Emphysema – symptoms, causes and treatment
It is only with great effort that the person can exhale air from his lungs. There is continual breathlessness. Most any exertion brings coughing. It is hard to breathe in, but worse to breathe out. The neck veins often stand out from the effort, and he breathes through the mouth in order to try to get enough air in and out. Breathing is usually rapid and short. He may breathe 25-30 times a minute, and still not get enough air.
Eventually his chest becomes barrel-shaped, his face ruddy, and he speaks with short, broken phrases.
The word, “emphysema,” comes from a Greek word meaning “to puff up with air.” The walls of the lungs lose their elasticity, so air cannot be easily pushed in and out, as should normally happen. So there is air in the lungs, but it is not moving in and out. As emphysema progresses and there is more obstruction to airflow, the lungs enlarge with trapped air.
The most frequent cause is smoking, but air pollution also receives some of the blame. Live in the country and do not have tobacco in your home, and you should be able to avoid this problem. Emphysema has become the most common modern lung infection in the Western world. Needing a continual exchange of air to survive, we use about a thousand cubic feet of air each day. It passes over lung surfaces which, if laid flat, would be as large as a tennis court. In emphysema, a large portion of the alveoli (the grape-like sacs where the air exchange occurs) are destroyed, and the blood is not properly aerated.
Treatment with problem
• The person absolutely must stop smoking. Tobacco smoke should be banished from the home, car, and place of work. Also avoid hair spray and other sprays.
• Avoid allergens that you know of.
• Maintain a program of regular exercise. Walking out-of-doors is always the best. Try using 1- or 2-pound hand weights and work the muscles in the neck, upper shoulders, and chest. Those with chronic emphysema need strong muscles there more than others do.
• Eat less and a little more often. Prolonged digestion requires more oxygen and blood to the stomach, and away from other parts of the body which also need them.
• Avoid gas-forming foods, such as legumes and cabbage. These cause abdominal distention which can interfere with breathing.
• Sip warm, clear liquids in the morning (such as herb teas), to help clear mucous from the airways.
• Excessively hot or cold foods may induce coughing.
• Avoid hard-to-chew foods and maintain a low- salt diet.
• Do not eat when emotionally upset or angry.
• Drink enough water. The fluid intake is needed to keep the mucous, in the lungs, thin.
• Maintain your ideal body weight. Some of those with this problem tend to put on weight and retain fluid. The closer you are to your ideal weight, the better for your lungs. Stay on a low-calorie diet. The thinner you are, the less flesh your lungs have to supply oxygen to.
• Obesity and constipation decrease the patient’s resistance to respiratory infection.
• Keep your clothing loose; this helps you breathe better.
• Learn to breathe correctly. The tendency is to breathe short and fast. But make yourself breathe steadily, from the diaphragm. Strengthen your respiration muscles by blowing out slowly through pursed lips for 30 minutes a day. Try to exhale twice as long as it took you to breathe in.
• Learn to cough properly. Inhale slowly and deeply, exhale through pursed lips, and cough in short huffing bursts rather than vigorously.
• Pace yourself in your work. Work steadily; it is not necessary to work fast.
• When working, lift while you exhale through pursed lips; inhale while you rest. When climbing steps, climb while exhaling; inhale when you stop to rest.
• Go through the day relaxed, not with a sense of alarm over your air problems.
• Avoid contact with anyone with a respiratory infection.
• Avoid drugs which suppress coughs. They dry up secretions, which you do not want.
• Use only essential and unscented soaps. Avoid perfumes, gas stoves, carpeting, curtains and draperies which cannot easily be cleaned. Avoid hot, humid climates. Avoid furry, feathered animals in your home.
• Get plenty of fresh air. Use a warm scarf or mask over the mouth and nose when outdoors in cold weather. Keep the body warm at all times.
• Place 3, 4, or 5-inch blocks under the foot of the bed. This will help prevent mucous from accumulating in the lower part of the lungs during the night. (But not too steep, for that would be hard on the heart.)
The suggestions above are typical of what you will find in most books. It is difficult to find remedial
solutions, but here is one:
Several years ago, a Christian mother visited her neighbors, and met a woman with emphysema. It was a small, stuffy house and the lady smoked. So the mother went back home and eventually found a treatment; it was a wet heating pack from Kneipp’s book, written nearly two centuries ago. She gave the treatment to the woman, who got well within several weeks. This was the treatment:
• Place a plastic sheet on the bed, both above the bottom sheet and beneath the top sheet and covers. Dip another sheet in very cold water, and wring it out somewhat—quickly, to keep in the cold.
• Work quickly: Wrap the sheet about the person, who is standing unclothed. The sheet covers everything but the head and perhaps part of the neck. Than wrap a dry blanket around him. The person immediately gets into the bed, and is covered well with the top sheet and blankets. This is essentially something like a heating pack, but done only with a wet sheet. The effect is immediate freezing cold, which the body gradually warms. The person can remain like this all night.