I was sitting at the Okanagan Sun football game Saturday night when my four year old asked me if there was a storm coming in. He loves storms! I looked over to the south and saw the smoke pouring over the mountains. I explained to him that there was a fire on the other side of the mountains and the smoke was being blown towards us. After about 50 more detailed questions he was satisfied with my answers. Every summer we have at least a few poor air quality days due to forest fire smoke. In this article, we will discuss some things you can do to support your lungs and feel better during these smoky days.
My approach to supporting the lungs differs somewhat depending on the health of the person’s lungs I’m working with. I would make more basic recommendations to someone who merely gets stuffed up during the smoky season compared to someone with COPD. However, you can think of the basic approach as being essentially identical. We want to support lung cleansing, enhance bronchiole dilation, and strengthen the immune system.
In this week’s article, we are discussing three of my favourite botanicals to support the lungs. I often use one supplement with these botanicals blended together that is designed to enhance lung function. In future articles, we will discuss some of the more advanced therapies like nebulized glutathione for people with COPD or other more serious lung disorders.
Eucalyptus is a botanical that has traditionally been used for lung support. It’s the essential oil of the plant that contains the antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties. When you inhale or ingest eucalyptus oil it decreases mucus in the bronchioles, opens up the airways, and decreases muscle spasms around the bronchioles. All of this results in clearer breathing and the elimination or expectoration of metabolic wastes from the lungs.
Peppermint is another botanical remedy that has traditionally been used for support respiratory function. The essential oils are the part of the plant that contain the active nutrients like menthol and menthone. These essential oils are help fight off infection, open up the airways, and relaxes the musculature around the bronchioles. These properties promote better breathing and elimination of waste.
Pleurisy root is another one of my favourite botanicals for supporting the lungs. It reduces inflammation in the pleural membranes of the lungs, which is essentially where the oxygen from the air we breathe meets our blood. Pleurisy root promotes lymphatic drainage from the lungs to systemic detoxification.
At least a few times each month a new patient will come into my practice because they want to have intravenous vitamin and mineral infusions to treat fatigue. They usually start by saying that they have had IV infusions before and they really helped. They usually ask if we can do an IV infusion as part of the first visit and are often interested in skipping the “formalities” of the initial consultation. While I do offer a variety of IV infusion therapies to treat many symptoms, this request always sets off alarm bells in my naturopathic brain. It strongly suggests that the causes of the patient’s fatigue have not been identified or addressed and instead they have utilized IV infusion treatments to give them more energy. In this week’s column, we will discuss the areas we should investigate before we treat the symptom of fatigue with IVs.
IV infusions are a great tool for NDs to have in practice, especially when they are used for the right reasons. IVs can significantly help people with immune deficiencies, chronic infections, deep adrenal fatigue, poor healing capacity, depression, anxiety, addiction recovery … and the list goes on. However, I rarely consider IV infusions to be the most effective way to treat the underlying causes of most people’s health concerns. Instead, I view IVs as a potent way to stimulate healing and gain momentum with the therapies that more directly treat the causes.
The most common causes of fatigue that need to be assessed before jumping to any therapy include iron deficiency, blood sugar/insulin dysregulation, inadequate nutritional intake, poor digestion/absorption, thyroid conditions including auto-immune, adrenal dysregulation, and other forms of hormonal imbalance. IV infusions can help with all of these causes of fatigue, some more than others. However, I don’t believe IV infusions can be the stand alone therapy or even the chief therapy in the treatment plan.
IV infusions typically contain some combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and possibly other botanical or homeopathic remedies. They can quickly and potently make up for deficiencies of these nutrients. They can also quickly help people feel more energy, more capable, and a sense of calmness. It’s tempting for patients and doctors to use IV infusions because of their potential ability to make quick action. However, after looking at the most common causes of fatigue it becomes clear that the nutrients in IV infusions don’t actually treat the underlying causes of most people’s fatigue.
In conclusion, I highly recommend anyone suffering from fatigue to pursue advice from a medical practitioner who will take the time to identify the causes of fatigue. Don’t just jump to treatments. And don’t simply live with fatigue. In conventional medicine fatigue is often ignored or treated as depression with anti-depressants. Most patients I work with who suffer from fatigue do very well with improving their energy because we spent the time evaluating where the fatigue is actually coming from and then addressing that very cause.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that play key roles in several areas of health. These hormones help provide energy during the day to make us physically capable and mentally alert. They also provide power to the digestive system to encourage proper digestion and absorption. Thyroid hormones stimulate many cells in the body to become metabolically active and thus burn more energy. These hormones also play a crucial role in temperature regulation and physiological adaptation to the environment.
When the thyroid gland is not able to produce enough thyroid hormones deficiency symptoms will arise. These symptoms will often include mental fatigue, brain fog, poor sleep, unwanted weight gain, hair loss, and feeling cold all the time. There are several other possible symptoms but these are considered the most likely. In fact, hypothyroid symptoms are extremely common in my patient population. Most often, these people have had their thyroid tested and the results came back negative. Please refer to an article I wrote a few weeks ago entitled, “The Thyroid Test???” to learn about the weaknesses of the screen testing done for the thyroid gland.
A love of coffee is not always a sign of a problem. In my opinion, coffee smells great and tastes great. Many studies show that one cup of coffee in the morning may have several benefits for the cardiovascular system and other aspects of health. However, when people feel like they “NEED COFFEE” it raises alarm bells in my brain. Caffeine and some of the other nutrients in coffee stimulate the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. When these hormones are being produced in moderately high levels we tend to feel an overall rise. Part of this rise/good feeling comes from the physical, mental, and physiological stimulation from caffeine.
Caffeine does not do exactly what thyroid hormones do. It cannot completely replace the thyroid gland. However, caffeine can enhance many of the areas where thyroid hormones act. This is why I always thoroughly evaluate the thyroid gland in patients who “NEED COFFEE”. Perhaps, part of their love of coffee is coming from the fact that caffeine is making up for some of the deficiencies created by a thyroid problem.
If you “LOVE COFFEE” or “NEED COFFEE” don’t automatically assume you have a problem. However, I would recommend you have your thyroid gland thoroughly assessed to determine if there is an associated thyroid problem.
Anyone interested in more information or interested in scheduling a consultation with Dr. Barlow can contact him via email at [email protected] or call his office at 250-448-5610.
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