What Is Halotherapy for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

Halotherapy, also known as salt therapy, is an alternative treatment that involves the practice of breathing salty air. It was derived from a therapeutic habit dating back to medieval times in which patients sat in salt rooms or salt caves to enjoy the respiratory benefits that had been observed. While it was once more common, salt therapy fell out of fashion for a while and has, therefore, never been adequately studied. However, there is renewed interest in halotherapy, and researchers are now suggesting that more studies should be done to identify whether, and how, halotherapy could offer respiratory benefits. 

How Does Modern Halotherapy Work?oxygen prescription

The most common methods of administering halotherapy are generally via time spent in a salt room or salt cave, or by using a dry salt inhaler to help treat respiratory symptoms. The theory behind halotherapy is that when microscopic salt particles are inhaled, the salt is able to absorb irritants, toxins and allergens from the respiratory system. Because salt is toxic to airborne pathogens, it may be able to stop pollen and other irritants from aggravating your lungs. Many people who advocate for halotherapy also tout its ability to break up mucus and reduce inflammation in the airways, making it easier to clear mucus and to cough more productively. Proponents of halotherapy have suggested that it can ease shortness of breath, reduce wheezing and coughing and even minimize the need for inhaled medication. As such, researchers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) patients alike are interested in further exploration of the potential benefits. 

Halotherapy treatment has gained even more traction after scientists discovered a pattern of improved respiratory health among people who spent significant time in salt caves or salt mines. Unfortunately, not enough research exists at this point to prove whether the respiratory improvements were scientifically relevant, or a placebo effect. 

What Halotherapy Studies Are Saying So Far

While no medical guidelines have been established for halotherapy, making most doctors quite hesitant to recommend it as a treatment, the potential for halotherapy as a COPD treatment is intriguing. A senior scientific advisor to the American Lung Association posits that salt therapy could potentially thin the mucus in the airways when fine salt particles are inhaled. This may explain why some patients are reporting COPD symptom relief when using halotherapy. A 2007 study showed that patients with COPD actually did experience fewer symptoms and reported improved quality of life after halotherapy. Though the scientific community has not yet proven that halotherapy is definitely going to help improve the symptoms of your COPD, it is a therapy worth watching and looking into eventually, as the studies are quite promising. 

In fact, one study conducted in 2014 found that halotherapy could be profoundly beneficial for patients with bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive bronchopneumopathy. This study, though it had a very small sample size, showed that halotherapy conducted within an artificial salt mine environment triggered anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic mechanisms within the participants’ bodies, as well as a decreasing trend in the inflammatory process. These results indicate that halotherapy could help decrease the body’s sensitivities and inflammatory process, which could help ease COPD symptoms for some patients.

Another study from 2014 reviewed a number of previous halotherapy studies for efficacy and results. The studies that were reviewed researched the effects of halotherapy, as well as some studies using speleotherapy—respiratory therapy involving the practice of breathing inside a salt cave. The overview found that, while few of the studies in question were without flaws, they all showed some significant improvement among the subjects. 

It is clear that more rigorous research needs to be done on halotherapy for truly conclusive results to be revealed. However, there seem to be some very positive indicators for the future of this therapy. 

Halotherapy Does Not Replace Other COPD Treatments

While halotherapy does seem to have some potential as a beneficial treatment for some COPD patients, the full results are not yet in. Because no studies have done specific research on the safety of this therapy, you should not consider or use halotherapy without speaking to your doctor first. For some patients, doctors may feel fine about experimenting with halotherapy as a complementary treatment. However, until more conclusive studies have been conducted, it is unlikely to be the first or only line of treatment. 

When used with your doctor’s approval, halotherapy could offer some benefits when used in conjunction with other proven COPD therapies like bronchodilators, pulmonary rehabilitation and oxygen therapy. Still, these proven medications should be your first line of defense to help treat your COPD symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what treatments are best for you and your COPD, and ask whether halotherapy is worth trying for you. For more information about how to ease your COPD symptoms with oxygen therapy, ask your doctor how supplemental oxygen can help you breathe easier. To get more information about the proven benefits of portable oxygen concentrators like those made by Inogen, as well as how they can improve your freedom, mobility and independence, contact Inogen today.  










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