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Better Breathing

Disorders of the respiratory system occur at all ages. In many countries the high level of environmental pollution in the past, together with the popularity of tobacco, has meant that there have always been many people suffering form respiratory conditions, particularly bronchitis.

Common diseases of the respiratory system may be related to infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or to allergies. Details are provided below about:


Asthma is a type of airway obstruction characterized by a narrowing of the air passages in the lungs and caused by muscle spasm and mucus secretion.

The main symptoms of asthma are:

During an asthma attack the bronchial tubes become partially obstructed making breathing difficult. Attacks may be triggered by:

What you can do to help

Engage in exercise. Exercise precipitates asthma in some individuals, but regular physical exercise may actually reduce asthma tendencies. Swimming classes for children seem to be particularly worthwhile, especially in a warm, indoor pool.


The commonest acute lung infection is acute bronchitis. It can be caused by viruses or bacteria. Bronchitis is an inflammation of the linings of the main air passages to the lungs.

The symptoms and signs include:

Acute bronchitis starts as a respiratory infection and usually clears up in a few days. Chronic bronchitis is a serious long term condition and is primarily caused by smoking.

However chronic bronchitis does have a number of causes including:

What you can do to help

Emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

This condition destroys the lungs. Instead of there being a lot of small air spaces in the lungs, the walls dividing them are destroyed and larger sacs are formed. These are much less efficient in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide and as a result the amount of functioning lung is reduced. This troubles the chronic smoker who has a history of repeated attacks of bronchitis and or pneumonia.

There is no definitive treatment that reverses the disease, but it is very important to make the most of the lung that one has.

What you can do to help

The most essential thing to do is to stop smoking and to avoid places that have high levels of air pollution. (See for tips on quitting)

Physical exercise. This may seem a strange recommendation for somebody who has a chronic cough and is short of breath to the point of physical incapacity. However, careful, graded physical exercise such as slow walking, building up to an increasing distance, is of proven value in improving lung function in those with chronic bronchitis or emphysema.

It is important to ensure vitamin and mineral adequacy, particularly of the B group vitamins. Ensuring maximum efficiency of the body's metabolism in this way may reduce the body's demand for oxygen. Nutritional deficiencies without any obvious symptoms are very common, especially in the elderly. Multivitamin and mineral supplements may be of assistance.

People whose chronic bronchitis or emphysema involves excessive catarrah, may have an underlying food allergy. Attempt to identify any offending foods. In particular the exclusion of dairy products may be of benefit.

The following multivitamin and mineral supplements are recommended.

The ranges given are for one tablet and dosages could vary from one to six tablets per day.

The supplement should be free from yeast, wheat, gluten, milk, corn, soy, artificial colorants and preservatives.

Vitamin & Mineral Contents Per Tablet
Vitamin A 500-1200 IUs
Vitamin D3 20-100 IUs
Vitamin B1 2-10 mg
Vitamin B2 2-10 mg
Vitamin B6 2-15 mg
Vitamin B12 10-25 mcg
Vitamin C 25-150mg
Vitamin E d-Alpha 10-50 IUs
Biotin 20-50mcg
Calcium Pantothenate (B5) 30-60mg
Choline 5-15mg
Bioflavonoids 5-25mg
Folic acid 50-100mcg
Nicotinic acid 5-10mg
Nicotinamide 10-20mg
P.A.B.A 5-10mg
Beta-carotene 2-5mg
Iodine from kelp 10-25mcg
Calcium (element) 50-150mg
Chromium 20-30mcg
Iron (element) 2-3mg
Magnesium (element) 20-60mg
Selenium (element) 10-25mcg
Zinc (element) 2-4mg

Common cold and flu

The common cold is caused by a number of viruses. The symptoms and signs include:

The flu is also caused by a virus and its symptoms and signs include:

The fever subsides in a couple of days leaving the sufferer feeling weak and lacking in energy.

The common cold and flu are caused by a number of viruses and if you are run down and your immune system is not working at an optimum level then you are likely to be susceptible.

What you can do to help

Vitamins A (as beta-carotene), C and zinc can help to prevent colds and the flu and during the flu season it is recommended that you increase the dose to double to assist in preventing the infection.

If you have a cold or flu take 1g of vitamin C three times per day, and take a zinc lozenge every two hours up to six times per day.

Drink plenty of fresh water to flush the system and try hot water with lemon juice to cleanse the respiratory system.

Herbs such as garlic and Echinacea can assist in boosting the immune system. (Also see ... for other ways to boost the immune system.)

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Bland, J. 1996, Contemporary Nutrition. J & B Associates.

Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

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