immune system

There is a saying among non-allopathic health care folks that goes, “You can’t heal what you can’t feel.” It’s the argument for not using analgesics unnecessarily: If you don’t really need it, don’t take a pain killer. It impairs your body’s ability to feel itself (by definition, right?) and that will impair your body’s ability to heal itself.

Is this true? Is there any evidence that taking a ibuprofin prolongs the whatever-it-is that’s causing your headache? That taking dextromathorphan makes your cough last longer? I understand that taking drugs can allow you to continue pushing your body, and that that could prolong a sickness. I understand that your liver has to deal with these chemicals, and that’s probably not good for it. But if all other things were equal–the same amount of rest and your liver is just fine, for example–would you get better faster if abstain from drugs than if you take them?

The story I’ve been told about the action of viruses is confusing me. They get into our bodies, take over the nucleus of a cell, and use our genetic apparatus to manufacture more viruses, which go out and do the same. What we feel during the course of a cold or flu is largely the result of our immune system, and that it’s possible that without an immune system, the first symptoms of a viral infection might be the faltering of some major body  system–heart failure or delirium, for example, if the heart or brain became compromised. Why do we have such a narrow range of symptoms? Fever, headache, congestion, sore throat, vomiting, tiredness, cough, maybe losing our voice–that’s about it, right? But why is there any variation, if what the virus does is the same? Why do we get a cough with one flu and not another?