A combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - it is also sometimes referred to as chronic obstructive lung disease or (COLD). The major problem associated with this disease is its propensity to block or restrict the air flow, thus obstruction of the airways passages within the body is what COPD primarily does. Even though the two problems that combined to form COPD, that is chronic bronchitis and emphysema are different and distinct internal conditions, it has been seen that former smokers and smokers are likely to have aspects of both conditions during COPD. It is the linings of the bronchial tubes, that become inflamed and thickened, leading to a chronic in cases of chronic bronchitis, symptoms besides including a shortness of breath also involves the production of a lot of mucus, in the ensuing cough. The alveoli, singular-alveolus, which are air sacs in the lungs are damaged in emphysema, this also produces a situation where the afflicted person feels a shortness of breath in his daily activity. The onset of serious COPD can be very lethal and it is considered to be an irreversible condition. The major contributory activity leading to the onset of emphysema and chronic bronchitis is smoking, at least in the majority of cases. Therefore it is advisable to stop smoking, once COPD has set in, even though the condition is irreversible, lung function and pulmonary health are improved and there is a better chance of survival if smoking is abandoned. COPD is also aggravated by other environmental factors, an exposure to respiratory irritants, like polluted air, dust in the air, toxic gases and fumes from car exhausts can contribute to the seriousness of COPD and care must be taken against overexposure to such factors. COPD can also be aggravated through the agency of unrelated illnesses like the common cold and other respiratory infections that can strike a person from time to time. Therefore it is advisable to boost natural defenses of the body by appropriate diet using nutrients and supplements and by carefully avoiding exposure to possible sources of infections.
Breaking down the excess mucus produced is important; the natural amino acid N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is effective in this respect. Therefore for the treatment of bronchitis, NAC that can be inhaled is therefore used in hospitals to take advantage of this property during treatment. Its may also protect pulmonary tissue in the lungs through its antioxidant property, another reason NAC is preferred. A double blind research, showed that NAC taken in an oral form with a dosage of 200 mg twice daily, proved effective, it was effective enough in improving the symptoms of bronchitis in the patients. However for effective results, the NAC could prove effective in a time period of at least six months. Another substance with the ability to thin excess mucus produced during COPD is the ascorbic acid or vitamin C; this vitamin may also be useful in the potential treatment of many other respiratory ailments. A high dietary intake of the vitamin C can possibly reduce the chances of the occurrence of bronchitis in people, so a review of nutrition and lung health suggests. Increasing respiratory volumes, which is a sign of a healthy lung function is also possibly linked to the utilization of vitamin C, and this gives greater impetus to its utilization as a supplement. However it must be mentioned here that, the potential of vitamin C in the possible cure or alleviation of COPD has not been researched until now. COPD is associated with a vast increase in the free radical population in the body, thus from this factor alone, many of the antioxidants in general can be said to be important, because of their ability in neutralizing the large amounts of free radicals associated with the onset of COPD in the body. In another double blind study, the use of antioxidant supplements- such as synthetic beta-carotene and vitamin E was investigated, it was shown that these antioxidants did help people with COPD to some extent, this is despite the fact that people who consumed a higher amount of these nutrients as diet enhancers appeared to have lower risk from affliction with COPD. Other substances such as fish oils, which are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, have been linked to a reduced risk of COPD; it is however unclear as there is no research available to show whether the symptoms of COPD can be alleviated through the use of fish oil supplements. There is also some thinking involved in the types of medications taken by people with COPD, which have been shown to be deficient in magnesium, besides its other roles in the body a healthy lung function is one of the roles this mineral plays, hence this medications should probably contain some magnesium. As many as 47% of people with COPD have been reported by researchers to be deficient in magnesium-this was determined by muscle biopsy, this deficiency was however not reflected in the blood levels of the study group. An increase in the time spent in the hospital was also linked to low levels of magnesium during this study. It is therefore seen that a lot of people may have aggravated forms of COPD due to this mineral deficiency, and it is also seen at the same time that many people with COPD may be magnesium deficient; compounding the problem is that diagnosis of magnesium deficiency is very difficult. In trials that aimed to investigate the reaction of the body to exercise, carnitine was given to a group of people with chronic lung diseases. Dosages of up to 2 grams of carnitine were given to the test group, for a period of 2 to 4 weeks, twice daily, when such test subjects underwent some form of physical exercise, certain positive responses and changes were seen in the respiratory functions of those individuals. After establishing the fact that the levels of the coenzyme Q10 were low in the blood of certain patients with COPD when compared to healthy individuals, researchers also tried out the coenzyme Q10 (COQ10) in the patients. The trial consisted of dosages of about, 90 mg of COQ10 given for 8 weeks, this test however showed no appreciable change in lung function, however performance of physical exercises and heart rate did improve as also the total oxygenation of blood. It should be said that since the beneficial effects of supplementing with COQ10 for people with COPD is still unclear, and more research will have to shed a light on the benefits if any so exists. The herb mullein is quoted in the herbal literature as possessing an expectorant property-something that promotes the discharge of mucus, it may also have demulcent-something that soothes and protects the mucous membranes- properties. In cases of irritating coughs and in actions against bronchial congestion, this herb has been historically utilized as a potential cure, particularly as a remedy for the respiratory tract and its dysfunctions. There are many other herbs and other natural products such as elecampane, lobelia and yerba santa, tree based cures such as wild cherry bark, horehound, and gum weed, spice items like anise, and tree sourced remedies like eucalyptus that have a traditional value and usage in many parts of the world to treat respiratory ailments. These herbs and natural remedies may have some expectorant properties, in their ability to aid in the discharge of mucus, so some animal studies suggest. Human trials in a research environment have however not been carried out with any seriousness, nor have they been empirically shown to have such effects on humans. On the other hand herbs like the ephedra sinica (ma huang) have been utilized in the Chinese form of medicine for close to 5,000 years, primarily for such symptoms as shortness of breath, coughing, and lung and bronchial congestion. It is however advisable to administer this herb under the supervision of a nutritionally trained physician as it might have some potential and serious side effects.