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Ask the Naturopathic Doctor

Natural Help for COPD

Explore drug-free solutions for easing symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD

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Q:My doctor diagnosed me with COPD and said I’d need to take steroids for the rest of my life. What exactly is this? And is there a better treatment?
-Jacob W., St. Louis

A: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a catchall designation that describes a group of lung problems-including chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and asthma-that make breathing difficult. Conventional doctors typically have only one solution for any COPD-related disorder: a steroidal inhaler. Unfortunately, over time, steroids can destroy normal tissue, increase cancer risk, and often cause diabetes. The good news is that there are natural ways to treat COPD that you and your healthcare provider may want to explore.

One of the top natural remedies for COPD is glutathione, which is actually a string of three amino acids (glutamine, cysteine, and glycine) that is made by every cell in our bodies. Considered the most potent antioxidant that the human body produces, glutathione is also a superb detox agent that helps protect against a myriad of irritants, including pollution, poisons, drugs, and heavy metals.

Nebulized glutathione can rapidly reduce symptoms of COPD if used regularly. In fact, this may be the single most important treatment for cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease in which thick mucus builds up in the lungs. Many compounding pharmacies now offer liquid glutathione, and you can pick up a nebulizer at almost any drug store. However, you can also find relief with glutathione supplements if you don’t opt for nebulized glutathione.

One thing to remember: It’s important to use the “reduced” form of glutathione, also known as GSH. In this context, “reduction” means attaching an electron to a molecule that would otherwise be missing one. Because GSH isn’t very stable, researchers have been looking for ways to extend its shelf life. Fairly recently, there has been a breakthrough with liposomal technology.

Liposomal technology involves surrounding a nutrient with a fatty substance to help protect it from stomach acid and exposure to air, light, and temperature fluctuations. In this case, liposomal technology keeps GSH intact until it reaches the nuclei of trillions of cells in your body, where it goes to work. LivOn Labs and ReadiSorb both make high-quality liposomal GSH products. Source Naturals Reduced Glutathione also features GSH.

Cleaning up the air you breathe is critically important for people with chronic respiratory problems. You can find a good quality HEPA (high emission particulate) filter in big box stores or online for less than $60. If you can afford only one, put it in the bedroom. (And for Pete’s sake, don’t let your pets sleep in the bedroom with you!) But it’s best if you can place several throughout the house, and even one at the office-especially if you work in a building where the windows are never opened.

An anti-inflammatory diet is a key to so many aspects of good health. The basics include using liberal amounts of the spice turmeric-1/2 tsp. daily in capsules or food-as well the whole gamut of colorful fruits and vegetables. Try to avoid mammal-based products such as cheese, milk, ice cream, beef, or pork. They all promote inflammation via prostaglandins in their saturated fat. (Based on research by Peter D’Adamo, ND, author of Eat Right 4 Your Type, however, people with blood type O need to eat meat twice a week or so-look for wild game or lean, grass-fed beef.) Fatty fish, especially wild Alaskan salmon, is a super health food. Right up there with dark leafy greens, blueberries, and organic apples.

In addition to air filters, dietary changes, and nebulized glutathione therapy, here are a few more natural treatments to consider when dealing with COPD:

  • Homeopathic Silica 12X. Take 1 pellet twice daily.
  • Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in apple skins and the inner skin of red onions that is also available as a supplement. Take 250 mg four times daily; if needed you can take up to 2 g daily.
  • Concentrated berry flavonoids in liquid form. Take 1 Tbs. 1-2 times daily mixed in water, tea, juice, smoothies, or even hot cereals.
  • Liquid chlorophyll, known as plant blood, is high in magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant that can help relax constricted bronchioles. Take 1-2 Tbs. before sporting events or other activities that require lung power.
  • CoQ10 helps create more available oxygen in the cells, which reduces demand on the lungs (and the heart). You’ll need at least 100 mg daily to make a difference with COPD. For optimal absorption, use ubiquinol CoQ10.
  • Herbal remedies, especially cleavers (Galium aparine) capsules or tincture, and quebracho (Aspidosperma) capsules or tincture. Tinctures have a much longer shelf life (think years) than capsules.
  • NAC (N-acetyl cysteine, as a precursor to glutathione). Try 600 mg at bedtime.
  • Selenium. This micronutrient is a critical agent in about 75 percent of all human detoxification pathways. Take 400 mcg daily.
  • Adrenal support. Your adrenal glands produce cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory that works better-and is safer-than synthetic imposters such as Prednisone. Ask someone at your local health food store to recommend an adrenal formula.
  • Buteyko Breathing Method. This practice is based on the idea that you can temporarily increase the amount of oxygen delivered to the bloodstream by increasing the carbon dioxide content of your inhalation slightly. To learn more, visit You can also find videos demonstrating the method on YouTube.

Emily A. Kane, ND, LAc, has a private practice in Juneau, Alaska, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She is the author of two books on health, including Managing Menopause Naturally. Visit her online at