Natural relief for dyspnoea

Heavy Breathing

It’s something most of us take for granted – the ability to take a deep breath. Go ahead, take one now. Feels great, doesn’t it? But what if you couldn’t enjoy even a single one of those satisfying deep breaths? Not an inviting prospect, obviously.

A condition called dyspnoea is characterized by shortness of breath or labored breathing, and is a typical symptom of asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Not surprisingly, dyspnoea is often a source of ongoing anxiety among those who suffer from it. Now a new study reveals a completely natural way for patients to relieve dyspnoea, reduce anxiety, and even lead more active lives.

Touching points

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term, commonly used to refer to asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or any combination of the three. These diseases are quite different from one another, but their effect is the same: long-term deterioration of the respiratory system.

A team of researchers in Taiwan recently conducted a study to test the effects of acupressure in treating dyspnoea. Acupressure is a field of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which pressure is applied by hand to the same acupoints where needles would be inserted for acupuncture treatments.

The Taiwan team recruited 44 COPD patients who were randomly selected to receive either genuine acupressure, or sham acupressure. Each subject received 20 individual treatment sessions over a period of four weeks: five sessions each week, with each session lasting 16 minutes.

Before the sessions began, and again after all the sessions were completed, each of the patients completed a Pulmonary Functional Status and Dyspnoea Questionnaire. In addition, a 6-minute walking distance test was performed on each subject before and after the sessions, with close monitoring of oxygen saturation and respiratory rate before and after each walking test.

Results showed that physiological indicators, pulmonary function and dyspnoea scores, and measurements taken from the walking tests were all significantly higher in the acupressure group, compared to the sham group. Those who received the genuine acupressure reduced both anxiety and fatigue, while improving their ability to perform normal activities.

In the published study, which appeared in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, researchers concluded that acupressure “can be used as a nursing intervention to improve dyspnoea in patients with COPD.”

Two essentials

Anyone who experiences the symptoms associated with COPD might also benefit from a dietary change.

Studies have shown that lung function deteriorates for all of us as we age, making us more susceptible to predatory viruses that cause pneumonia and other respiratory complications like dyspnoea. Fortunately, there are dietary nutrients that support healthy lung function.

In the e-alert “C-ing Stars” (6/12/02) I told you about a UK study that investigated the relationship between lung function and the intake of magnesium and vitamin C. In 1991, researchers surveyed more than 2,500 subjects to assess the relationship between diet and COPD. Nine years later, approximately one half of the original group participated in a follow-up survey. As in the first phase, each subject completed a food frequency questionnaire, as well as a questionnaire regarding respiratory symptoms, smoking, and other variables. Subjects also had breathing levels tested in each phase.

After analyzing the data, researchers reached two important conclusions: 1) Subjects who consumed higher amounts of vitamin C had better lung function than those with lower levels of vitamin C intake; and 2) Higher amounts of vitamin C and magnesium intake were associated with significantly improved lung function in the cases of those suffering from COPD.

The researchers didn’t offer a recommendation about the dosage level of vitamin C required to reap the protective benefits, but the study indicates that the average participant in the survey was not supplementing with mega- doses.

Check the license

Increasing vitamin C and magnesium intake is fairly simple. But finding a reliable, well-trained acupressure practitioner might be a little more involved.

In the e-Alert “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” (4/26/04), I shared this advice from an acupuncturist: “Just make sure the acupuncturist has a license and no complaints against him/her for unprofessional conduct or malpractice with the state Acupuncture Board.”

The same advice applies to acupressurists, of course. And if you have trouble finding aacupressurists in your area, check with local acupuncture practices. Some of them may also offer acupressure treatments, or may be able to recommend someone who does.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

“Effectiveness of Acupressure in Improving Dyspnoea in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease” Journal of Advanced Nursing, Vol. 45, No. 3, February 2004,
“Lung Problems? Breathe Easier with Acupressure” Darin Ingels, ND, Healthnotes Newswire, 4/22/04,
“Prospective Study of Diet and Decline in Lung Function in a General Population” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2002;165:1299-1303,