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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Asthma | March 20, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

smoking, Asthma

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly known as COPD is a respiratory disease that is characterized by an abnormal inflammatory response in the lungs and restricted airflow, both of which result in difficulty with breathing. COPD is an umbrella term that includes other conditions of the lungs such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, chronic airway obstruction and in some cases, asthma.

All of the diseases that are listed under the umbrella of COPD are all commonly characterized by irreversible airflow limitation. Symptoms of COPD don’t often appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time.

Symptoms of COPD

  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities or during physical activities
  • Chronic cough
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
  • General fatigue and lack of energy
  • Excessive mucus or phlegm production
  • Having to clear the throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs

The four stages of COPD

  • Stage 1 — very mild COPD
  • Stage 2 — moderate COPD
  • Stage 3 — severe emphysema/chronic bronchitis
  • Stage 4 — very severe COPD

Overall, COPD can cause serious long-term disability and early death. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for COPD, and the number of people dying from COPD continues to grow.

Risk factors for COPD

Risk factors for COPDExposure to tobacco smoke. The most significant risk factor for COPD is long-term cigarette smoking.

Cigar smokers and marijuana smokers are also at high risk of developing COPD, as well as people exposed to large amounts of second-hand smoke.
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People with asthma who smoke. The combination of asthma, a chronic inflammatory airway disease, and smoking increases the risk of COPD.
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Occupational exposure to dusts and chemicals. Long-term exposure to chemical fumes, vapours and dusts in the workplace can irritate and inflame the lungs leading to long term damage.

Exposure to fumes from burning fuel. In the developing world, people exposed to fumes from burning fuel for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes are at higher risk of developing COPD.

Age. COPD develops slowly over years, so most people are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin.

Genetics. The uncommon genetic disorder alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is the cause of some cases of COPD. Other genetic factors likely make certain smokers more susceptible to the disease.

Complications of COPD

Respiratory infections. People with COPD are more likely to catch colds, the flu and pneumonia. Any respiratory infection can make it much more difficult to breathe and can cause further damage to lung tissue.

Pre-existing heart problems. COPD can increase the risk of heart disease, including heart attack. Quitting smoking may reduce this risk.

Lung cancer. People with COPD have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

High blood pressure in lung arteries. COPD may cause high blood pressure in the arteries that bring blood to the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).

Depression. Difficulty breathing can keep sufferers from doing activities that they enjoy which, in itself can be hard to accept. Then there is the added stress of dealing with a serious illness and both combined or individually can contribute to the development of depression.

How COPD Affects the Lungs

In COPD, the airways of the lungs (bronchial tubes) become inflamed and narrowed. This then causes them to collapse when breathing out and can become clogged with mucus. This reduces airflow through the bronchial tubes, a condition called airway obstruction, making it difficult to move air in and out of the lungs.

The inflammation of these bronchial tubes also makes the nerves in the lungs very sensitive. In response to irritation, the body forces air through the airways by a rapid and strong contraction of the muscles of respiration, resulting in a cough. The rapid movement of air in the breathing tubes helps remove mucus from the lungs into the throat. People with COPD often cough a great deal in the morning after a large amount of mucus has built up overnight.

How COPD Affects Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

The blood picks up oxygen in the lungs in order to deliver it throughout the body. The lungs are also the organs that receive the by-product of the bodies processes, otherwise known as carbon dioxide. COPD affects this whole process.

How COPD Affects Oxygen and Carbon DioxideChronic obstructive pulmonary diseases also lead to destruction of the alveoli, the tiny air sacs that allow oxygen to get into the blood. 

Their destruction leads to the formation of large air pockets in the lung called bullae.

These bullae do not exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide like normal lung tissue and they also grow large in size.

This results in the lung tissue next to the bullae not being able to expand correctly and therefore lung function is reduced. Oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange can further be affected due to the airways swelling and creating excessive mucus production which can also narrow the airways and reduce the flow of oxygen-rich air into the lung and carbon dioxide out of the lung.

The damage to the alveoli and airways makes it harder to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen during each breath. Decreased levels of oxygen in the blood and increased levels of carbon dioxide cause the breathing muscles to contract harder and faster. The nerves in the muscles and lungs sense this increased activity and report it to the brain. As a result, shortness of breath occurs.

Natural Therapies for COPD

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus OilEucalyptus oil can be very helpful for people with COPD. A study in Respiratory Research showed that cineole, the main constituent of eucalyptus essential oil, actually reduced exacerbations in people with COPD. It also reduced dyspnoea (shortness of breath), and improved lung function as well as health status overall. Furthermore, the research suggested that cineole is an active controller and reducer of airway inflammation in COPD. 

To get the benefits of cineole, eucalyptus oil can be added in a diffuser and/or humidifier and breath in the anti-inflammatory air.

Ginseng

Ginseng is a herb that improves lung function and also decrease bacteria in the lungs. Panax ginseng in particular has a long history of use in Chinese medicine for respiratory conditions, including asthma and COPD. A recent study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine highlighted therapeutic ginseng benefits. Panax ginseng and ginsenosides (active components of ginseng) appear to inhibit processes related to the development of COPD.

N-Acetylcysteine

Supplementing with N-Acetylcysteine helps decrease the severity and frequency of asthma attacks and improves overall lung function by increasing glutathione levels and thinning bronchial mucus. Glutathione fights against oxidative stress in the respiratory tract, which can make N-Acetylcysteine a powerful and effective natural treatment for COPD.

Follow a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet can help manage and improve COPD symptoms. Some foods in particular should be mainstays when it comes to an anti-COPD diet while others should be majorly or entirely avoided. 

TFollow a Healthy Diethe diet should consist of plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits to ensure there are enough vitamins, minerals and fibre being consumed. 

Citrus fruits are especially helpful because they contain quercetin.

Wild-caught fish, flaxseeds and chia seeds, along with other omega-3 foods, can provide anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Staying clear of conventional dairy since pasteurized dairy is mucus-producing and can plug the airways in the lungs. Always stay away from processed, canned and frozen foods and sugar as well. Additives, preservatives and food dyes are also known for contributing to breathing issues and even asthma attacks.
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References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24983136

https://c.aarc.org/members_area/aarc_times/03.08/03.08.048.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4130708/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4131503/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24968990

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941353/

https://respiratory-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1465-9921-10-69

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25440386

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26324807

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23554858

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3533009/

https://www.cdc.gov/copd/index.html

 

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