As with all diseases, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) addresses COPD according to the underlying imbalances that cause a decrease in breathing capacity.
Progression of COPD According to Chinese Medicine
While no two patients will develop a disease or imbalance in exactly the same way, this is a general progression of COPD.
Stage 1 of COPD
The lungs are sensitive to smoke and pollution and easily become dry when exposed to fine particles in the air; this is referred to as Lung Yin Deficiency. With Lung Yin Deficiency, a dry cough develops and symptoms such as hoarseness and a dry scratchy throat appear from time to time. Another possibile initial stage cause of COPD results from chronic inflammation caused by asthma; this results in a remodeling of the airways with a narrowing and hardening of the bronchial tissue.
Stage 2 of COPD
Left untreated, the Yin of the Lungs becomes more depleted and the Lung Yin Vacuity signs intensify; the dry cough begins to produce sticky sputum that becomes tinged with blood and insomnia likely develops. Yin correlates with substance and tissue in the body, so as Lung Yin Deficiency worsens the air sacs begin to lose their elastic quality and the walls between the air sacks are destroyed as lung spasms and inflammation develop. During this stage, breathing becomes noticeably more labored.
Stage 3 of COPD
As Lung Yin Deficiency progresses and heat builds in the lungs, the lungs begin to compensate by producing Phlegm-Fluids. The phlegm is often sticky with color and begins to obstruct the free flow of Qi in the Lungs. Because the phlegm is condensing due to the Heat in the Lungs, medicines and herbs that are extremely drying will cause further complications and should be avoided.
Stage 4 of COPD
With the phlegm obstructing the lungs, Lung Qi Deficiency develops, breathing becomes labored, and there is extreme fatigue. The Lungs control the opening and closing of pores, so spontaneous perspiration is common with Lung Qi Deficiency.
Lifestyle Habits for COPD
Diet for COPD
Chinese medicine food therapy. When phlegm is presenting with COPD, foods that produce phlegm are avoided in this condition including fried foods, dairy, juices, raw foods, iced drinks and cold foods. If dryness is presenting, foods that moisten the lungs such as soy products, barley, peanuts, rice milk, spinach, and pear can be consumed. Moderate amounts of spicy foods will benefit the Lungs. If there is a constant craving for spicy-hot foods, this reflects an imbalance in the Lung Organ System. Because the Metal Element can be damaged by excessively pungent foods, it is best to curb the over consumption of hot spices, especially when dryness is presenting.
Exercise for COPD
Regular light aerobic exercise such as brisk walking for 30-60 minutes per day is beneficial with COPD. Because aerobic exercise requires good lung function, it may take time to build up to a full workout. Tai Qi and Qi Gong excercises can also be beneficial for improved breathing and feature breathing techniques and deep breathing training.
Smoking and COPD
COPD is often linked to a history of smoking or exposure to pollution. Obviously, it is imperative to stop smoking in order to reverse this condition. Chinese medicine offers very effective strategies in smoking cessation through auricular (ear) acupuncture and smelling salts. Herb formulas that calm the mind such as Calm the Dragon formula or adaptogenic herbs that normalize the stress response such as Enlightened Emperor formula can be very helpful also.
The group of diseases referred to as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease generally refer to a number of respiratory degenerative diseases with inflammation of the lungs including chronic bronchitis emphysema, and chronic bronchial asthma. Chinese medicine works affectively to address COPD, possibly reversing it depending on how early the disease is caught; unfortunately, COPD is typically well developed by the time it is diagnosed. In more advanced cases where symptoms have been present for some time, the herbs will likely be depended on long term to maintain an improved quality of life.