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The other day my son’s temperature rose to 104 degrees. Two doctors advised me to give him Tylenol. I glanced at the ingredients before I gave it to him. There they were – ingredients I would not put on my skin. And here I am giving it to my child whom I love to pieces. Poor little guy!
When I gave it to him, he put up a strong fight even with the fever that left him listless. He probably knew intuitively that I was giving him a poison. So let’s look together at what is in Tylenol.
Inactive Ingredients of Tylenol
The ingredients are listed on the box in the alphabetical order (which I will follow) so it is impossible to know the degree of their importance and the amount used.
Anhydrous Citric Acid: Anhydrous simply means without water. Citric acid is one of the safest ingredients here. It is widely found in fruits. The main concern with citric acid is that it may be produced with the help of genetically modified (GM) microorganism and/or from genetically modified plants. I attended the Synthetic Biology symposium last month and was shocked by the scale genetically modified microorganism have taken over in our lives. Ultimately, there is no way to know the consequences of the GMO experiment for which we are all now test subjects.
Butylparaben: This is a preservative I urged you to stay away from in baby wipes and skin care products many times. And here I am pouring it into my son’s mouth. Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential endocrine (hormone) system disruptors. Butylparaben is rated 7 out of 10 (10 being the most toxic) by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
D&C red #33 and FD&C blue #1: These are the dyes made from extremely toxic petroleum or toxic coal tar. The FDA normally does not test products themselves, except for the petroleum and coal tar dyes. A manufacturer of a color additive has to not only petition for its approval but also submit a sample to the FDA for testing and certification. When the FDA certifies a color additive, it assigns a number such as #33 and #1 in this case.
You might think that the fact that the FDA tests color additives assures their safety. Unfortunately, the FDA allows “safe” levels of toxins in the dyes. And color additives may contain a variety of toxins such lead, cadmium, other heavy metals. I don’t normally trust the safety of “safe” levels as they are subject to change and often do not take into account cumulative effects and interrelations with other compounds. Remember, smoking used to be considered safe too. So I am pretty sure that my ill son with already compromised immune system swallowed a “safe” dose of something toxic that will probably remain in his system for a long time.
Flavors: These are mixtures of undisclosed chemicals that simulate certain tastes. New flavors have to go through an approval process by the FDA. Unlike with color additives, the FDA does not test them. Just because the FDA allows manufactures to keep what is in their flavors a secret, does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about them.
High Fructose Corn Syrup: This is associated with a number of health problems, such obesity, fatty liver, and diabetes. Those are long-term health problems and won’t arise from one-time intake of Tylenol. The biggest concern I have with high fructose corn syrup in this situation is that it has recently tested positive for mercury, a very toxic heavy metal that the body can’t easily get rid of.
Microcrystalline Cellulose and Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium: a simple word for these ingredients is wood pulp bleached with chlorine and processed with toxic solvents.
Propylene Glycol: This is a petroleum-based alcohol that is also used as a part of automobile antifreeze. It is associated with allergic and contact dermatitis at concentrations as low as 2%. The ingestion of high concentrations of it causes seizures and respiratory depression.
Sodium Benzoate: After looking at the numerous preservatives, sodium benzoate is one of the “safer” preservatives out there. The main concern with it is that when combined with vitamin C, it may form carcinogenic benzene. By the way, prior to taking Tylenol, my son ate tons of blueberries that are rich in vitamin C… And when we are sick, we all know to take lots of it.
Sorbitol Solution: While sorbitol is considered safe, it is another type of sugar that my child did not need to get well.
Sucralose: It is a third artificial sweeter in Tylenol. It has recently been downgraded from “safe” to “caution” by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group. Sucralose may pose a number of health problems that stem from the fact that our bodies lack a digestive enzyme to break it down.
Xanthan Gum: a common thickener and is generally considered safe. It is often produced from genetically modified corn though. Also, last year the FDA issued a warning that SimplyThick (a formula containing xanthan gum) should not be fed to premature infants because it may cause necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening condition that damages intestinal tissue. The warning was based on 84 reported cases, including 7 deaths.
Active Ingredient of Tylenol
Dr. Myrto Ashe, MD, MPH whom I’ve been working with to reverse my Hashimoto Thyroiditis has written an informative article on the active ingredient of Tylenol, acetaminophen. Dr. Myrto Ashe explains that acetaminophen interferes with synthesis of glutathione, a necessary compound in our body to keep us healthy, which is responsible for anti-oxidation, anti-inflammation, and detoxification. The interference with glutathione may trigger the development of a number of diseases, such asthma, eczema, thyroid disorders to name a few. Thus, Tylenol should be taken only when it is absolutely necessary. To read more about that, click here.
Conclusion about Tylenol
I am not saying that I will never give my son Tylenol, nor should you. You should work with your doctor (better if it is a functional medicine doctor) to find the best course of treatment. But based on the analysis of Tylenol ingredients, I am so glad that have not been giving my son Tylenol on a regular basis. (The fact that I grew up with a mentality that drugs should be used as the last resort and less invasive courses of treatment should be explored first helped me stay away from Tylenol even before I knew it was toxic.)
The best way to avoid dilemma whether to take Tylenol is to take preventive measures to decrease chances of getting a flu/cold. Here is an excellent article by Dr. Myrto Ashe, MD about how to do so.
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