong terms/advice?
Guaifenisin helps to thin mucous, so it can ostensibly help for that phlegmy stuff that gets caught in the back of your throat. I suffer from Sjogren's Syndrome and as a result what mucous I do produce is very thick and gags me if it goes down my throat instead of out my nose. Mucinex plus Sudafed plus lots of water has been a godsend for me. Dunno if this combo will help BitterKitten, but I can relate - I went through years of allergy testing and sinus X-rays and various prescription nasal sprays with no improvement. It was only years later when I developed a new set of (seemingly) unrelated symptoms that I was diagnosed with Lupus, and then my rheumatologist worked backwards and investigated my various ongoing complaints and found them to be the result of collateral ailments that often accompany Lupus...the toes that were always so cold they sometimes turned blue? Reynaud's Syndrome. The constant sinus problems, nosebleeds, dry eyes, dental cavities despite diligent brushing and flossing? Sjogren's Syndrome. IANAD but one thing I would advise is to stay away from antihistamines - right now what you want is a runny nose to expel the mucous that is collecting and running down the back of your throat.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:45 AM on March 11, 2011

Oriole - yeah, a septoplasty/turbinate reduction did nothing to help runnininess or the drainage.

Cooker - like I said way up top, already tried the sinus rinsing. I do it every day anyway, but it does little to help.

now back to our story.
posted by bitterkitten at 10:55 AM on March 11, 2011

I've had a lot of struggles with allergies, and I have to say, if by 'sinus rinsing' you mean the neti pot and you've tried decongestants, I cannot possibly imagine with the list of stuff you've already tried and ruling out prescriptions that there's really anything left if none of that is doing *anything*. If nothing else, if there's actually any kind of sinus drainage, the neti pot thing should clear out whatever would have been draining temporarily.

Do you mind maybe providing a little more detail? Do any of the things you've already tried work for any period of time at all? When you do the sinus rinse thing, does it feel like it's actually getting into your sinuses, or is it just running in one side of your nose and out the other? How do your tonsils look? Do you actually do any coughing or sniffling, or just throat-clearing? That might help pinpoint things a bit.

I've noticed guaifenesin can work for my sinuses, too, it's just that it doesn't stop your body from producing mucus. It just makes it easier to move. What actual combinations of things have you been through? If decongestants generally stop that but dry you out too much, I would suggest just taking them and carrying around saline spray, for example. I don't think just one thing has ever worked for me, it's mostly just doing the whole laundry list until my allergy season passes.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:56 AM on March 11, 2011

Steaming with eucalyptus oil?
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:06 AM on March 11, 2011

posted by bravowhiskey at 12:16 PM on March 11, 2011

Hmmm...thanks for the clarification. (oh, and geez, I just noticed you already said nasal rinsing. Sorry!)

If you're still thinking the allergy route, have you tried allergy shots? I had constant gunk and sinus infections my whole life until I started getting allergy shots. I have pretty severe allergies so I had to get them once a week for about 2 1/2 years before I stopped, but I noticed a HUGE difference in gunk production almost immediately. My quality of life improved significantly and I realized that I had been tired, almost non-stop, for my entire life. It was only when I realized that I wasn't tired anymore that I made the connection.

Anyway, allergy shots massively improved my life.
posted by cooker girl at 12:33 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you tried other allergy medications? For whatever reason, antihistamines like claritin and zyrtec do nothing to help my allergies, but sinular (montelukast) makes a WORLD of a difference for me. IANAD, but I know it works differently than anthistamines.

Have you had a CAT scan or MRI since your surgery? Could it be inflamed adenoids or nasal polyps preventing drainage?
posted by inertia at 1:20 PM on March 11, 2011

Sudafed, with pseudoephedrine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:24 PM on March 11, 2011

Pei Pa Koa. Take a tablespoonful and hold it in your mouth, allowing it to slowly flow down your throat.

It tastes pretty good; recently got two coworkers to also swear by this stuff. Originally developed by Doctor Ip Tin-See, a physician for the Qing Dynasty
posted by porpoise at 1:32 PM on March 11, 2011

I was going to suggest marijuana, like bravowhiskey did. You've tried everything else I know to try. See if you can get a medical marijuana tincture. Smoking will, obviously, make things a lot worse.
posted by chairface at 2:49 PM on March 11, 2011

I had chronic sinusitis for over a decade. Post-nasal drip, pressure headaches, congestion, the works.

Then I got my sinus cavities reamed out with a drill.

Turns out the drainage channels back in there were abnormally narrow, and I had a deviated septum to boot. Worked wonders.

Before, every single time I got a cold it turned into full-blown sinusitis I needed antibiotics to get over, lasting for weeks. Even when I didn't have a cold I couldn't even put my head underwater, the pressure was so bad.

Now, I'm basically normal. Still have to be a little careful about managing cold symptoms, but instead of building up mucus in there for weeks or months, it all drains out now, resolving completely in a reasonable amount of time.

Talk to your ENT.

Also, having the surgeon stick a nine-inch spike up my nose to scope things out afterwards was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. But it was worth it.
posted by valkyryn at 4:34 PM on March 11, 2011

Give xylitol a go.

From that Wiki article:
The open nature of xylitol and its ability to form many different sugar-like structures appears to interfere with the ability of many bacteria to adhere.[29] In a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, saline solutions of xylitol significantly reduced the number of nasal coagulase-negative Staphylococcus bacteria.

It's been life-changing for both me and my wife. She's got allergies, I've got a tendency to post-nasal drip which use to result in 5-10 sinus infections annually. For the last decade or more, I've been able to completely nip these in the bud with xylitol, in the dual form of Xlear nasal spray used as drops, and 2-4 chiclets of Xlear gum right after the drops. I never spray the drops; instead I get the white squeezable bottles and use them like eye-droppers, tilting my head back and dripping it into each nostril until I can feel it hitting the little patch of dry, stinging-on-swallowing pain that's my particular signal the PND is starting up. It hits it like ice water and invariably clears the gunk and stops the sting. The gum is a second-tier defense, making sure the gunk gets hit again as it drips down the throat. Plus it's supposedly equally kick-ass on cavity-causing bacteria, which is why it's in lots of toothpaste.

I keep 'em both by the bedside and mostly use them upon waking in the wee hours with that sting just roaring away. Almost never wake up in the morning with any trace of it lingering.
posted by dpcoffin at 7:58 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

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