Alternative Treatments for COPD

Written by Healthline Editorial Team | Published on June 23, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on June 23, 2014

Alternative Treatments for COPD

Alternative treatments will not cure COPD, but they may help to relieve symptoms and enhance quality of life. Alternative treatments can be used in conjunction with standard treatments. However, they have not been proven to be effective in scientific studies, and you should always consult your doctor before trying any of these options to avoid complications or potential drug interactions.

Herbs & Supplements

A number of over-the-counter herbs, dietary supplements, and even foods and beverages may be able to help relieve symptoms of COPD. These can be used in addition to your regular medical treatments. Be sure to talk to your physician before taking any herbs or supplements. They could trigger side effects or interact with your medications.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids  decrease inflammation. This may help improve your breathing. You can get these as supplements or from food sources such as flaxseed, soybeans, canola oil, walnuts, and cold-water fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines.
  • Vitamin E has been associated with improved lung function in some studies on COPD patients.
  • Antioxidants can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Foods rich in antioxidants include red grapes, green tea, turmeric, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and kale.
  • Eucalyptus oil is a common expectorant. Adding a few drops to your humidifier may help you breathe easier.

In high doses, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E can cause bleeding problems, especially if you are taking blood-thinning medication. Always talk to your doctor before taking these supplements.

Mind/Body Approaches

There is growing evidence that mind/body interactions can help relieve some symptoms of COPD and enhance overall quality of life.

It is estimated that 40 percent of people with COPD also experience depression and anxiety (Stage, et al., 2006). The ongoing stress of living with a serious condition like COPD is enormous. Reducing negative thoughts, fears, and overall stress should be included in your routine. For many COPD sufferers, relaxation techniques such as meditationguided imagery, and relaxation therapy can significantly ease symptoms.

Yoga & Breathing Techniques

A key aspect of yoga practice is proper, controlled breathing. Pranayama includes hundreds of deep-breathing exercises. This facet of yoga can significantly help COPD sufferers by teaching them to expand their lungs thus promoting deep breathing and reducing stress.

Acupuncture

This technique, used in traditional Chinese medicine, involves placing very thin needles in strategic points on the body. Some studies have shown that people with COPD found relief from some symptoms with the use of acupuncture. Acupressure is based on the same idea but uses pressure instead of needles. Similar results can be achieved.

Other Things You Can Do

The following are additional steps you can take to feel better and slow the damage to your lungs:

  • Exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles that help you breathe and to improve overall strength.
  • Quit smoking; avoid secondhand smoke and other lung irritants.
  • Get vaccinated for flu and pneumonia.
  • Clear your airways with controlled coughing. Drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier can help.
  • Stay away from crowds to avoid germs that might irritate your lungs.
  • Avoid breathing cold air.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
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