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Emphysema Alternative and Home Remedies

Emphysema alternative and home remedies may reduce shortness of breath.

Citric acid may help break up mucus brought on by emphysema. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Citric acid may help break up mucus brought on by emphysema.

Emphysema Alternative and Home Remedies

Emphysema alternative and home remedies may reduce the shortness of breath characteristic of emphysema and improve aerobic capacity. Alternative treatments for emphysema include smoking cessation, nutrition, herbal supplements and breathing exercises. According to the Mayo Clinic, emphysema usually requires years to develop and symptoms may not appear until the damage is irreversible. Emphysema is caused by damage in the small airways and sacs of the lungs that restricts airflow while exhaling. Advanced emphysema requires a great deal of energy simply to expel air from the lungs so the usual goal of treatment is to improve airflow and avoid complications.

Cessation of Smoking to Improve Emphysema

The most important measure in stopping the progression of emphysema is to stop smoking. A smoking cessation program can provide assistance with this difficult process. Secondhand smoke should be avoided as much as possible by sitting in the nonsmoking areas of restaurants, and requesting that friends and family members not smoke in the house. Frequently changing air filters and limiting exposure to burning candles, cooking odors, automobile exhaust, paint fumes and other respiratory irritants is also recommended.

Nutrition for Emphysema

The goal of dietary changes for the treatment of emphysema should be to decrease the production of mucus, according to Alternative Doctor. Garlic, horseradish and onions may assist in this, but bananas and dairy products should be avoided. Taking 250 to 500 mg of bromelain three times a day on an empty stomach also helps reduce mucus production. Bromelain can aggravate gastritis and patients that are allergic to pineapple may be sensitive to bromelain. Taking 400 mg N-acetyl cysteine three times per day also can also reduce mucus.

Fatty acids help fight inflammation due to emphysema. A typical dosage is 1,000 to 2,000 IU of omega-3 and omega-6 oils, such as borage, evening primrose, fish or flaxseed oil.

Taking 100 to 500 mg of magnesium twice per day helps the blood vessels and lungs relax, although this may cause diarrhea in some patients. A health care provider may also administer magnesium intravenously.

Coenzyme Q10 makes breathing easier during exercise. Other helpful antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, L-carnitine and selenium.

Herbal Supplements for Emphysema

According to HealthAtoZ, aromatherapists use three to five drops of essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, pine and rosemary in a humidifier to relieve nasal congestion and make breathing easier.

Other herbs that may alleviate symptoms in someone with emphysema include:

  • Coltsfoot can reduce inflammation, but contains alkaloids that may cause liver damage after prolonged use
  • Elecampane can be used as an expectorant to expel mucus from the lungs
  • Fennel acts as a mild anti-spasmodic, dissolves secretions and calms the digestive system
  • Hawthorne protects blood vessels
  • Ginger relieves bronchial spasms and dissolves secretions
  • Licorice has antiviral properties and reduces swelling

These herbs may be taken two to four times per day as a tea. After mixing one teaspoon of the herb with a cup of hot water, cover and steep the leaves or flowers for five to 10 minutes and roots for up to 20 minutes. The usual dosage for a tincture is 30 to 60 drops three times per day. Herbal remedies may interact with more traditional treatments and should not be added to a treatment plan without first consulting a health care professional.

Breathing Exercises for Emphysema

Performing diaphragmatic breathing exercises several times a day can improve breathing in emphysema patients. Patients should lie on their back with the head and knees supported by pillows, and their fingertips placed on the abdomen below the rib cage. While inhaling slowly to the count of three, the patient concentrates on pushing the abdomen out against the fingertips. Then, the patient purses the lips and exhaling to the count of six. Once patients can do this exercise 10 to 15 times lying on their back or either side, they can progress to sitting in a chair, or even practice while walking and climbing stairs. Exhaling against pursed lips increases the air pressure in the lungs and reduces the extent to which they collapse.

Deep breathing is an exercise that can be done while sitting or standing. The elbows are pulled back and the chest arched while taking a deep breath. This is held for a count of five before contracting the abdominal muscles and forcing the air out. The arms should relax and then repeat the exercise another nine times.

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