Being diagnosed with chronic obstruct pulmonary disease – or COPD – does not mean a lifetime of dependency on medication. A group of diseases (chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and sometimes asthma with permanent damage) that affects over 15 million Americans, COPD usually begins as a cough marked by mucus and phlegm, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.
Although there isn’t a permanent cure for COPD, there are ways you can manage the condition without relying heavily on medication. Here are some of them.1
1. Stop Smoking
About 50 percent of all smokers eventually develop COPD, according to one study. If you smoke and are diagnosed with COPD, putting an end to all forms of smoking (including e-cigarettes) is the first step to control the condition. Research indicates that COPD patients who have quit smoking reduced their risk of death by half. Smoking cessation has also shown to reduce the symptoms of COPD and help in its management.2 3
On the other hand, if you’re not a smoker, try to avoid frequenting places where you could be exposed to passive smoking. While second-hand smoking isn’t as dangerous as smoking itself, it can act as a trigger for COPD flare-ups.
2. Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
If only smoking contributes to only 50 percent of the risk, what are the other reasons? According to the World Health Organization, over one-third of premature deaths from COPD in adults are due to exposure to household air pollution, especially in low and middle-income countries.4
Here are some ways to improve your indoor air quality.
- Open your windows to ensure proper ventilation.
- Opt for houseplants (like English ivy, Boston fern, and philodendrons) that purify indoor air and filter out the toxins.
- Invest in a high-quality air purifier.
- Use a humidifier to increase the moisture content of the air in your home.
- Keep all your rooms tidy and avoid clutter.
- Avoid using wall-to-wall carpets as they are often filled with dust and cannot be cleaned easily.
3. Practice Pranayama Or Breathing Techniques
Research suggests that pranayama is useful for COPD patients. In people with moderate to severe COPD, pranayama has shown to reduce the severity of the disease and improve the overall lung health. If practised every day, pranayama could improve the effectiveness of your treatment.5
Steps To Perform Pranayama
- Sit in a comfortable, upright position.
- Close your eyes.
- Using your right thumb, close your right nostril.
- Slowly, inhale through your left nostril, and hold your breath.
- Release your thumb from your right nostril.
- Using your middle and ring finger, close your left nostril.
- Now, slowly exhale through your right nostril.
- Repeat the process for 15 minutes.
- Give yourself 1 minute of rest after every 5 minutes of exercise.
- Practice the above steps twice a day.
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise has been observed to be one of the best ways to improve muscle function and boost endurance in COPD patients. Nordic walking, stretching, aerobic activities, and strength training exercises are some forms of workouts that are proved effective. However, it’s important to practice these exercises with the help of a certified instructor so that you don’t push yourself too much or exert excess pressure on your lungs.6
5. Eat A Healthy Diet
More often than not, people with COPD are also affected by the deficiency of essential nutrients. If you suffer from COPD, make sure you get plenty of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins (A, C, and E), and minerals (potassium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc) in your diet.7 So, make sure to include foods like sweet potato, oranges, berries, tomatoes, sweet potato, cheese, yogurt, nuts, fish, and various types of vegetables. Avoid sweets and foods that might cause bloating. Also, eat 5–6 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals.
Additionally, include eucalyptus oil, ginseng, and ashwagandha your diet. These Ayurvedic home remedies are believed to promote lung function and help manage the symptoms of COPD.
6. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water is essential for everybody’s well-being, but its importance is greater in patients with COPD. The condition causes the mucus produced by the lungs to become extra thick and sticky. Thus, expelling the mucus from your system by coughing becomes difficult. To make the removal of mucus easier, it’s necessary to stay hydrated. Plus, water provides relief from the dryness in your throat and nasal passage, which are common side-effects of COPD treatment.
So, aim to drink at least 8 glasses of liquid every day. You could do this by drinking not only water but also smoothies, milk, soups, and herbal tea.
7. Manage Stress Better
A study has revealed that life-event stress greatly affected the psychological and physiological well-being of older patients with COPD.8 Chronic stress can also trigger COPD flare-ups and can aggravate the symptoms.
To manage stress better, organize your day-to-day work and prioritize your tasks better. If you’re undergoing a drastic change in life, seek social support or therapy to cope with it. Also, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night as the lack of sleep can lead to stress and anxiety. If you’re unable to sleep well, talk to your doctor about it and discuss possible methods of treatment.9
8. Avoid Crowded Places
If you’re always surrounded by a lot of people, your risk of being exposed to germs and viruses is higher. And infections can trigger COPD flare-ups. Additionally, a large crowd can decrease the air quality and make it difficult for you to breathe. So, avoid frequenting crowded places if you suffer from COPD, as the condition increases your risk of infections.10
9. Stay Indoors During Cold Weather Conditions
Your risk of developing infections is higher in chilly weather conditions. Cold weather can also aggravate COPD symptoms and make breathing even more difficult. Hence, stay indoors if the outside temperature is too low. Also, remember to wear warm clothes and stay covered to protect yourself from the cold air. If you need to step out, ensure you wear a face mask and don’t stay outdoors for too long.
These are some steps to decrease the severity of COPD and reduce flare-ups. However, remember that these methods are not a substitute for proper treatment and are only meant to reduce your dependence solely on medication.
|↑1||Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). UNC School of Medicine.|
|↑2||Marsh, S., Sarah Aldington, Philippa Shirtcliffe, Mark Weatherall, and Richard Beasley. “Smoking and COPD: what really are the risks?.” European Respiratory Journal 28, no. 4 (2006): 883-884.|
|↑3||Wu, Jane, and Don D. Sin. “Improved patient outcome with smoking cessation: when is it too late?.” International journal of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 6 (2011): 259.|
|↑4||Household air pollution and health. World Health Organization.|
|↑5||Gupta, Anupama, Rajesh Gupta, Sushma Sood, and Mohammad Arkham. “Pranayam for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Results from a randomized, controlled trial.” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 13, no. 1 (2014): 26.|
|↑6||Spruit, Martijn A., Chris Burtin, Patrick De Boever, Daniël Langer, Ioannis Vogiatzis, Emiel FM Wouters, and Frits ME Franssen. “COPD and exercise: does it make a difference?.” Breathe 12, no. 2 (2016): e38.|
|↑7||Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑8||Lu, Yanxia, Ma Shwe Zin Nyunt, Xinyi Gwee, Liang Feng, Lei Feng, Ee Heok Kua, Rajeev Kumar, and Tze Pin Ng. “Life event stress and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): associations with mental well-being and quality of life in a population-based study.” BMJ open 2, no. 6 (2012): e001674.|
|↑9||COPD and Difficulty Breathing. National Sleep Foundation.|
|↑10||Frickmann, H., S. Jungblut, T. O. Hirche, U. Groß, M. Kuhns, and Andreas Erich Zautner. “The influence of virus infections on the course of COPD.” European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology 2, no. 3 (2012): 176-185.|