Dr. Michael Klaper answers questions on a wide variety of health and nutrition-related subjects. To submit a question or topic for possible inclusion here, send e-mail to: answers@DoctorKlaper.com
Questions & Answers – Banishing Bronchitis, Step By Step
Question for Dr. Klaper:
For the past seven days, I have been coughing up large quantities of yellow phlegm in the morning. Could I have bronchitis?
Not only might you have bronchitis, your symptoms define the disease – cough and hypersecretion of mucus from an irritation (usually from infection) of the inner lining of the bronchial tubes of the lungs. (Incidentally, bronchitis differs from pneumonia in that bronchitis is limited to the inner bronchial tube lining, whereas with pneumonia, the infection has spread out into the substance of the lungs, infecting the microscopic air spaces, called alveoli.)
Such bronchial infections are generally caused by viruses or by the normal bacteria in your nose and throat which take advantage of your body’s lowered immunity. Your resistance to infection can be compromised by factors such as insufficient rest, smoke-filled rooms, emotional stress, unfamiliar foods, time zone changes, air in airplanes, and many other assaults on our immune systems presented by modern life and travel. Such conditions can roll out the welcome mat for microbes to actively “set up housekeeping” in your bronchial tube linings, and – voila! – soon, you are feverish, achy, and coughing up colored phlegm. Bronchitis!
(THE MOST COMMON CAUSE OF BRONCHITIS IS CIGARETTE SMOKING AND SMOKERS SHOULD CAREFULLY READ THE LAST FOUR PARAGRAPHS BELOW.)
In the absence of inhaling hot smoke, your body will eventually clear itself of this bronchial infection; however, you have a great opportunity to speed up your own healing with the following strategies:
1. (a) Get enough sleep. Our bodies heal when we sleep. (Children grow while they sleep.) If your body tells you to lie down and take a nap, listen to it. Napping even for ten minutes can boost your immune response.
(b) Consider taking a (high potency) multivitamin/mineral supplement once daily and vitamin C, 250-500 mg., twice daily. Utilize any antibiotic prescribed by the physician in the manner stated on the label or via the physician’s verbal orders.
(c) Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and minimize your intake of refined sugars, hydrogenated oils and processed foods (packaged foods and “fast foods”).
2. A key to clearing the infection out of your lungs is to eliminate the mucus accumulations which make you cough and provide a good culture medium for bacterial growth. You and your physician will decide whether you should take an antibiotic for this case of bronchitis. However, whether or not you employ an antibiotic, you must take an active role in clearing this bronchial infection from your lungs. Antibiotics alone will not clear the mucus from your chest and one of the most self-defeating things a person with a lung infection can do is to breathe quietly all day and allow the infected secretions to remain within the bronchial tubes.
Speed up your healing by intentionally eliminating the secretions from your bronchial tubes with the following strategies:
(a) Thick secretions must be thinned. Make your lung secretions thinner by:
(i) making yourself well-hydrated by drinking plenty of clear liquids, such as water, tea, or fresh vegetable juices – no dairy products! So, drink a six-ounce glass of something clear and wet every three or four hours.
(ii) inhaling some steam twice a day for 15 minutes, such as deep breathing in a steamy shower, inhaling steam off a pot of boiled water, use of a vaporizer, etc. If you want to use menthol (“Vicks Vaporub,” etc.) or eucalyptus oil, use only the tiniest amount.
(b) Once the bronchial secretions are thinner, they must be moved out of the lungs. You can accomplish this by taking advantage of the fact that when you take a deep breath in your bronchial tubes open up (expand their diameter) and when you breathe out, your bronchial tubes close back down (resume normal diameter). Thus, deep breathing provides a “milking” action that gets the mucus secretions moving upward to the throat where they may be coughed out, spit out, or swallowed.
(c) At a minimum, every hour, sit up straight and take three or four deep breaths. If it’s comfortable, after the last breath, cough to eliminate as much bronchial secretion as possible.
(d) Even better, if you feel up to it, any activity that produces sustained deep breathing will not only increase mucus secretion elimination, but the increased blood flow will draw any antibiotics into the chest region to help eradicate the infection more quickly.
An easy 20 to 40-minute walk, a gentle pedal on an exercise bike (5 to 30 minutes), a few laps in the pool, etc. – any activity that encourages you to breathe deeply in and out – done once or twice a day, will markedly help clear the chest, especially after you have hydrated yourself in the manner described in paragraph 2(a).
The natural course of bronchitis, when properly treated utilizing the strategies above, is for the colored mucus (green, yellow, gray, etc.) to turn white and then to clear over the 24 to 96 hours following initiation of treatment. The feeling of “being sick” usually subsides within 24 hours and normal activities can be resumed as strength and enthusiasm return (which they should do quickly, in the absence of other serious medical disease).
Bronchitis is not contagious! When people near someone with a bronchial infection “catch” bronchitis themselves, it is probably because they have established the same conditions in their body that allowed their friend or loved one to become ill – but, most likely, they did not get their infection from another person. However, be considerate and cover your mouth when you cough. Bronchitis makes you cough – and coughs can carry contagious viruses and other organisms to people nearby.
The recovery from bronchitis is usually complete and relatively prompt. If you do not re-create the conditions that allowed the infection to become established in your respiratory tract, there is no reason to expect you should experience another episode of bronchial infection.
SMOKERS, PLEASE NOTE: The most common and serious cause of bronchitis is cigarette smoking. Smokers repeatedly scorch their inner lung linings with hot, chemicalized smoke, keeping a continuous thermal and chemical burn percolating in their lung linings. As a response to the smoke assault, the bronchial tube linings secrete a sugar-rich mucus, which accumulates overnight and pools in the bronchial tubes. In the morning, the bronchitic person typically coughs up this colored phlegm – the classic “smoker’s cough.”
Chronic bronchitis in smokers never completely clears from the lungs as long as the person continues to smoke. Over the years, the ongoing inflammation and infection from the continual bronchitis plays a causative role in the scarring and narrowing of the bronchial tubes which results in emphysema, as well as lung cancers to which so many smokers fall victim.
IF YOU ARE A SMOKER, REALIZE THAT THIS CASE OF BRONCHITIS IS A MESSAGE FROM THE INNER LININGS OF YOUR LUNGS. THEY ARE WAVING A FLAG TO YOU THAT YOU ARE DAMAGING YOURSELF SEVERELY AND ARE ON THE ROAD TO A HIDEOUS FATE OF EMPHYSEMA, OXYGEN TANKS, AND GASPING FOR AIR – OR DYING FROM AN AGGRESSIVE CANCER OF THE LUNG OR THROAT.
DO WHATEVER YOU NEED TO DO TO STOP SMOKING!!! THERE ARE MANY EFFECTIVE AIDS AVAILABLE TO YOU – MEDICATIONS, NICOTINE SOURCES, SUPPORT GROUPS, ETC. – BUT IT ALL BEGINS WITH YOUR REALIZATION THAT IT IS TIME TO STOP SMOKING AND YOUR RESOLVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR OR LOCAL LUNG ASSOCIATION ABOUT A SMOKING CESSATION PROGRAM.
Thank you for visiting my website and for considering my professional services when you need reliable medical information in understandable terms. Contact me for a private consultation.
To your good health and happiness,
Dr. Michael Klaper