THE TREATMENT OF COPD

While there are many different lung (pulmonary) diseases, a lot of the time and resources are devoted to the treatment of COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This common lung disease causes enormous suffering and disability. COPD is now listed as the third leading cause of death in this country. I would like to review the standard conventional treatment of COPD that is well accepted in this country and worldwide, and compare and contrast it with what I would consider a holistic and comprehensive approach that I espouse.

COPD involves narrowing and inflammation of the bronchial tree, which are tubes that bring fresh air to the alveoli (air sacs) deep in the lung. (picture) It also involves the loss of alveoli (air sacs) as well as the overproduction of mucous secretions. People with COPD develop increasing problems with shortness of breath with activity that progresses over time, limiting their ability to be active and causing them to become more and more sedentary.

 The standard therapy is mostly with inhaled medications that dilate open the bronchial tree (bronchodilator medications), allowing more air to enter and for them to breathe better. Some oral medications are also used, especially Prednisone (corticosteroids), which is often needed during flare-ups. The other therapy is oxygen. Pulmonary rehab is also helpful and is a low level exercise class to improve stamina, fatigue, shortness of breath, and also often offers social support. Antibiotics, of course, are used with respiratory infections. 

To summarize, the standard therapy includes bronchodilator medication, corticosteroids, antibiotics, oxygen, and pulmonary rehabilitation classes. When the disease gets very advanced, overnight assistance with breathing is also often used. Hospitalizations may be often or very infrequent and when the flare-up is severe, may include admission to the ICU, with or without a respirator (ventilator). I cannot overemphasize how difficult life is for patients with more advanced COPD. They are so limited in what they are able to do and often feel very tired and exhausted. Life can become a real struggle for these patients, just in an effort to be able to breathe.

 Eventually a lot of these patients come to the decision that they have suffered enough, and decide to forego any more treatment and be allowed to pass away. Family often has seen the years of suffering and is supportive of this decision, some having more trouble letting go than others. The above brief summary is considered the standard of care for COPD.

A comprehensive approach would still potentially include all of the above standard therapy but would include a lot more. A comprehensive and holistic approach would include strategies to treat the underlying energetic imbalances that lead to the physical problems mentioned above. This approach works at a more fundamental level and attacks the problem at its origin. 

What are the energetic imbalances? There are blockages in the energy flow in the lungs so that congested and stale energy accumulates in the lungs. So, most of the healing is directed at clearing the low quality energy in the lungs and then energizing the lungs with fresh new energy. The lungs are also affected by the heart chakra (4th chakra) as well as the solar plexus chakra (3rd chakra), so clearing the old energy and energizing is also necessary in these energy centers. So, energy healing would be one component of the comprehensive approach. This often provides substantial relief of shortness of breath but may need to be done often to maintain the improvement.

Other holistic approaches that could be used to treat the energetic imbalances include general Qigong (chi kung) to improve the energy flow in the body, and specific Qigong techniques to improve healing of the lungs. Tai Chi can also be used to boost and harmonize the energy flow in the body and there have been studies demonstrating improvement in shortness of breath with Tai Chi. Salt is a wonderful cleansing agent (halotherapy), and can be used to clean the aura by taking a sea salt bath or swimming in the ocean. Salt can be used to cleanse the lungs by the use of a Himalayan salt pipe inhaler. Ocean air is similarly healthy and helps cleanse the lungs. Fresh, high quality food also acts as a source for replenishing energy. A castor oil pack can also be used to cleanse the body of toxins and this will help the lungs as well.

Breathing exercises can also be used both to improve the breathing pattern as well as to improve energy flow in the lungs and throughout the body. Training in diaphragmatic breathing is useful. Pranayama is a form of yoga for the breath and includes balanced breathing and other techniques to improve breathing and energy flow.

Meditation can be a powerful tool as well and I would certainly want to include it as part of any comprehensive program. Certain types may be better than others and visualization exercises can also be used along the meditation.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the lungs are associated with the emotions of grief and sadness. We all experience grief and sadness at times as a normal part of life. In Chinese medicine, lung disease is felt to be associated with grief that is unexpressed, repressed, or unacknowledged. Lung disease arises as grief and sadness are lodged in the lungs and not expressed or cleared. The energy from these emotions is what creates the blockages to energy flow that subsequently gives rise to the disease. So, clearing the underlying emotions should also be addressed as part of a comprehensive and holistic approach to lung disease. Some of these emotions can be cleared with energy healing, depending on the type of energy healing used.

 Remember that emotions are energy and so a lot of the aforementioned techniques will help with clearing the emotions as well. However, some of the emotions are not cleared and can be an ongoing and current issue. Approaches to this include spending time feeling the feelings and not resisting them, and journaling can also be helpful. In a group setting, group support is also beneficial. In selected cases, actual grief and psychological counseling may be needed but doubt it will be necessary in most patients.

So, in a comprehensive and holistic medicine approach, everything that is part of standard medical care would be included in the patient’s treatment, but I believe that less of this conventional care will be needed if you really get the patients better with the other methods of treatment I have mentioned above. There is nothing like providing more specific targeted therapy directed at the origin of the patient’s problem. Let’s not just treat symptoms! Let’s treat the disease itself! It is my belief that a more comprehensive approach, similar to that detailed above, would help COPD patients to show substantial recovery from their disease, improve their quality of life, and markedly reduce disability and death.

It is my dream to start a pulmonary rehab center that will take this approach. Standard monitoring with chest x-rays, chest CT, questionnaires, and pulmonary function testing could be used to assess its effectiveness.

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