Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung condition related to shortness of breath. It restricts airflow and causes abnormal inflammation in the lungs which results in difficulty in breathing. It is the third leading cause of death in the US, with over 12 million people having been diagnosed and another 12 million who are believed to have it without their knowledge. It is sad to note that close to half of US adults that experience shortness of breath are over 40 years of age, are diagnosed with COPD and still continue to smoke. Statistics also show that deaths resulting in COPD are higher in women than in men.The COPD symptoms usually appear after there has been significant damage to the lungs.
Signs of Respiratory Disease
- Blueness of fingernail beds or lips.
- Experiencing regular shortness of breath while going about your daily activities.
- A chronic cough.
- Production of a lot of mucus.
- Chest tightness or congestion.Having to clear your throat every morning when you wake up.
- Fatigue and lack of energy.
- Weight loss, this is however usually experienced in the later stages.
Should you experience any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, you are advised to visit your doctor for a check-up. Your doctor can perform a simple test called a spirometry test which assesses lung function by detecting how much air you inhale, how much air you exhale and how quickly you exhale. This test is used to detect COPD among other conditions related to shortness of breath such as asthma.
Once diagnosed with COPD, your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, or medications for treatment. There are however some additional things that may aid with relief of the symptoms that you experience and the quality of your life as a patient with COPD.
These treatments are to be used alongside standard COPD treatments to hopefully boost their effectiveness. You should note that some of these methods may have a negative interaction with certain medications and for this reason, talking to your doctor before taking any additional supplements or nutritional items is absolutely necessary. Consulting your doctor will also help you better understand both the health benefits you stand to gain and the negative impacts the alternative treatment you wish to take up may cause.
There are a number of treatment boosters that may help you feel better and help your breathing.
A Korean study showed that increasing the consumption of vitamin C and E improved lung function. Vitamin C and E are also known as antioxidants. It is believed that these vitamins avert cell damage. Results as per the Korean study also showed that antioxidants may have a place in the treatment of COPD. Studies however need to be done on a larger scale to show the necessary dose of antioxidants required as this is unknown at the moment.
Food sources of vitamin C and E include:
- sweet potatoes
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Regular consumption of omega 3 fatty acids helps many body systems. No studies however prove that the regular consumption of omega 3 fatty acids play a role in the treatments of COPD. It however helps treat conditions which come along with COPD. An example of such a condition is elevated cholesterol.
Food sources of omega 3 fatty acids include:
- You can also get over the counter supplements.
Eucalyptus oil is commonly known to help loosen mucus. It’s a common herbal expectorant frequently found in cough drops. It has shown positive results in people who took cineole capsules daily and were diagnosed with COPD. This is according to a study that was published in the Journal of Respiratory Research. The main ingredient in eucalyptus oil is cineole and people have reported less incidences of shortness of breath when using it alongside their standard medication.
Though eucalyptus oil has proved to be helpful with inflammation and opening of airways, it also has a down-side. Inhaling concentrated eucalyptus oil may cause lung irritation or worsen the symptoms of COPD. It has also shown a lot of negative interactions with some COPD medication, so remember to consult your doctor before using it.
Use of Relaxation techniques to Ease Mind and Body
A lot of people diagnosed with COPD go through depression or experience anxiety and stress which has an effect on their heath. The management of stress levels and negative thoughts is very important for COPD patients. Relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga help you to relax and put you in the right state of mind.
Researchers have provided evidence which shows that yoga may improve the quality of life, breathing and lung functionality, and reduce inflammation. You should however talk to your doctor if you think you are depressed because use of relaxation techniques may not be helpful with this. Your doctor may recommend counseling or prescribe antidepressants to help you fight depression.
This is a health technique which originates from the traditional Chinese where thin needles are inserted into your skin by trained practitioners to stimulate specific points on your body. Acupuncture treatments are relatively pain-free despite the use of needles.
A small study conducted in China compared two different sets of people diagnosed with COPD. One set of people was given medication only and the other set was given medication and acupuncture. After a period of eight weeks, the set of people that was using medication and acupuncture had less breathing difficulties and a higher life quality compared to the set of people that were using medication only. No studies however suggest that acupuncture can replace the current medical treatment for COPD.
There are also a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to help with COPD and these include; quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke, regular exercise, limiting exposure to lung irritants such as toxic chemicals among many others. Remember to consult your doctor before taking up any supplementary treatment to understand the full benefits and to find out whether it could interfere with your current treatment plan.