Bronchitis - A Natural Approach
The Respiratory System
What Is Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is inflammation of the breathing passages of the lungs, both the major ones and sometimes the smaller ones deeper in the lungs (called bronchioles). It can be acute or chronic.
The most common cause of the acute form is viral infection, directly or indirectly; one of the possible complications of viral lung infections is opportunistic bacterial infections that attack the lungs while the immune system is already busy with the virus.
The most common cause of the chronic form of bronchitis is probably long-term irritation caused by various atmospheric contaminants; by far the most common of these is almost certainly tobacco smoke.
For most healthy adults, viral lung infections are usually self-limiting. This is not so often the case in adults with pre-existing problems, or in children and the elderly. It is certainly not the case in people with compromised immune systems such as HIV patients, those on immunosuppressive drugs often used after a transplant, or people on cancer chemotherapy.
Bronchitis, if not properly dealt with, can develop into pneumonia, which is fluid accumulation in the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs and can be very serious indeed or even fatal. Therefore, bronchitis is not to be trifled with.
Bronchitis can also be made more likely, and/or worse when it does occur, if there are other contributory factors. There are a lot of possible ones, but some are:
· A diet high in mucus-forming foods; the most common group of these is foods with large amounts of cows’ milk dairy protein, such as milk and cheese. This does not include butter, which is very low in protein; neither does it include yoghurt, because the bugs that make yoghurt alter the protein. It also does not include dairy products from other animals such as goats. These foods exacerbate bronchitis because the excess mucus acts as a growth medium for bacteria, and also because it makes it more difficult for the body to expel them.
· An unhealthy, unnatural diet high in sugars, refined carbohydrates and chemical additives and low in nutrients. This is all too typical of the diet of many people today. The main reason for this is that the sugars and chemicals need nutrients to get rid of them, which are therefore not available for the immune system.
· Chronic nasal catarrh and sinus infections and also uncorrected tooth decay. The reason why these make bronchitis worse is twofold; they act as a reservoir of infection and also the bacteria release toxins into the bloodstream. Infections deep in the jaw can also occasionally release some of their bacteria into the bloodstream, which can eventually cause heart problems especially in someone whose health is already not very good. Heart problems can cause problems with the lungs as well.
· Inhaled toxins such as solvents (cleaning materials, some paints and glues) and heavily polluted air also put a strain on the lungs. This includes the chemicals released by foam upholstery, new carpets and various forms of foam products usually used in offices – the so-called “sick building syndrome”.
· Respiratory allergies; these can create inflammation in the lungs and also sometimes mucus formation; also such allergies can either cause asthma symptoms or make them worse if already present.
· Insufficient exercise leads to lung activity insufficient to keep bronchitis at bay.
Poor condition of the intestines (also caused by poor diet but also sometimes by Candida albicans and other parasites) can predispose the body towards bronchitis. There are several reasons for this; one is that unhealthy intestinal linings let through things they shouldn’t – which can cause low-level inflammation and put the immune system under stress so that it has less resources to deal with real infections. The toxins released by such parasites can also cause direct damage to the lungs.
On the subject of respiratory allergies, it is worth noting that three types of internal environment in your home or workspace can cause various respiratory problems. The first is various types of airborne chemicals, such as cleaning materials and aerosol products and also the fumes given off by foam upholstery, various types of office furniture and brand-new carpets. The second is overly dry air, usually caused by central heating during the winter; humidity in centrally-heated buildings can get lower than that in the Sahara. This dries out the lungs, which makes infections more likely. The third is the direct opposite, damp conditions. Damp air does not cause lung problems, but the mould deposits often found in damp houses can cause such problems. Such deposits are not always visible.
What to Do
· Clean up your diet. Avoid processed foods, sugar and refined starches; eat more fruit and vegetables. No surprises there, but specifically for bronchitis it is a good idea to drastically reduce consumption of dairy products made from cows’ milk – with the exception of butter.
· Improve nutrition. There are numerous nutrients that improve the condition of the lungs and the body generally; most of them can be obtained in adequate amounts by taking a high-quality multivitamin. For example, vitamin A is essential for the function of the skin and mucous membranes.
· One specific nutrient that is not a vitamin, but may help in some cases, is glucosamine sulphate. This substance can help repair of lung tissue and also improve the health of the intestinal lining.
There are a number of herbals that help bronchitis in various ways. Cat’s Claw is anti-inflammatory and also helps improve the immune system. Mullein is a fairly strong anti-spasmodic that can help most types of cough. Coltsfoot is expectorant, anti-catarrhal and soothes the lungs. Goldenseal directly kills numerous pathogens. Elecampane root helps remove mucus. And garlic (also to a lesser degree its relatives such as leeks and onions) kills pathogens, improves the circulation and also makes mucus more fluid so that a cough becomes more productive.
This does not mean the environment of the world in general, although it is true that traffic fumes and various other types of smoke can cause lung problems. However, the internal environment you live in is something you may be able to do something about. If you work in an office, it can help to install various types of houseplant. Spider plants, for example, are very good at absorbing various types of office-related fumes – foam plastic and carpets often release fumes as do photocopiers and laser printers. In the home, it is important that the home is neither too dry nor too damp. Humidifying the air in winter can help; something as simple as a damp towel draped over a radiator can help with that. Ionisers are very good at removing airborne dust and mould spores.
A little more difficult; if your house is damp and you possibly can, do something about it. Such problems as rising or penetrating damp can not only threaten the integrity of the building but also your health, by encouraging the growth of mould – which is not always obvious. Unfortunately, sorting out damp can be expensive; but so is being ill.