Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is on the rise. It is one of the worst things that can strike your lungs, a nasty combination of bronchitis and emphysema. Caused mostly by smoking (and, to a lesser extent, air pollution and genetics), COPD begins as the former. The first word in the term underlines its inherent danger, as “chronic” means long-lasting and recurring.
At least 16 million U.S. residents suffer from COPD, and millions more are currently in the early stages of the disease. Watch for the wheezing cough, one of the first symptoms. In any event, if you are diagnosed with COPD, don’t give up. And don’t exclude the possibilities provided by natural medicine.
Here are your top options:
1. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): This is a form of the amino acid cysteine and may be your best alternative treatment. It’s a supplement, too, and could help improve breathing and reduce the number of bronchitis attacks in COPD patients. There is pretty solid evidence that it could work, too, with doses between 400 mg and 1,200 mg reducing the number of bronchitis attacks and thus producing a better quality of life
2. Carnitine: This is another natural type of amino acid. Carnitine could help people improve their tolerance to exercise. Of course, since putting a sweater on can cause shortness of breath, inability to exercise is a major detriment to people who live with this condition. Researchers have found that carnitine could improve their tolerance, likely making their muscles more efficient. And being able to exercise is a great shield against other illnesses.
3. Essential oils: One combination of essential oils may be effective — eucalyptus, d-limonene (from citrus fruits), and alpha-pinene (from pine bark). This trio has been previously looked at for respiratory treatment, because each element contains monoterpenes. This essential oil monoterpene combo could prevent severe bronchitis attacks in patients with COPD. It’s thought the oils could help the lungs clear away any built-up secretions.
4. Antioxidants: They certainly can’t hurt. Some observational studies say that pumping up your intake of vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene could help treat COPD symptoms. As yet there is no direct evidence, but a good-quality multivitamin is worth a shot.
5. Other: Some say fish oil supplements could play a therapeutic role, as could coenzyme Q10. Both of these possibilities are based on small studies that need to be backed up. Another good idea is entering a pulmonary rehabilitation program that uses education, exercise training, and behavioral changes to give a patient the highest quality of life. It’s basically learning to live with COPD and how to reduce its effects in everyday life.