(NaturalNews) Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a medical term that actually encompasses two lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both are characterized by partial obstruction of the airways that allow you to breathe. The result for those with COPD is a feeling of shortness of breath and, in severe cases, extreme impairment in the ability to breathe at all.
COPD is the 4th leading cause of death in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the direct cause of mortality is usually heart related. Now comes word from a study by Wake Forest University School of Medicine researchers that the very drugs often used to treat COPD actually increase the risk of death from heart problems.
The research, just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was based on a meta-analysis of 17 clinical trials of medications known as inhaled anti-cholinergic drugs used to treat COPD. The scientists looked at the medical histories of people taking widely prescribed medications for COPD like ipratropium (marketed as Atrovent®, or combined with albuterol and sold under the name Combivent®) and tiotropium (marketed as Spiriva). COPD patients who used these drugs for at least one month had a 58% increased risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack, or stroke when compared with COPD patients who took other inhaled agents or placebo inhalers containing no medication at all.
Other conventional therapies for COPD include inhalers, steroids, antibiotics, oxygen, and mucolytic medicines (used to dissolve mucin, a component of mucus) -- all of which also have the potential for side effects. For example, steroid inhalers can lower your immune system's response to fungal infections and lead to yeast growing in the mouth, or thrush. What's more, high doses of inhaled steroids over time up the risk of the bone weakening condition known as osteoporosis.
Fortunately, natural alternatives to traditional treatments are available that may help people with COPD.
Omega 3 fatty acids,found primarily in cold water fish like salmon and some plants sources such as walnuts, have been found to help people with COPD in a couple of ways, according to researchers at Kagoshima University Hospital in Japan. After taking omega 3 supplements daily for a total of two years, research subjects with COPD had significantly lower signs of inflammation and improvements in their ability to exercise, as well as improvements in their shortness of breath symptoms.
Vitamin C and magnesium may also help COPD symptoms. Researchers at Nottingham University in the UK surveyed more than 2,500 subjects to study the relationship between diet and COPD. After nine years, they found the people with COPD who consumed higher amounts of vitamin C had better lung function than their counterparts with low vitamin C intake. In addition, those who had diets rich in both vitamin C and magnesium had markedly improved lung function compared to others with COPD.
Antioxidants at therapeutic levels could be beneficial for those suffering from COPD. That's the conclusion of researchers in the Department of Environmental Medicine, Division of Lung Biology and Disease, at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Their research suggests antioxidants and other natural anti-inflammatories like those found in green tea, red wine and tumeric, could help calm the oxidative stress and chronic inflammation association with COPD.
The best treatment of all for COPD? Avoid it in the first place with a healthy lifestyle that avoids polluted and smoky air. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states most cases of COPD result from repeatedly breathing in chemical fumes, dusts and other things that irritate and damage the lungs and airways. Cigarette smoking is the most common irritant linked to the development of COPD.
About the author
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.