DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I remember reading something you wrote a long time ago about the proper way to breathe for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. I didn’t need the information then. I do now. Until recently, I smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day, for 35 years. It caught up with me all of a sudden. I have COPD. I need you to repeat those recommendations again. Will you? — T.R.
ANSWER: Sure. (For readers: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, is emphysema and chronic bronchitis.)
Pursed-lip breathing is one technique that helps. Draw your lips into the whistling position when you breathe out. The lips are in the right position if the outgoing air makes a hissing sound as it passes through them. Pursed-lip breathing keeps the airways opened so all stale air is emptied from the lungs. In people with COPD, on exhalation, the airways collapse. That leaves them partially filled with old air containing little oxygen. By getting all the oxygen-low air out of the lungs, fresh air fills them and a person isn’t shortchanged on oxygen.
Exhale slowly, twice the length of time it takes to inhale.
You have to train yourself to use your diaphragm to its maximum capacity. The diaphragm is the horizontal muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It’s the principal breathing muscle. When the diaphragm moves downward, air rushes into the lungs.
To make sure you’re using your diaphragm, lie on your back with your hands on your abdomen. Breathe normally. When you breathe in, your hands should move out as the diaphragm descends. You have to consciously use the diaphragm with each inhalation until it becomes second nature for you.
Another trick that makes more room for air in the lungs is to bend a bit forward at the waist when you stand or walk.
The booklet on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease explains emphysema and chronic bronchitis in depth, and how they’re treated. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 601W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I worry about my daughter. She is on her own at age 25 and works a demanding job that requires lots of overtime. She seems to catch every illness that comes along. I think her immune system isn’t working. Can you suggest a food, supplement or vitamin that could build it up? — C.R.
ANSWER: The immune system is often referred to and often misunderstood. White blood cells are part of it. Some white cells attack incoming germs. Others make antibodies that coat germs and lead to their death. Lymph nodes, the spleen and the liver trap germs and inactivate them. These are some of the parts of the immune system.
I don’t know of a vitamin, a supplement or a food that bolsters the immune system unless the body has a specific vitamin deficiency. A well-balanced diet, banal as that advice is, keeps immunity in top performance. Your daughter sounds like she could stand some rest. Constant stress weakens immunity.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
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