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COPD symptoms improve with Yoga: What else should patients know?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
What are symptoms and alternative treatments for COPD?

If you're suffering from COPD or chronic obstructive lung disease you have probably been taught how to deep breathe by your nurse, pulmonary therapist or physician.

A small study showed Yoga that incorporates deep breathing, physical postures and relaxation and can be performed by individuals of all levels of fitness can help improve lung function and quell inflammation associated with COPD.

Symptoms of COPD

COPD makes it difficult to breathe because of collapse of the small airways called the alveoli that lie at the very bottom of our lungs.

Patients have difficulty pushing air completely out of the lungs, which leads to a buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is retained in the lungs and blood stream.

Too much CO2 leads to lethargy and can decreased level of consciousness making it important to focus on treatment that improves oxygen exchange in the lung tissue.

Chest tightness, wheezing, ongoing cough and shortness of breath are symptoms of COPD that can make it difficult to perform activities of daily living.

Some people whose symptoms are mild may not even be aware they have obstructive lung disease. Your doctor can diagnose the disease.

Risks for COPD include smoking and exposure environmental exposure to respiratory irritants.

COPD treatment

The goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms. Bronchodilators taken regularly can help improve lung function that can be tracked with a spirometry test from your doctor.

COPD has an inflammatory component so sometimes prednisone is used short-term and in severe cases longer to keep the airways from constricting and to reduce wheezing.

The finding that practicing Yoga can help treat COPD means patients suffering from the disease have another attainable and inexpensive option to help manage the disease that affects 24 million Americans.

The study

Researchers for the study want to see if quality of life could be improved for patients through a simple structured Yoga program.

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The study authors presented findings at the the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) 2013 that Yoga practice reduced inflammation and improved lung function and symptoms of shortness of breath after just 12-weeks.

Randeep Guleria, MD who is a professor and specializes in pulmonary medicine and sleep disorder said in a press release that COPD is a disease of inflammation.

Previous studies have found Yoga practice can calm inflammatory cytokines in the body which might suggest gentle practice is beneficial for almost any type of chronic disease or illness, though past findings were not specifically mentioned by Dr. Guleria.

Types of Yoga

The investigators enrolled 29 patients with COPD for the study who practice one-hour of Yoga to include asanas or physical postures, pranayama that is a breathing technique using the abdomen, cleansing techniques known as kriyas, meditation, and shavasana that is that is a relaxation pose at the end of yoga practice. The study group practiced for 1 hour, twice a week, for 4 weeks.

Below is an example of breathing to help COPD that anyone can do. Anyone with the disease should at least know how to perform pursed lip breathing.

For the remaining 4-weeks patients practiced at home for one hour every two-weeks.

After 12-weeks of training, yoga was found to improve all parameters of quality of life, inflammation and lung function in the study group.

"We found that yoga can be a simple, cost-effective method that can help improve quality of life in patients with COPD,” stated Dr. Guleria.

Other important lifestyle factors that can help improve COPD symptoms include eating foods that are nutrient dense. Protein is essential in the form of nuts, legumes, peanut butter, fish and eggs.

It's also important to drink plenty of fluids to keep lung secretions thin, which in turn allows for easier clearing of the airway when coughing. You should also obtain guidelines from your doctor about how much fluid to drink. COPD can also lead to swelling of the legs and heart failure, making fluid-volume balance important.

Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and dairy to supply the body with vitamins and minerals that are essential for stronger muscles and energy.

If you are interested in beginning Yoga to help treat your COPD, speak with your doctor first.

Chest 2013


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I have been diagnosed with COPD for over 12 years. My principal symptom has been a heavy feeling in the chest. I cannot breathe well while lying flat on my back or on my right side. I have recently had a very major reduction in these symptoms having been prescribed cefdinir for a diagnosis of an upper respiratory viral infection last 4 months. I am only writing this to inform others that nothing was really working to help my condition.I started on Emphysema herbal formula I ordered from Health Herbal Clinic. I read a lot of reviews from other previous patients who used the herbal formula, my symptoms totally declined over a 5 weeks use of the COPD natural herbal formula. I am now doing very well, all my symptoms completely faded away, my lungs are totally repaired.