Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a respiratory disease that is characterized by abnormally inflammatory lungs response and poor airflow in the respiratory tract that makes breathing difficult. COPD is also called chronic obstructive lung disease or chronic obstructive airway disease.
COPD is the third leading cause of death in America. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD in America. However, an estimated 24 million may have the disease without even knowing.
COPD is an umbrella term that includes respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and in some cases asthma.
The main cause of COPD is smoking tobacco. Thus, the best way to avoid COPD is not to smoke or to avoid smoking. Unfortunately, half of the US population above 40 years old who have challenges breathing, due to asthma, or have COPD still smoke.
Other causes of COPD include secondhand smoke, exposure to lung irritants such as dust, air pollutants, and chemical fumes.
In rare cases, a genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency may cause COPD. People with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency are susceptible to obstructive pulmonary diseases and liver diseases (eg, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in children and adults).
Initially, COPD may show no symptom or the symptoms may be very mild that the sufferer overlooks it and doesn’t go for check up.
However, over time, the symptoms may become more prominent and could include chronic coughing that produces mucus, wheezing, tightness of chest, blueness of lips or fingernail beds, overproduction of mucus or phlegm, shortness of breath, general weakness or fatigue and weight loss.
If not controlled or treated, COPD could lead to other painful experiences called COPD exacerbations. During COPD exacerbations, symptoms become worse than usual and could persist for several days.
There are four stages of COPD:
Stage 1 — very mild COPD
Stage 2 — moderate COPD
Stage 3 — severe emphysema/chronic bronchitis
Stage 4 — very severe COPD
Each stage of COPD has an effect on the sufferer but, in general, the later the stage of COPD one has, the more truncated the life expectancy.
COPD can cause long-term disability and early death. It can lead to other health complications such as lung cancer, high blood pressure, depression and other respiratory infections. Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD and the number of people dying from it continues to grow.
Below are 17 treatments to slow down COPD complications and its progression;
1. Quit Smoking
Quitting to smoke is, by far, the single most important thing you can do to mitigate the harmful effects of COPD and improve the quality of your life.
Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful and addictive chemicals and toxins that adversely affect the lungs.
To help slow down the progression of COPD and its symptom, you would have to quit smoking.
It is advisable to seek professional help as cigarette smoking is addictive and many people find it difficult to quit smoking without proper help. Ask your doctor for referrals if you are struggling to quit.
2. Maintain A Healthy Diet
You would need to maintain a healthy diet to manage your COPD symptoms and maintain a proper weight. You should include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Eat potassium-rich foods such as bananas, asparagus, potatoes, oranges.
Eat low-fat proteins such as wild fish, lean meat, and chicken.
You may want to stay away from dairy products such as milk and cheese as they may increase mucus production.
Avoid coffee as the caffeine may affect your medication. You may ask for the professional help of a nutritionist if you find it difficult to draft a healthy meal plan for COPD sufferers.
3. Breathing Exercises
According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic/abdominal/belly breathing and pursed-lip breathing, are very helpful in improving the breathing of COPD patients.
Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing helps strengthen the muscles of the diaphragm so that you can breathe easily and use less effort and energy while breathing.
Pursed-lip breathing helps control shortness of breath, relieves anxiety and helps in relaxation.
However, before doing any of this breathing exercise, ask your health provider if they are right for you. (https://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Living-with-COPD/Breathing-Techniques.aspx)
4. Improve Medication Timing
Haphazardly or erratically taking your medication could worsen COPD symptoms. As such, you should strictly adhere to your medication given to you by your doctor. Follow your doctor’s advice pertaining the frequency of taking inhalers and bronchodilators. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2629978/)
5. Consume Smaller Meals
You should consume smaller meals 4 to 5 times throughout the day. Eating large meals in one sitting could enlarge your intestines and stomach causing undue pressure on the lungs and diaphragm which could lead to labored breathing.
However, consult your doctor and a nutritionist to ensure your meal plan is a balanced one and there would be no reduced nutritional intake or malnutrition issues. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-6712.2005.00345.x/abstract)
6. Avoid Extreme Environments
An abrupt change in weather or temperature may trigger COPD symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or overproduction of mucus. Whether it is dry and cold or hot and humid, you must be conscious of your environment as each weather situation brings, along with it, its own set of breathing problems.
In as much as you can not control the external clime, you can definitely do something about your internal room atmosphere.
For instance, during hot and humid times, try to stay in a cool and air-conditioned environment. During cold and windy weather, try to wear a scarf or nose mask around your nose and mouth. In short, try to stay in comfortably warm rooms during cold seasons.
7. Stay Hydrated By Drinking Healthy
Staying hydrated is important to you as a COPD patient because it helps you replenish fluids that might have been lost from excess mucus production and also helps thin out and breakout mucus so that you can breath better. Drink water throughout the day.
You could also take herbal tea. You could go for fresh fruit and vegetable juice.
