Do you smoke? Did you ever? Odds are you have some signs of emphysema in your lungs. Emphysema is not curable and can limit your lifestyle. Modern medicine however can make the disease tolerable and if you are diagnosed early you may even be able to minimize the symptoms. However, the world is in an epidemic of emphysema and chronic bronchitis which make up what is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This already affects over 15 million people in America and is usually caused by smoking. Even those who gave up smoking years ago are not immune from COPD. People develop either emphysema, chronic bronchitis or both.
Emphysema affects the air sacs of the lungs, called the alveoli. Healthy lungs have 300 million of these with blood vessels that absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Breathing toxins such as tobacco into the lungs can eventually damage these causing them to lose elasticity. To compensate the alveoli enlarge but become too big and can’t empty the air completely out before you inhale again. The result is a loss of normal breathing pace leading to a shortness of breath which can be fatal.
Another major symptom is a persistent dry cough with some phlegm in early stages but eventually even this does not occur as the lungs can’t even make phlegm so the cough becomes drier. Diagnosis is by an airway obstruction (spirometry) test, X-ray or CT scan and treatment depends on the stage of disease.
There are five stages and in the early stages treatment is basically healthful living which includes no smoking, avoid respiratory illnesses by building your immune system with Echinacea, Zinc and other supplements, get flu and pneumonia shots if you have too and depending on how far the illness has progressed, and lead a healthy balanced lifestyle of exercise, rest and good foods.
In the mild stage the doctor may add puffers to open up the airways but as the disease progresses other medications such as diuretics, corticosteroids, leukotriene inhibitors and over-the-counter mucus stimulators may be needed. At this point doctors may suggest a rehabilitation program. The severe stage is where patients need oxygen therapy from a portable container and a nasal tube or even a lung transplant.
A rehabilitation program often consists of aerobic exercise machines such as exercise bikes, stair climbers or treadmills to increase cardiovascular strength as the lungs cannot improve. This makes the circulation more efficient and training is done under medical supervision.
Exercises must be continued to maintain improved function and they are often accompanied by relaxation techniques such as yoga to relieve the anxiety that comes with the inability to breathe. Other education involves information on how to stop smoking and help on how to handle impaired breathing which affects sexual activity.
Medications for emphysema are effective at suppressing the symptoms, helping to open the airways and ease the cough, but there can be side effects on heart, liver and kidneys for some people.
Natural remedies involve avoiding mucus-forming foods such as bananas, simple sugars and dairy products as the mucus tends to clog the air passages. This is helpful in most stages of the disease. In addition, increasing antioxidants with at least three to four servings a day of fruits and 1000mg of fish oil daily reduces inflammation. Of course in many cases much more is needed than this in terms of natural supplements and this needs to be done under the supervision of a natural practitioner.
However most of us know already that the best advice is to turf the packet of smokes before you even get sick. It’s no longer socially ‘cool’ to smoke; you are just damaging your health and shortening your life. This is one habit you have to kick as it could cost you your life, not only with this illness but many more as advertised on the cigarette packets. Why can’t you quit?
Firstly because it’s a habit but more than that the heart of the habit is not necessarily about the cigarettes and that’s why you need to see someone trained to take out the cause of this addiction. Everyone knows by now that smoking is dangerous so the deeper question is why do you have a partial death wish? There could be any number of reasons, not associated with the action of smoking and there are many places to go for help which are natural and work well. Hypnotherapy, NLP, cognitive therapy are just three. Some people just need a few sessions but for others they need to get to the root cause and once this is attained even for the heaviest of smokers will not go back to cigarettes again. It’s a new year so why not make this your year to kick those habits that drag you down, especially the ones that can, and will, make you ill and even, in the long term, kill you.