Dr. Jonathan V. Wright from the Tahoma Medical Clinic wrote about COPD in the August 2002 "Nutrition and Healing" newsletter. One of his recommendations had to do with SSKI (saturated solution of potassium iodide), not Iodoral. You might consider the switch.
Conquer COPD and breathe easier naturally–without spending your future attached to an oxygen tank!
By Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.
Erwin stands out in my memory because when he first came to my clinic, he looked blue. Not a “down in the dumps” metaphorical blue-he was literally blue (well, bluish-toned). It became obvious rather quickly, though, that Erwin’s unusual skin tone was only one part of a much bigger problem: Erwin was struggling for each and every breath he took. He had been diagnosed with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD (at least, that’s what it’s been called since the1960s; in the past few years conventional docs have started calling it chronic obstructive lung disease, or COLD).
Usually breathing just happens naturally. Conscious or uncon-scious, if we’re alive, we’re breathing. So I suppose, in that sense, Erwin was barely alive.
Though most of us don’t realize it on a day-to-day basis, if you have COPD, you know breathing just isn’t something you can take for granted. Depending on the degree of your problem, you know that breathing can vary from a slight extra nuisance to a constant conscious effort. And if you suffer from COPD, you also know that conventional medicine has very little to offer that actually improves the situation. Natural medicine, on the other hand, has a number of very effective treatment options that can help with even very severe cases like Erwin’s. But before I go into detail on those treatments, it’s important to know a bit more about what might be causing your condition.
Where there’s smoke…
I’m sure you know where I’m about to go. Yes, the No. 1 cause of COPD is smoking. You already know smoking is bad for you (it’s one of the very few things conv-entional physicians and those of us practicing natural medicine actually agree on). I don’t begin to pretend I’m a “quit smoking” expert. And I can lecture and beg and plead for you to quit until those proverbial cows come home, but for most smokers, it just isn’t that easy-and all the bad-mouthing you hear pro-bably only makes you feel worse.
When I was first began treating Erwin, he’d been smoking for 54 years and had a pack-a-day habit (and that was after he’d cut back-from over two packs a day). Like many smokers, Erwin had tried to quit dozens of times and was usually successful for a week or two until the temptation just became too great. After a number of failed attempts, maybe Erwin figured there was “no point” in quitting since he just “wasn’t strong enough” and, besides, now that he had COPD, it was “too late anyway.”
If this train of thought sounds familiar, please let me remind you that it’s never too late! If you can’t quit cold turkey, don’t be discouraged-very few people can. Cutting back gradually might work better for you. Over the next few months, try cutting the number of cigarettes you smoke in a day in half. Stay at that level for a month or so, then try cutting that number in half. This way, you’re not constantly battling temptation, and you’re still helping your COPD-and your overall health-tremendously.
Could your dinner be making your COPD worse?
Although it’s certainly not as apparent as smoking, food allergy can play a big role in COPD. Many COPD sufferers have told me how surprised they are that eliminating milk and dairy (or wheat, or whatever their food allergies are) makes such a difference to their breathing. If you have a personal history or family history of any sort of allergy, checking for and eliminating the foods you’re allergic to will likely make a difference for you, too. But even if you don’t have a history of allergies, please consider checking into it anyway. Sometimes food and other allergies can develop “out of nowhere” (so to speak) even in adults.
Find real COPD relief
The mainstays of conventional medical treatments for COPD are bronchodilators, which relax the muscles in the airway, and high-powered versions of cortisone, usually prednisone, which ease airway inflammation. Both types of treatment can be taken either orally or by inhaler. When COPD gets very bad, mainstream physicians usually prescribe oxygen. Which means you have to wheel around the oxygen tank and have those plastic tubes in your nose at all times just to be able to get enough air. Certainly not the future any of us envision for ourselves. And it was this prospect that brought Erwin to the Tahoma Clinic-he wanted alternatives.
He came to the right place, and just in time. At best, the kinds of treatments his doctors had been prescribing (like those listed above) can make breathing easier, but they do nothing to improve the health and vitality of the damaged lung tissue. Besides, they’re certainly not the safest treatments around: Among many other unwanted effects, continuous use of prednisone and patented synthetic versions of cortisone significantly increase your risk of cataracts.
