5 Ways to Manage COPD Symptoms Naturally
Undoubtedly, the millions of Americans who suffer from COPD are always looking for ways to treat and manage the illness. Traditional treatment methods are important, and doctors develop treatment plans for sufferers that incorporates things like medication, inhalers, and oxygen therapy.
These treatment options can be very effective as long as patients follow doctors’ orders. There are also many things that sufferers can do on their own to fight back against the condition. Although these natural methods aren’t meant to be used alone to treat COPD, they can offer relief and even help patients to improve their overall health — and that can do a great deal to improve the symptoms of COPD too.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 3.2 million people died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2015 alone. Worldwide, the organization estimates that as many as 174.5 million people suffer from the disease. This represents an increase of 44.2 percent since the year 1990, which suggests that COPD is becoming more prevalent than ever.1
1. Smoking Cessation
Without question, the number-one thing that a person can do to fight back against COPD is to quit smoking. COPD is caused by long-term exposure to particulate matter or irritating gases, and tobacco smoke is the usual culprit.2 Emphysema, one of the conditions that occur with COPD, is almost always caused by a history of smoking.
Of course, quitting smoking is often easier said than done for many people. That is why anyone who is diagnosed with COPD and who still smokes should explore as many smoking cessation options as necessary until they are able to successfully quit. These days, there are more products on the market for helping people to quit than ever, and patients’ doctors can often even prescribe chewing gum and other products that provide nicotine safely as they wean themselves off of cigarettes.
As long as smoking is ceased, COPD symptoms are unlikely to progress or worsen. However, quitting smoking doesn’t automatically cure COPD, either. It is merely one step and one way in which sufferers can take control of the condition and find relief from symptoms such as shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, chronic cough, and wheezing.
2. Regular Exercise
People who suffer from COPD have a hard time breathing normally. The condition causes small amounts of air to remain in the lungs, causing issues like chronic coughing, increased mucus production, and respiratory infections. Such symptoms can make it very difficult to want to move around and get exercise, but getting exercise is among the best ways to treat and manage the symptoms of COPD and the condition itself.
COPD sufferers don’t have to run marathons to derive excellent benefits from regular exercise. In fact, about 20 minutes of gentle exercise like walking is often sufficient. One of the benefits of engaging in regular exercise for COPD sufferers is that doing so helps to improve overall strength and endurance. These qualities come very much in handy when coping with exacerbations — occasional periods where COPD symptoms become especially problematic.
Additionally, getting regular exercise helps to strengthen the muscles of the respiratory system, which can also help to lessen the worst symptoms of COPD. Those who are generally sedentary are advised to start by getting around 20 minutes of gentle exercise per day. Adding more aerobic exercises like swimming and cycling is also encouraged.
3. Herbal Remedies
Anyone who is dealing with COPD typically has to take medication, and they may also have to use an inhaler or receive oxygen therapy. These treatments help to address the disease itself, but they may not do much to help with symptoms that people are experiencing regularly. Herbal remedies can help enormously in this regard, but it is important for patients to do plenty of research to identify the ones that offer the best relief.3
Examples of herbs that may be used to ease the symptoms of COPD include the following.
- Eucalyptus: This fragrant herb is known to help break up congestion and to help to expel phlegm from the respiratory system. It is available as an essential oil that can be rubbed onto the skin or diffused into the air with a diffuser.
- Ginger: Some of the top benefits of ginger for COPD sufferers is that it improves circulation to the lungs, reduces inflammation, and helps to break down mucus. All these things cause problems for people with COPD, so ginger is a worthwhile herb to consider using for treatment.
- Peppermint: Peppermint contains menthol, which is known to help to relax the muscles of the respiratory system. This is beneficial to people who suffer from COPD because it may help them to breathe more easily and even to exhale more fully.
Adding more antioxidant-rich foods to the diet is another natural way to manage and treat the symptoms of COPD. Antioxidants are compounds that help to protect cells around the body from damage that is caused by free radicals. Highly reactive compounds, free radicals can cause oxidative stress when they become too prevalent. This oxidative stress can trigger the inflammation that makes COPD sufferers so miserable, so adding more antioxidants to the diet is never a bad idea.
Boosting antioxidants in the body is usually a matter of introducing more antioxidant-rich foods to the diet. Examples of these include the following.
- berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
- green tea
- cooked Russet potatoes
- artichoke hearts
- olive oil
One antioxidant in particular — N-Acetylcysteine, or NAC — is showing promising results in clinical studies. In one involving 24 Israeli COPD sufferers, patients were prescribed 1,200 milligrams of NAC per day. The study showed that patients noticed improvement with lung inflammation after the regimen — especially following exercise.4 It also appears to help to reduce coughing and phlegm, ease expectoration, and thin mucus. It is available over-the-counter as a supplement, but it should not be taken by people who take nitroglycerin.
Finally, increasing the amount of vitamin-rich foods in the diet can be a great way to manage and ease the symptoms of COPD. Some vitamins offer more benefits than others, though. Here are a few examples of the types of vitamins that COPD patients should focus on adding to their diets to improve their overall health.
- Vitamin D: Stored in the liver and fatty tissues, vitamin D is found in foods like egg yolks, salmon, cheese, and yogurt. It is best known for helping to strengthen bones, but it also plays a crucial role in many bodily processes and functions, and many people who suffer from COPD have a deficiency of vitamin D.
- Vitamin E: Found in things like vegetable oils, meat, eggs, and cereals, vitamin E is best known for boosting immunity. However, it is also food for the blood vessels, so it may help to improve their functioning. This could help the lungs and respiratory system to function better. It also helps to protect against damage from free radicals.
- Vitamin C: Foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes and dark, leafy greens are rich in vitamin C. This vitamin plays a role in the growth, development and repair of all bodily tissues, so adding more to the diet can help to reduce the symptoms of COPD.