Soups, broth, and smoothies are also good options to replenish fluids.
However, avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and sugary drinks as they make you even more dehydrated and worsen COPD exacerbation.
8. Acupuncture And Acupressure
Acupuncture and acupressure are alternative Chinese medical treatments that can be used to assuage COPD symptoms. A 2016 study found that acupuncture can be used as an adjunctive therapy to reduce dyspnea (shortness of breath) in patients with COPD. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5059044/)
9. Eucalyptus Oil
Use eucalyptus oil in a diffuser or a humidifier and inhale the air to enjoy the anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant properties. (However, it should be noted that eucalyptus oil is not suitable around young children.) Cineole-based eucalyptus oil helps reduce COPD exacerbations, helps reduce dyspnea (labored breathing) and also improves lungs function.
In fact, a 2009 study in Respiratory Research showed that cineole (Eucalyptole) has benefits as an additional therapeutic regimen in patients with COPD especially when looked at from a socio-economic perspective as COPD treatment is expensive.
Furthermore, the use of cineole, for concomitant therapy, lacks relevant side effects and is relatively low cost. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2720945/)
10. Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is good for COPD patients because it helps strengthen their muscles, improves their breathing and improves overall health. Exercise also helps improve your blood circulation and energy levels.
Exercise also increases endorphin levels, which improves mood, reduces depression and anxiety, and makes it easier to quit smoking.
A COPD patient could do cardiovascular exercises to improve breathing, strength or resistance exercise to improve respiratory muscles, stretching and flexibility exercise to improve the respiratory muscles relaxation and calmness. Discuss with your doctor before starting any exercise program. (http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1164/rccm.200607-896OC#.VYQKWFL_PCM)
11. Vitamin D
Take foods rich in vitamin D or take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D helps protect the body from bacterial and viral infections and also helps in the lungs physiological and anatomical functions.
However, people with COPD tend to have vitamin D deficiency. However, consult your physician before supplementing on vitamin D. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21419281)
12. Maintain A Healthy Weight
If you suffer from COPD, you would really need to maintain a healthy weight. This is because if you are obese, your heart and lungs would need to work harder which could lead to frequent dyspnea (shortness of breath).
Also, if you are overweight, you would have a higher tendency to have ailments that aggravate COPD such as diabetes, acid reflux, coronary diseases, and sleep apnea. You could meet a nutritionist to create a meal plan for you to help you lose weight.
On the other hand, a study has also shown that people that are underweight have a greater risk of dying from COPD than people are of normal weight or are overweight.
This is due to multiple factors such as weak muscle strength, weak immune system, and frequent symptom flare-ups. Again, you would want to see a nutritionist to create a meal plan that would help you achieve an optimal weight. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4956822/)
Include thyme to your meals as a spice. Respiratory tract ailments could, sometimes, prove rather difficult to deal with.
However, thyme has long been used to treat this specific part of the body successfully. This is why it is good to include thyme in your meals to reduce the chances of a respiratory infection which could exacerbate COPD symptoms.
Take ginseng tea or eat freshly sliced ginseng roots. You could also add ginseng to your food. Ginseng has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help improve the function of the lungs as well as protects the lungs from bacterial infection.
Panax (American) ginseng is well known to be used for asthma and COPD in alternative medicine.
A study published in 2014 in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine concluded that Panax ginseng and ginsenosides appear to inhibit processes related to COPD progression. Thus making ginseng an attractive therapeutic target for COPD. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25440386)
15. Exposure To Lung Irritants
Avoid exposure to lung irritants from the atmosphere. Avoid secondhand smoking, industrial fumes, dust, pollen, synthetic fragrances, and smog.
Avoid places where there are others smoking, avoid highly polluted and industrialized areas, use air purifiers or indoor houseplants to help improve the quality of air indoors.
16. Avoid Respiratory Infections
People with COPD are more susceptible to bacterial and viral respiratory infections due to lung damage that they would have sustained from the COPD. These infections could cause a breakdown in the lining of the respiratory airways leading to lung irritations and breathing problems. They could lead to other serious respiratory complications.
As such you would want to take necessary precautions to avoid respiratory infections. You should get annual flu and pneumonia vaccines if you suffer from COPD.
You should practice good hand-washing hygiene etiquettes. Avoid going around people that have contagious respiratory infections. Stay hydrated and use a humidifier in your room or house. In case of an infection, consult your doctor immediately.
17. Avoid Stress and Stressful Situations
Stress is a debilitating condition that exacerbates numerous ailments including COPD symptoms. COPD symptoms like dyspnea (shortness of breath) and airways inflammation could get worse when you are stressed.
Daily stress and life event stress can worsen depressive symptoms and the quality of life of a COPD patient. Thus, being more relaxed and calm would help alleviate your COPD symptoms. You could try meditation, yoga or have a relaxing bath. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3533009/)
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