So my first step in treating Erwin (and all of my other COPD patients) was to start a nutritional and natural approach that would improve the health of affected lung tissue. When your lungs are healthier, they automatically work better. But please note this disclaimer: nutritional and natural treatment can’t cure most cases of COPD (tissue is usually too badly damaged by the time the diagnosis is made). But, I can safely say that this type of therapy usually stops and at least partially reverses the progression of the disease. Often, improvement can be quite significant-Erwin’s definitely was.
Out of the blue and into the pink
Nebulized, inhaled glutathione (a molecule produced in nearly every cell in the body) is the No.1 natural treatment for COPD in my practice.
After Erwin started using glutathione, he noticed a major improvement in his breathing. But the changes didn’t stop there. Remember Erwin’s bluish skin tone? It was caused by lack of oxygen. So when his lungs started improving, his skin started to return to its normal pinkish hue. And when Erwin began treatment with inhaled glutathione, his oxygen uptake was so improved, everyone literally “saw the difference” in his skin-the bluish tint had almost completely vanished after three months with the glutathione.
The form of glutathione treatment we use at the Tahoma Clinic involves nebulization. A nebulizer is a machine that dispels liquids (like glutathione) into the air in a fine mist that can then be inhaled. But since gluathione loses strength relatively rapidly when exposed to air, it’s important to have each day’s glutathione prepared in its own separate vial (these can be prepared a compounding pharmacist with a physician’s prescription. I usually prescribe 120-200 milligrams per inhalation. The pharmacist can usually supply the nebulizer, too).
Glutathione treatment is remarkably safe. The only adverse reaction report I’ve heard was from a very chemically sensitive individual who developed an allergy to it. It really should be tried in every case of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
I’m also proud to note that nebulized inhaled glutathione for COPD was pioneered right here at the Tahoma Clinic by my colleague Davis Lamson, N.D. But you don’t have to travel here to get it-it’s now available from compounding pharmacies and physicians throughout the United States.
Another option you may want to consider to bring you out of the blue and back into a healthy pink is intravenous therapy with hydrogen peroxide or ozone. I’ve found that this type of treatment can be very valuable in more serious cases of COPD, helping many individuals with “blue” lips and fingers return to a normal pink. Of course, it must be given in careful doses by a skilled physician.
Keeping things “loose”
In COPD, thick bronchial secretions are usually a problem. They’re difficult to cough up, they get in the way of moving air, and they get infected easily. To keep your bronchial secretions as “loose” as possible, improve coughing, and reduce episodes of infection, N-acetylcysteine and potassium iodide are both very helpful. N-acetylcysteine is available through most natural food stores. Potassium iodide is usually prescribed as “SSKI,” a saturated solution of potassium iodide.
I usually recommend taking 500 milligrams of N-acetylcysteine three times daily. If you’re going to use it for several months or more, you should add 30 milligrams of zinc picolinate and 2 milligrams of copper sebacate to your daily supplement program. N-acetylcysteine can slowly “use them up” in the body, so taking extra will help prevent that from happening. It is important to take these three things separately, though. Otherwise, the zinc and copper bind together and are excreted from the body. And when you add N-acetylcysteine into the mix it binds with the zinc and copper and all three are excreted.
Potassium iodide, or SSKI, is the other compound I prescribe to help my patients clear out their airways. It accumulates in bronchial secretions, sort of like a lubricant, making them much more “loose” and easier to cough up and clear out. Potassium iodide also inhibits the growth of bacteria, viruses, molds and yeasts. So it reduces the number and severity of bronchial infections, which is why I actually prefer it to N-acetylcysteine. (To find a physician near you who can prescribe SSKI, see the Alternative Health Resources on page 8.)
I recommend taking 3 to 6 drops of SSKI daily. You can add the drops right into your water or juice. Please keep in mind that iodides can sometimes suppress thyroid function, so if you decide to use this treatment, ask your doctor to monitor your thyroid function. However, at the quantity noted, I rarely find problems with thyroid function.
Although potassium iodide helps cut the risk of infection, it’s also helpful to use goldenseal and vitamin C to further cut your risk of infection. Use 200-400 milligrams of goldenseal and at least 2 grams of vitamin C, both twice daily. (As I told Erwin all those years ago, this amount of vitamin C is the absolute minimum for smokers!)
Once you’re loose, it’s time to relax
If your bronchial tubes are “relaxed,” the diameter of each airway increases. This allows you to breathe easier since more air can pass through. Magnesium helps maximize bronchial relaxation, so take 300-400 milligrams daily of magnesium in the form of magnesium aspartate, taurate, citrate, or glycinate. (Please don’t use more without monitoring your intestinal “transit time.” Sometimes too much magnesium can cause what’s known as gastrointestinal hurry. For more information on this, see the December 2000 issue of Nutrition & Healing).
