COPD Symptoms: 5 Strategies to Combat Them
For those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), often the most challenging aspect of the disease is the daily degradation of one’s quality of life as a result of symptoms. As with any chronic lung disease–in which symptoms will get progressively worse—associated COPD symptoms become gradually more difficult to manage and deal with. Although traditional COPD medications such as pills, inhalers and supplemental oxygen relieve these symptoms, the side-effects can be simply overwhelming. However, natural treatment options do exist. In the face of few options and an increasingly taxing set of COPD symptoms, what can you do to avoid exacerbations and improve your quality of life? You start with a plan.
With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to give you the breakdown on COPD Symptoms: and 5 Strategies to Combat Them.
COPD Symptoms: What Are They?
As a disease that is inherently specific to the individual, COPD can be affected by genetic history, smoking habits, living conditions, diet and exercise, as well as exposure to poor air quality—all of which can have a direct effect on the pronouncement and manifestation of symptoms within a patient. Among COPD symptoms, those living with the disease can expect:
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
- Chronic cough
- Chest tightness
- Excess mucus build-up
- Blueness of the lips of fingernail beds
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
- Swelling in ankles, feet or legs
COPD Symptoms and 5 Strategies to Combat Them
5. Change-Up Your Diet
We’ve heard this throughout our lives, but in truth, diet is everything. The vitamins and nutrients we put into our bodies have a direct correlation with our energy levels and feelings of fatigue, so it is imperative to eat the necessary foods and to drink plenty of water. When living with a chronic lung disease in particular, where breathlessness and fatigue are a daily ordeal, giving your body all the resources it needs for the day is vital to managing one’s respiratory health. Although it can be difficult for anyone to maintain a perfectly balanced diet, a healthy diet can start simple: a light breakfast of fruits, eggs and toast, a balanced lunch of grains and vegetables (a sandwich and a salad), and a modest dinner of starches, meats, and more vegetables (grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and green beans). The key to eating healthy is discipline. Sometimes forgoing what is convenient or our favorite is necessary to extending our health.
4. Clear Your Lungs
Excessive phlegm is perhaps the most noticeable and frustrating COPD symptom. This build-up can be a significant contributor to feeling of short of breath and can lead to more fatigue and decreased mobility. To combat this, it’s important to clear the lungs often. But how? For starters, drink water. For most Americans dehydration is an ongoing issue, and in order to clear mucus, your throat needs water. Doctors often recommend an expectorant (Robitussin, for example) to loosen mucus. Natural remedies such as orange peel teas, steam showers and singing can also help.
3. Increase Your Exercise
Sometimes the best things in life are a challenge. In the quest to better one’s respiratory health, exercise can be the key influencer in improving lung capacity and increasing energy levels. Although regular exercise can be difficult to implement into one’s life—particularly for those with general fatigue and limited mobility—sometimes the only way out is up. Try to start your mornings off with a few short exercises and build up from there. If walking to the mailbox is a difficult ordeal, build the habit of walking to it and a little farther every time if you can. By setting a tangible goal and exceeding it little by little, you’ll be defying your expectations and building belief in yourself, all while making progress.
2. Improve Your Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality is one of the greatest contributors to lung disease symptoms at home. Whether it’s cigarette smoke from loved ones or smoke from a fireplace or stove, these air particulates can do a number on respiratory symptoms, degrading quality of life and increasing shortness of breath. To address this issue, it’s important to confront poor air quality directly. To start, remove any elements of cigarette smoking from your house. This means to quit smoking yourself as well as to require others not to smoke around you. Secondly, purifying the air in your home is of vital importance. Try bamboo charcoal, a Himalayan salt lamp or simple household plants to remove impurities from the air and create a safer respiratory space for yourself moving forward.
1. Consider Natural and Alternative Treatments
A variety of natural and alternative treatment options may alleviate COPD symptoms without the adverse side-effects associated with traditional medication. Vitamin D has been routinely linked to better performance in lung function tests and increased bone growth and strength. In eastern medicinal practice, ginseng root has shown a significant effect on respiratory health: improving the immune system, providing energy, reducing stress, promoting relaxation and even providing immune suppressive and anti-inflammatory effects. Aside from herbal supplements, advanced medicine using the body’s own immune system has come to fore as stem cell therapy continues to develop as a leading alternative for the treatment of COPD.
COPD symptoms are a difficult set of conditions to live with—especially if you’re trying to retain your normal life. Though COPD can seem impossible to overcome, changing one’s diet and consistently exercising are among the best lifestyle changes one can make, aside from quitting smoking. When lifestyle changes fail to improve your quality of life in the way that you may expect, it may be time to consider stem cell therapy. Rather than addressing only the symptoms of lung disease, stem cell therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve quality of life and pulmonary function.
As in the case of Don C., stem cell therapy can mean the difference between struggling to get out of bed and getting through his day to day without oxygen.