Bronchitis is the inflammation (itis) of the bronchii (bronch) of the lungs. A condition which is never an enjoyable experience and leaves us feeling achy and sometimes cranky! Bronchitis is often the result of a recent cold or flu that despite all of your explosive efforts in coughing and coughing and coughing some more, has not been productive in clearing mucus from the lungs. The pooling of this mucus harbours bacteria which can lead to infection and irritates the bronchi contributing to pain (inflammation) and cough. If left untreated bronchitis can soon become pneumonia, directly affecting the lungs themselves and progressing to irreversible damage of the lungs known as emphysema. That’s right, emphysema doesn’t only affect smokers.

Symptoms to look out for

  • Fever (indicates infection)
  • Chills
  • Back pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Dry non-productive cough initially, followed by a productive cough
  • Symptoms may last just 3-5 days in an acute bought of bronchitis or progress into more sinister conditions in chronic cases.

As you can see many of these symptoms are common to several other immune conditions and can be mistaken, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment of bronchitis. If you said YES that’s me to any or several of these symptoms, please, do yourself a favour and get a check-up.

Causes and risk factors

Low immune system

If you are prone to ‘getting sick’. You may be at risk of bronchitis. Each time you contract a cold or flu your body goes into a state of inflammation. This inflammation causes the body’s immune system to work over-time. Regular insult begins to deplete and overwhelm the system, particularly if you are not restoring the body with what it requires to re-build and fight off illnesses.

Poor dietary and lifestyle habits

Not eating sufficient amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibrous carbs, healthy fats and proteins can take its toll on your immune system and the strength your body must hold to overcome inflammation and infection. Nourishment of cells and muscles require a varied diet rich in fruit, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive and coconut oils. My favourite sayings is ‘eat the rainbow’ and you will do well to achieve good nutritional balance.

Viral infections such a cold and flu

These nasty infections, whether it be viral or bacterial really do throw your body into a state of inflammation. It takes all of your internal energy and the nutrients you obtain from your diet to overcome a viral or bacterial infection. It is important to engage in prevention treatments to reduce the likelihood of being engulfed by a cold, flu or virus. Foods rich in Vitamins C, A, D, E and polyphenols are bacterial and viral fighting power houses. They are also effective at reducing the inflammation associated with this conditions and bronchitis itself.

Allergies or irritants

Smoke, dust, paints, chemicals, food intolerances and environmental toxins and irritants can reduce efficiency of the immune system but also directly create inflammation in susceptible bronchii. It is important to avoid any irritants known to cause breathing difficulties, excess mucus production and allergic responses. Wearing protective gear such as masks and gloves are good processes to make habits of to avoid contact with unavoidable materials. Do you work in a nail bar or hair salon? Are you a painter, farmer or chippy? You could be at risk of bronchii irritation. Please please please where your protective gear!

Poor dietary and lifestyle habits

Not eating sufficient amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibrous carbs, healthy fats and proteins can take its toll on your immune system and the strength your body must hold to overcome inflammation and infection. Nourishment of cells and muscles require a varied diet rich in fruit, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive and coconut oils. My favourite sayings is ‘eat the rainbow’ and you will do well to achieve good nutritional balance.

Viral infections such a cold and flu

These nasty infections, whether it be viral or bacterial really do throw your body into a state of inflammation. It takes all of your internal energy and the nutrients you obtain from your diet to overcome a viral or bacterial infection. It is important to engage in prevention treatments to reduce the likelihood of being engulfed by a cold, flu or virus. Foods rich in Vitamins C, A, D, E and polyphenols are bacterial and viral fighting power houses. They are also effective at reducing the inflammation associated with this conditions and bronchitis itself.

Allergies or irritants

Smoke, dust, paints, chemicals, food intolerances and environmental toxins and irritants can reduce efficiency of the immune system but also directly create inflammation in susceptible bronchii. It is important to avoid any irritants known to cause breathing difficulties, excess mucus production and allergic responses. Wearing protective gear such as masks and gloves are good processes to make habits of to avoid contact with unavoidable materials. Do you work in a nail bar or hair salon? Are you a painter, farmer or chippy? You could be at risk of bronchii irritation. Please please please where your protective gear!

Dietary supports

There are some beautifully natural and effective ways of addressing bronchitis and its symptoms. Some may seem soooo basic, but have been tried and tested in nature loving households the world over.

  • Drink 2-3 L of water or herbal teas daily – to flush out the nasties and rehydrate the throat after coughing.
  • Drink bone broth – full of easily absorbed healing nutrients without over burdening the digestive system, leaving your body to focus on healing the bronchii.
  • Eat soups- particularly spicy, protein rich soups with loads of veggies.
  • Enjoy miso soup – a delicious, gentle, nourishing fermented soy broth.
  • Eat ginger or sip on ginger tea – great for reducing inflammation of the bronchii and the entire body.
  • Thyme and liquorice tea – help to breakdown and expel thick mucus and to soothe an irritated throat and mucus membranes.
  • Drink apple cider vinegar – effective antibacterial and promoter of healthy gut bacteria.
  • Avoid dairy products- to reduce mucus production.
  • Cook with garlic, onion, chilli, pepper, aniseed and cinnamon – for their antibiotic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Drink 2-3 L of water or herbal teas daily

What else can be done to reduce bronchitis symptoms?

Vicks and eucalyptus inhalation

My personal faves. There is nothing more relieving than breathing in that delightful menthol and eucalyptus steam. The steam gets deep into the nose to relieve the pressure through the chest and sinuses and release some of the mucus. It is a temporary fix, but it sure feels good! It is particularly good just before bed when we need to breathe easy for the rest and recovery process.

Preparing your inhalation

Boil the jug and pour it into a large bowl of water. Add 1 tsp-1 tbsp Vicks or 1-2 drops of eucalyptus oil to the boiling water and allow to disperse and dissolve completely. Carefully lean over the bowl and place a tea towel over your head to hold the steam in. Breathe deeply and slowly in through the nose, pause for a second, and out through the mouth. If the steam is too hot, allow it to cool slightly or move your head further away from the bowl. DO NOT BURN YOURSELF. Do this for approximately 5-10 minutes taking regular breaks to breathe in fresh air when needed.

Breathing exercises

Another great way to stimulate the removal of mucus from the bronchii. Deep, slow breathing allows for strengthening of the lungs, promotes blood flow through the lungs to nourish them and provide them with energy to expel any congestion. The movement may also stimulate the mucus to travel out of the bronchii and relieve intense coughing.

Anxiety can often create laboured coughing and breathing. Taking time to stop and breath in through the nose and out through the mouth, focusing on the breath can greatly reduce anxiety and therefore coughing. This will reduce irritation of the bronchii. Why not take a yoga class to help you with the training of your breath, you will get fit, flexible and stay relaxed at the same time!

Rest and recovery

An essential part of anyone’s life. It is particularly important to those who are suffering from an illness. Allowing the body to re-build and detox is important and it can do this most efficiently when you are sleeping or at complete rest. Read a book, watch some Netflix, colour-in, draw, sit on the beach, meditate and get a minimum of 6 hours sleep per night (sleep times vary with age).

When you sleep, your body begins rebuilding immune and muscle cells. The brain takes a break from processing information to repair the body and clear waste.

All in all, take care. Get out in nature, eat well, exercise regularly, avoid the nasties and rest up!

Xx Danielle Catherine (Nutritionist)

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