Breathing easier with COPD

Chronic pulmonary disease, or COPD, is the third leading cause of death in the United States and it literally takes a person's breath away.

It is a disease that makes it hard to breathe due to damage to the lungs over many years, usually from smoking.

Research shows that some of the most effective treatments may not come in a pill or a bottle.

One individual affected by COPD is Kay Ferguson. She starts her day with a ten minute trek while toting around a 28lb oxygen tank.

After 15 years as narrator at the panda exhibit, she had to take a break when her COPD took over. However, the panda's at the San Diego Zoo give Kay the motivation to stay healthy.

Although Kay gave up smoking 25 years ago, the 30 years she did light up caught up with her. She became housebound until she found rehab that could get her back to her bears.

Trina Limberg, respiratory therapist at UC San Diego, says Kay was a very motivated individual.

In UCSD’s pulmonary rehab, patients focus on exercise and weight training. Therapists say the key is to find out what motivates each person.

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

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

Additionally, what you put into your body can make a difference. New research finds 100 milligrams of ginseng a day for three months improved a patient’s ability to exercise. Vitamins C, D and E help reduce inflammation. Kali Mur eases wet coughs and Japanese researchers have found 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 such as tofu and bean sprouts, also decreases breathing attacks. Patients with COPD also have a higher rate of depression. St. Johns Wort has been proven to help elevate their mood and smoking is the most common cause of the disorder.

Exercising, eating right, and incorporating oxygen into her daily routine got Kay back on track. It is the work with her pandas that will keep Kay moving for many years to come.


WHAT IS COPD? Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a disease that makes it hard to breathe due to damage to the lungs over many years, usually from smoking. It is often a mix of diseases: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In chronic bronchitis, the airways that carry air to lungs get inflamed and make a lot of mucus. This can narrow or block the airways, making it difficult to breath. Tiny air sacs that are like balloons normally get bigger and smaller to move air in a healthy person. However, with emphysema the air sacs get damaged and can no longer stretch, therefore less air gets in and out of the lungs, makes one feel short of breath. COPD gets worse overtime and the damage on the lungs cannot be undone. (

CAUSES: COPD is almost always caused by first hand smoking. Overtime, breathing tobacco smoke irritates the airways and destroys the stretchy fibers in the lungs. However other causes can include breathing in chemical fumes, dust or air pollution over a long period of time. Secondhand smoke is also just as bad. COPD is most common in people in their 60s orolder. (

SYMPTOMS: The main symptoms of COPD includes: long chronic cough, mucus that comes up when you cough, shortness of breath that gets worse when you exercise. At times, symptoms can get worse during simple tasks such as while getting dressed or fixing a meal. Also, people with COPD are more likely to get lung infections, therefore it is recommended to get a flu vaccine every year, as well as a pneumococcal shot. The pneumococcal shot may not prevent pneumonia, but one may not be as sick.
AT HOME MANAGEMENT: People with COPD can do things at home to stay as healthy as they can. Try avoiding things that can irritate the lungs such as smoke, pollution and air that is cold and dry. Make sure to use the air conditioner or air filter at home. Also, take rest breaks throughout the day. Regular exercise can also help people with COPD stay strong. Lastly, eat well to keep up strength. One of the common symptoms of COPD is the buildup of excessive chest mucus and for this there are a number of homeopathic remedies that can help. Kali mur is one such ingredient and it is well known for its beneficial effects of the respiratory system and its ability to ease wet coughs. Kali mur is usually recommended during the second stage of nasal and chest congestion, when the mucosal discharge is white or gray in color, instead of clear or green in color. (

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