Skip to main content

The runny noses, the sore throats, the upset stomachs. All of these are common symptoms from the viruses that spread when school is back in session. Plus, colds really start to spike when the seasons change and the weather cools off. 

A few years ago, I found myself unprepared when one of my kids caught a bug. I was desperately trying to find something (with clean ingredients) to soothe a cough at 10:00pm. I swore that night that I’d never be unprepared again.

Most of the cold and flu medications that you’ll find in a pharmacy or grocery store are filled with unnecessary ingredients that can disrupt the gut. 70% of the immune system is in the gut, meaning you definitely don’t want to upset it while trying to fight an illness. The photo below shows some of the common cold products I used to buy as well as what I buy and give to all of my kids if someone is complaining of being sick. I always want to try and nip the illness in the bud and help my other family members from getting it. 

To help you and your family members feel better, I’ve put together a list of common cold and flu medication ingredients that are worth avoiding. Plus, once you run out of a product, start to stock your medicine cabinet with some of the natural cold medications pictured below.

natural cold medicines

Artificial Dyes

Artificial food dyes, which are made from petroleum, are frequently used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. By using them, brands hope to make their products more appealing to consumers. Synthetic food coloring is used more often than natural colorants because it’s cheaper and lasts longer. These artificial dyes have been linked to a variety of  behavioral problems and are also known to be immune disruptors.

“The molecules of synthetic colorants are small, and the immune system finds it difficult to defend the body against them. They can also bond to food or body proteins and, thus, are able to act in stealth mode to circumvent and disrupt the immune system. The consumption of synthetic food colors, and their ability to bind with body proteins, can have significant immunological consequences.” (More information here)


Artificial Sweeteners 

If you look at the ingredients on the back of many cough syrup bottles or cough drop bags, you’ll likely see an artificial sweetener listed. Some common ones are sucralose and saccharin. Artificial sweeteners can lead to many health issues when they’re consumed regularly—and they can also be another gut disruptor. “It is known that the gut microbiota plays a key role in human metabolism and recent studies indicated that some artificial sweeteners such as saccharin could perturb gut microbiome and further affect host health.”

For those reasons, it’s smart to avoid products that have artificial sweeteners. They don’t add any benefit to help you overcome whatever bug you have and they can cause more harm than good.


GMO Crops with Glyphosate

According to the FDA, most soy and corn in the United States is GMO. In 2018, GMO soybeans made up 94% of all soybeans planted and 92% of corn planted was GMO corn. The FDA also states that, “Many GMO crops are used to make ingredients that Americans eat such as cornstarch, corn syrup, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, or granulated sugar.” These ingredients are also used in processed foods and medications. 

Look out for corn syrup and lecithin, two ingredients that you’ll likely find listed on the back of cold and flu products. These ingredients might be a product of GMO crops with glyphosate and are known to disrupt “the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria.”


Artificial Preservatives 

Preservatives are frequently used in food and pharmaceutical products to prevent or slow bacterial growth. They’re also used to protect products from spoiling. “Microbiota can be directly impacted by these commonly used food additives, in a manner that subsequently drives intestinal inflammation.”

Some artificial preservatives to look out for include sodium benzoate, which is commonly found in cough suppressants and polysorbate 80, which can be found in things like nasal sprays.


The biggest takeaway when it comes to choosing medications to give to your kids is that there are better choice products out there. If you can find a cough syrup or decongestant without artificial dyes and sweeteners, wouldn’t you rather choose that?

Dan Peterson, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, notes that a huge proportion of your immune system is in your GI tract. “The immune system is inside your body, and the bacteria are outside your body,” he explains in this article published by John Hopkins Medicine. And yet they interact. For example, certain cells in the lining of the gut spend their lives excreting massive quantities of antibodies into the gut.

If your child’s immune system is already fighting a sickness, it’s a great idea to avoid products that would further disrupt their gut. My go-to cold and flu products are shown in the photo above. You can also find discount codes for all the brands I love below. 

Discount Codes for Better Brands

Genexa: Take 20% off with code “JUSTINGREDIENTS”

Organifi: Take 15% off with code “KARALYNNE“

Mary Ruth’s: Take 20% off with code “KARALYNNE20”

Wellements: Take 15% off with code “JUSTINGREDIENTS”

Leave a Reply

[]