The more we learn about COPD, the more we know it to be a disease with consequences that extend far beyond the lungs. Although COPD primarily targets the respiratory system, the effects that occur outside the lungs â often referred to as extra-pulmonary or systemic effects â are important to consider when talking to your doctor about managing the disease.1
Inflammation is a normal, yet complex response that isnât easily reduced to being all good or all bad. On the bright side, acute (short-term) inflammation plays an essential role in protecting and healing the body after a physical injury or infection.Â Once the healing process reaches a certain stage, the immune system shuts itself off and inflammation generally resolves on its own.
But inflammation also has a dark side. Chronic (prolonged) inflammation can be silent and destructive, occurring when the inflammatory response is out of proportion to the perceived threat itâs trying to thwart off, or when itâs directed at an inappropriate target.2 Chronic inflammation has a disturbing, long-lasting effect on the body that can last for days, months, or even years.1
COPD is characterized by an abnormal, excessive inflammatory response of the lungs to harmful respiratory pollutants and gases. Although tobacco smoke is the chief offender in this process, air pollution and pollutants in the workplace are also contributing factors.
But the lungs arenât the only organs that are influenced by the damaging effects of COPD; the disease is associated with abnormalities in other organ systems, as well. The extra-pulmonary (outside the lung) effects1Â outlined below are among the most widely studied:
Inflammation: What Can You Do About It?
In a Mayo Clinic Health Letter, internal medicine specialist Dr. Brent Bauer reports that in order to reduce inflammation in the body, you must avoid the things that cause inflammation and are proven unhealthy. Most importantly, this includes quitting smoking and eliminating, or limiting alcohol consumption.3
Changing your diet is also important. Some people believe that an âanti-inflammatoryâ diet helps keep inflammation at bay. Although more research is needed to substantiate this claim, the anti-inflammatory diet basically revolves around making better food choices2Â including:
What about Dietary Supplements?
Although dietary supplements arenât regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and more studies are needed before recommendations can be made as to their safety and efficacy, Dr. Bauer says the following2 may be of interest when considering home remedies for inflammation:
NOTE: More studies are needed to confirm the role of nutrition and dietary supplements in the treatment of inflammation. Before changing your diet or taking any type of dietary supplement, talk to your health care provider. Â
Reducing Chronic Inflammation: Does Exercise Help?
Exercise is well-recognized as an important strategy for reducing the risk of many chronic illnesses. But did you know that it may also play a key role in reducing inflammation? In a study published by the American Heart Associationâs Circulation Journal, 4,289 participants were followed over a 10-year period to determine the effect of physical activity on inflammation.Â From the start, participants who were physically active showed lower markers of inflammation that remained stable over time. When the study concluded, 49% of those who engaged in at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate to vigorous activity maintained lower levels of inflammation than participants who were less active.4
Which types of exercises are most effective in reducing inflammation? Studies suggest that combining aerobic exercise with resistance or weight training may maximize the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise.5
If youâre ready to attack inflammation before it attacks you, talk to your doctor about starting a safe exercise program that suits your current level of fitness.
For more information about exercise and portable oxygen therapy, read:
Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN