This time of year, avoiding sickness requires tremendous effort and intentionality. In fact, this year’s flu season has repeatedly made headlines for the number of victims it’s claimed. But aside from the flu and common cold, there’s another condition that frequently strikes adults and is responsible for many wintertime doctor visits.
Bronchitis is an infection that causes the bronchial tubes that carry air to your lungs to become inflamed. This infection can linger, causing coughing and wheezing that lasts for weeks, or longer. And, unfortunately, most bronchitis infections are caused by a virus and can’t be treated with antibiotics. In these cases, it’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods, supplements and alternative therapies that provide the best natural remedies for coughing and other bronchitis symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Bronchitis
The most common symptom of bronchitis is a persistent cough that usually brings up mucus, which is made in the lining of the bronchial tubes. There are two types of bronchitis—acute, which is a short-term infection, and chronic, which is a more serious, ongoing infection.
With acute bronchitis, the infection usually lasts from a few days to 10 days, but your cough may stick around for a few weeks after the infection is gone. This is the more common type of bronchitis and it typically develops after you’ve already had a cold or the flu. Along with persistent coughing and the production of mucus, you may experience a sore throat, runny nose, fever, body aches, fatigue, vomiting and/or diarrhea. You may also notice a tightness or pain in your chest, as well as a wheezing or whistling sound when you breathe.
Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is a serious medical condition that’s associated with a decline in lung function. People with chronic bronchitis experience a long-term cough with large amounts of mucus, chest discomfort and wheezing. The chronic bronchitis cough is often called a “smoker’s cough.”
What Causes Bronchitis?
Most often, the same viruses that cause the common cold or the flu can give you bronchitis, and sometimes, the infection can be caused by bacteria.
As your body tries to fight off the virus or bacteria, your bronchial tubes become inflamed and produce more mucus. This makes it more difficult to breath because there are smaller openings for air to flow through. Among adults who develop chronic bronchitis, it’s not uncommon for them to be smokers. In fact, research suggests that over 40 percent of smokers will go on to develop chronic bronchitis in their lifetime.
Environmental factors, like being exposed to chemical fumes or vapors from certain occupations, can also cause bronchitis.
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Because bronchitis is usually caused by a virus and not bacteria, antibiotics aren’t always effective, so most people find themselves simply treating the symptoms of the illness until the infection goes away. Over-the-counter pain relievers, like aspirin, acetaminophens and ibuprofen are a common choice; meanwhile, bronchodilators are sometimes used to relax the bronchial smooth muscle and widen the air passages in severe cases of bronchitis.
Unfortunately, though, these treatments are less than foolproof. In fact, taking large quantities of pain relievers for the duration of your cough can cause adverse side effects and even an overdose. For this reason and others, I recommend incorporating certain foods, supplements and essential oils into your bronchitis treatment plan that won’t cause adverse effects. They include:
Vitamin C: Taking vitamin C can help to reduce the severity and duration of your infection, which is why it’s commonly used to fight cold symptoms. When you first notice cold symptoms—which is typical before you develop bronchitis— try taking 4,000 milligrams of vitamin C per day. You should also eat plenty of vitamin C foods, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi, guava, grapefruit, broccoli and kale.
Probiotics and Probiotic Foods: Probiotics help to balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut and boost your immune system—80% of which is found in the gut. I recommend taking a probiotic supplement every day and eating probiotic foods like kefir, cultured vegetables and kombucha.
Bone Broth: Bone broth is a healing food that’s loaded with nutrients that can help you fight a bronchitis infection and get well, faster. To add more bone broth to your daily diet, try using it as the base for soups or stews, or use protein powder made from bone broth in your smoothies and baked goods.
Echinacea: Echinacea is widely known for its immune-boosting and antiviral properties and can be used to relieve a sore throat and headache pain, two common symptoms of acute bronchitis. You can find echinacea in capsule, tablet and tea form at most health food stores.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil: Diffusing or applying eucalyptus oil topically can help to relieve your cough and cleanse your body of the harmful microorganisms that are making you sick. It works as a natural expectorant, helping to loosen and clear mucus buildup. Simply diffuse 5 drops at home for about 30 minutes, 2-3 times daily, or combine 2-3 drops of eucalyptus with half a teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it into your chest and back of your neck.
Oregano Essential Oil: Oregano oil is one of the best tools in your medicine cabinet for fighting infections of any kind because it has both antibacterial and antiviral properties. It works as a natural antibiotic, safely and effectively killing harmful bacteria, while also fighting viral infections. To use oregano oil, try taking 1-2 drops with equal parts coconut oil internally, but don’t take longer than 10 days at a time. Oregano oil can also be diffused at home or mixed with a carrier oil and applied topically to the neck or bottoms of your feet.
How to Prevent Bronchitis
Because smoking significantly increases your chances of developing chronic bronchitis, the most important preventative step that you can take is to quit. It’s also important to avoid second-hand smoke, chemical fumes and vapors, and air pollution. If you are exposed to these environmental dangers for work, I suggest wearing a mask to protect your lungs.
Acute bronchitis usually develops after you’ve already had a cold or the flu, so make sure to eat healing foods, like raw fruits and vegetables, when you have a cold or flu, and drink plenty of water. The natural remedies for bronchitis treatment mentioned in this article will also help to fight a cold or flu, so you have a greater chance of avoiding irritation to the bronchial tubes if you address the infection as early as possible.
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