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COPD treatments can reduce symptoms

December 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can literally feel like it's taking a person's breath away. COPD can be difficult to treat. Doctors say one approach to helping patients may have nothing to do with medications.

The reason it's so hard for people with COPD to breathe is because the disease causes damage to the lungs over several years. And it can involve a mix of more than one type of lung disease, causing airways to become inflamed and irritated. But a new way of treating COPD takes a natural approach.

At the University of California-San Diego pulmonary rehabilitation program, patients focus on exercise and weight training. The key is to find out what motivates each person.

"When you do that, people feel better able to do life," said Trina Limberg, UC San Diego respiratory therapist.

Therapists help the patients do more and be more aware of their body while doing it.

"People don't think taking a shower is exercise, but if you have a lung disease and you have limited air flow, it's exercise," said Limberg.

Also, what you put into your body can make a difference. New research finds 100 milligrams of ginseng per day for three months improved a patient's ability to exercise. Vitamins C, D and E help reduce inflammation, and kali mur eases wet coughs.

Japanese researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids decreased inflammation in the airway and helped more than 64 percent of patients breathe easier.

Eating more than 60 grams of soy in foods like tofu and bean sprouts also decreases breathing attacks.

Experts say patients with COPD tend to have a higher rate of depression, and in one study, St. John's wort was shown to help elevate their mood.