Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a group of progressive lung diseases that make breathing difficult as lung functions decline. Causes include smoking, indoor pollutants, occupational exposure to allergens and toxins, genetics, etc.
Currently, there is no cure for COPD, which is why many people turn to supplements to help manage symptoms and strengthen lungs. While these may provide some relief, it’s important to remember the following:
- Supplements are regulated by the FDA as foods and not drugs, so there is no guarantee as to their purity or efficacy.
- No supplement can replace your medications, chest physiotherapy, and annual vaccinations.
- Many supplements can interfere with your present medications and cause undesirable side effects.
As with any new medication or alternative therapies, COPD supplements should only be consumed after consulting with your physician.
6 supplements for COPD
1. Antioxidant vitamins
Antioxidant vitamins help control ongoing microinflammation in the lung alveoli (air sacs) by neutralizing the effects of free radicals formed inside the lung cells and prolonging the cell life. Studies show that many antioxidants work by allowing the body to use oxygen efficiently.
Vitamins A, C, and E are considered particularly beneficial for those who suffer from any chronic respiratory disease. Daily dosage recommendations are as follows:
While you can obtain these vitamins from supplements, it’s best to get them from a balanced diet of green leafy veggies, citrus fruits, germinating sprouts, etc. You must be especially careful when taking vitamin A supplements since excess vitamin A can be toxic to the liver and brain. Vitamin E toxicity can also cause stroke and even death.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been linked to a strong musculoskeletal system and is known to act as a chemical messenger for many cellular functions. Many patients with COPD or poor lung function have been found to have low levels of vitamin D.
For most adults, the daily dosage recommendation for vitamin D is 1,000-1,200 international units (IU). Natural sources include sunlight, mushrooms, dairy products, and vitamin D-fortified cheese and yogurt.
If your levels of vitamin D are consistently below recommended levels, your doctor may put you on a weekly course of vitamin D supplements.
3. N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a popular lung supplement that has been found to help patients with advanced COPD by reducing phlegm and thinning mucus, thereby relieving symptoms of chest congestion and productive cough. Recommended daily dosage is 250-1,500 mg.
4. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 plays a role in cell regeneration and can ease inflammation, thus potentially helping to dilate the airways and ease breathing. Coenzyme Q10 can be found in small amounts in a variety of different foods, including peanuts and fish (sardines, mackerel). Tablets containing coenzyme Q10 are available over-the-counter.
Often used in Chinese medicine, ginseng has been shown to improve the immune system, provide the cells with an energy boost, and aid in cellular regeneration. However, large-scale evidence supporting its efficacy is lacking. According to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, a safe daily dosage of ginseng is 1-2 grams.
Bromelain is known to have a regenerative effect on lung cells and can thin phlegm and mucus. Daily dosage recommendation is 80-500 mg, although more scientific research is needed to confirm its efficacy. Bromelain is naturally found in pineapples and bananas, and it is also available in pill form over-the-counter.
What foods are helpful for COPD?
It’s important for people with COPD to eat a diet rich in proteins, vegetables, fruits and spices. This can be supplemented with medications, regular physical activity, and breathing exercises. Foods that may help with COPD include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed, soybeans, canola oil, walnuts, and cold-water fatty fish can help reduce lung infections.
- Polyphenols found in berries, vegetables such as bell pepper and broccoli, green tea, cocoa, can help reduce the inflammatory chemical messengers in the body.
- Spices such as turmeric, pepper, garlic, and ginger can help with the thinning of mucus and lung cell regeneration.
- Vitamin K obtained from dark green vegetables may also have a positive effect on the structure of lung airways or alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs).
National Emphysema Foundation. Can Natural Remedies Help Treat COPD? https://www.emphysemafoundation.org/index.php/living-with-copd/97-therapeutic-toolbox-articles/174-can-natural-remedies-help-treat-copd
Lung Health Institute. 6 Natural COPD Treatments to Try Right Now. https://lunginstitute.com/blog/6-natural-treatments-for-copd/
Shen T, Bimali M, Faramawi M, Orloff MS. Consumption of Vitamin K and Vitamin A Are Associated With Reduced Risk of Developing Emphysema: NHANES 2007-2016. Front Nutr. 2020 Apr 21;7:47. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2020.00047/full
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