Vitamin A helps to maintain the health and structure of the cells lining the bronchial tubes. It also helps improve the quality of mucous production (it’s not an appetizing thought, I know, but it’s really necessary to help you even begin to feel better). I usually recommend 50,000 units daily of vitamin A. While this dose is generally very safe, it is possible to take too much vitamin A. Symptoms of vitamin A excess include headache, increasingly dry skin, “split lip,” and pain in the longer bones of the arms and legs. If you experience any of these symptoms discontinue using the vitamin until you consult with a physician. One thing to note, though-you need to make sure to obtain vitamin A itself, since beta-carotene won’t do the same job.
Both phospholipids and essential fatty acids improve the “surface properties” of all cells. Lecithin is an excellent (and cheap!) source of phospholipids, and flaxseed oil is a good source of essential fatty acids. Take 1 1/2 tablespoonsful of each daily, and make sure to take 400-600 units of vitamin E along with them.
If your chronic bronchitis is particularly severe, you should consider starting with cod liver oil for two to three months, and then switch to flaxseed oil. Since cod liver oil (like all fish oil) is 100 percent omega-3 fatty acids, it does a better job of helping your body “calm” inflammation. Once inflammation has subsided, then flaxseed oil is better balanced for the “long run” (it contains approximately 50 percent omega-3, 30 percent omega-6, and 20 percent omega-9).
Put the “spring” back into your lung tissue
Remember those alveoli that I explained deteriorate in emphysema? They contain considerable elastic tissue to help them normally contract and expand with every breath; copper is vital to the maintenance of elastic tissue. If you know that emphysema is part of your COPD, add 2 milligrams of copper (as copper sebacate) to your supplement program, even if there’s a small amount in your multiple vitamin-mineral.
And of course, I can’t let you go without reminding you that it’s always wisest to use a good general multiple vitamin-mineral supplement along with individual nutrients. Please add one to the list of individual supplements noted above.
All it takes is an open mind and a little tenacity
If you have COPD, there’s plenty to do besides taking patent medications and slowly getting worse. In most cases, you can improve the health of your lungs, and over time, reduce your need for patent medications-or maybe even eliminate them from your life entirely. If you’re willing to try and stick with nutritional and natural therapies, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll live longer….and enjoy that extra time a whole lot more. JVW
Two halves of the COPD whole
Technically, emphysema and chronic bronchitis are quite different. “Emphysema” is the word used to describe weakening, enlargement, and ultimate loss of more and more of the lung’s hundreds of millions of tiny air sacs, called alveoli (“al-vee-oh-lye”), which transfer gases (like oxygen, carbon dioxide, and so on) from air to blood and back again. “Chronic bronchitis” refers to (presumably) permanent, progressive irritation, inflammation, and obstruction of the tubes (bronchi) which carry gases from the outside air to their ultimate destination in the alveoli.
So, if emphysema and chronic bronchitis are actually two very different conditions, why are they usually lumped together under the general title COPD or COLD? First, the result of both problems is much the same: progressive difficulty moving air in and out of the lungs. Second, there’s frequently overlap between the two conditions; if you have one, you most likely have the other to some degree.
Natural COPD treatment in one, easy-to-follow outline
Here’s what you need to do:
Get tested for food allergies
If you are allergic to certain foods, eliminate them from your diet
If you smoke, try to cut back the number of cigarettes you smoke in a day. (Eventually, you may be ready to quit, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t right away. Even scaling back will do your lungs a lot of good.)
And here’s what you need to take:
120-200 milligrams of nebulized, inhaled glutathione, two times per day
500 milligrams of N-acetylcysteine, three times per day
30 milligrams of zinc picolinate per day
Three to six drops of potassium iodide (SSKI) per day
200-400 milligrams of goldenseal twice a day
2 grams of vitamin C twice a day
300-400 milligrams of magnesium per day (in the form of magnesium citrate, aspartate, taurate, or glycinate)
50,000 units of vitamin A per day
1 1/2 tablespoons of lecithin per day
1 1/2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil per day
400-600 units of vitamin E per day
2 milligrams of copper sebacate per day
a good, general, multiple vitamin-mineral supplement