The official blog of the Lung Institute.
When it comes to emphysema and COPD, we could all use a little help.
It should come without shock that living with emphysema and COPD can be incredibly difficult. As emphysema is a condition commonly associated with COPD, characterized as the gradual degradation of the lungs (damaging to the lung’s tiny air sacs), the condition can cause symptoms of obstructed airways, fatigue and, most notably, shortness of breath. For those who have lived with these symptoms—particularly the feeling of shortness of breath—they can seem deeply distressing in certain moments and unbearable in others. To combat these conditions, a patient with emphysema and COPD are put on a battery of differing medications including inhalers, oxygen therapy and painkillers. And as modern medicine continues to advance, there are now natural and emerging treatment options which can help alleviate symptoms and disease progression.
However, in the fight to breathe better, it’s best to start with the basics. So, with your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to breakdown Emphysema and COPD: 5 Helpful Tips for Breathing Better.
5. Stop Smoking
Although we’ve mentioned this before, it’s important to reiterate: quit smoking immediately. We know that it’s much easier to say than it is to do, but even though the act of quitting smoking is incredibly difficult, it’s vital to your continuing health—particularly if you currently have emphysema and COPD. On average, every cigarette smoked takes off about 7 to 11 minutes from your life.
There are approximately 20 cigarettes in a pack. This means that a pack a day smoker is expected to lose nearly 2 ½ hours to a little over 3 hours of their life a day. At its extreme, that’s 21 hours a week. Which means that if you smoke a pack a day, you’re losing about a day per week in damage to your respiratory and overall health. The trade-off just isn’t worth it, specifically when a day lost can mean less time and energy to spend with family, friends and grandchildren. So, take the act of quitting day by day and start today. You’ll be breathing easier in no time.
4. Diet and Exercise
When it comes to emphysema and COPD symptoms, their expression rests primarily in the health of the individual. What we mean when we say this is that the better your personal health, the stronger your body will be to combat and deal with the daily symptoms of emphysema.
So, how do you improve your personal health?
You start with diet and exercise. Eating healthy may be inconvenient at times, but it isn’t hard. Further still, the energy derived from a healthy meal are well worth the frustrations of having to change your diet.
Here’s a simple COPD Diet to keep in mind:
- Eat plenty of protein: chicken, eggs, beans, and nuts
- Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water and un-caffeinated tea
- Fruits and Vegetables: Bananas, Oranges, Avocado, Leafy Greens and Tomatoes
- Fish: Salmon, Mackerel and Sardines
- Dairy: Milk and cheese (or try fortified non-dairy milks and cheeses, like almond milk and veggie cheese)
In regards to exercising more, the solution is just as simple: get up and take a walk. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for those with limited energy and mobility. It improves the heart and the lungs through the cardiovascular system and is a great exercise for shedding a few pounds here and there. The biggest benefit is that it can be done at any time and doesn’t require any specialized clothing or equipment.
Although for some, walking can be exhausting and challenging, the key is to start small. Begin walking with baby steps (pun intended). Make it a personal accomplishment to walk to your mailbox and back. When you get back inside you can rest for as long as you want, but the real goal here to push yourself over time. With time, that walk will become easier and your body will be stronger because of it.
3. Breathing Exercises for Emphysema and COPD
There are a handful of breathing exercises for emphysema and COPD that can be incredibly helpful for those with these conditions. The best part of each of these exercises is that they can be done at any point in time, whether standing at the grocery store or sitting on the couch at home. To begin, try:
Pursed Lips Breathing
The Pursed Lips Breathing method was designed for people trying to control their exhalation process. For those with emphysema, the ability to release air can often prove to be the most challenging.
- Relax your neck and shoulders
- Inhale slowly through the nostrils for two seconds—with the mouth closed
- Exhale through the mouth for four seconds. When exhaling, pucker your lips like you’re giving a kiss.
- Breathe out with a slow, steady pace.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Method
Designed to meet the specific needs of those who have emphysema, the Diaphragmatic Breathing Method emphasizes the use of the diaphragm to reduce energy use when breathing.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Keep one hand on the upper chest and the other resting on your abdomen
- Breathe in slowly through your nose and keep the one hand on your upper chest as still as possible.
- Exhale slowly through the mouth while keeping the hand on your upper chest still.
- Do this exercise between five and 10 minutes, up to three times a day.
Although those who have lung disease are typically plagued by fits of coughing, the Huff-Cough Technique is particularly helpful in reducing fatigue.
- Sit in a chair—or upright—take several deep breaths similarly to diaphragmatic breathing.
- Place one hand over your stomach and breathe normally.
- Tighten up your stomach and chest muscles with your mouth open.
- Force air out while whispering the word “huff.”
2. Clear the Mucus
Mucus can be pretty frustrating. Not only is it unpleasant to cough out, but if it builds up, it can further obstruct the airways making breathing more difficult. To combat this, it’s important to take advantage of these simple mucus-clearing techniques.
- Drink Water: Your body needs about two quarts (or half a gallon) a day
- Take an Expectorant: A generic over-the-counter drug like Robitussin will help thin out mucus and allow you to cough it out
- Use the Huff Cough Technique: See instructions above.
- Drink natural teas: Orange peel, lemon honey tea
- Use a Castor Oil Pack: Place against the chest like vapor rub to break up toxins.
1. Try to Relax (Meditate)
Our daily lives can be busy and filled with stress. So much so that the even the idea of sitting still through an uninterrupted space of time can seem difficult. And that’s all that meditation is; it’s sitting still. The key to meditation is to focus your mind for a time on only the present. Often, our thoughts reflect on the past (sometimes negative or unproductive memories) or delve into the future (sometimes negative future predictions), but consistent meditation teaches stillness in the present moment. Although this prolonged inactivity can seem boring or even unbearable, the essence of meditation is to ground yourself in the present and allow your daily anxieties and insecurities to wash over you and to keep going without affecting you.
- Sit down in a comfortable position and set a timer for ten minutes.
- Feel free to put some soothing and low volume music on (preferably without lyrics)
- Close your eyes and don’t open them until the timer goes off.
- During this time, try to remain still and only focus on your breathing and how your body feels
- If you have an itch, notice it and let it go
- If your mind wanders to what you need to do later in the day, acknowledge it and return to the present moment and how your body feels
- After your ten-minute timer goes off, you’re free to open your eyes and end the session
- Repeat this every day without exception
Over time, this practice will give you a greater sense of clarity and regulate your breathing, improve heart health, reduce stress, boost the immune system and bring you benefits to both your mind and body.
Taking the Next Steps
Although emphysema and COPD can both be difficult conditions to live with, it’s possible to challenge symptom expression directly through natural and emerging treatment options. Though the first step in this process is to quit smoking, and the second is to address your lifestyle through simple diet and exercise changes, with these behavioral changes, it’s possible to greatly affect the pronouncement of symptoms within those with emphysema, COPD and pulmonary fibrosis. However, 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 the symptoms of lung disease, stem cell therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve quality of life.
If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic lung disease like emphysema, COPD, PF or ILD, the Lung Institute may be able to help with a variety of adult stem cell treatment options. Contact us today at (800) 729-3065 to see if you qualify for stem cell therapy, and find out what stem cell therapy could mean for you.
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