Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchi, which are the main airway passages to the lungs. Bronchitis can manifest as an acute condition, in that it resolves itself within a couple of weeks, or it can be chronic, where the sufferer experiences symptoms over the course of several months and years.
About 90-percent of the time, acute bronchitis is caused by a viral infection typically associated with the common cold or the flu, and the infection in the lungs will follow with an infection of the nose, throat, and sinuses. Symptoms associated with bronchitis include a mucus-producing cough, mild fever, discomfort and pain in the chest, and a dry cough after the infection has been resolved. Chronic bronchitis is considered more likely for smokers and those exposed to air pollution on a regular basis.
The prognosis for acute bronchitis by Western medical professionals is to let the infection take its course asit tends to resolve itself on its own. Patients are encouraged to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and inhale steam to encourage expectoration of the mucus.
As nearly all incidents of acute bronchitis are viral in nature, and given how antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria, patients are not supposed to take this kind of medication for bronchitis unless it is specifically determined that the cause of the infection is bacterial. Chronic bronchitis sufferers are instructed to quit smoking, remove themselves from toxic environments as much as they can, and take medication like corticosteroids.
Bronchitis is a good example of how Ayurveda’s concept of the three elements in the body interrelate and can collectively lead to unwanted symptoms. Like with all diseases, Ayurveda considers bronchitis to be the result of poor digestion.
When the Vata energy in the large intestine fails to expel toxins out of the body, it instead allows them to permeate throughout the body via the nervous system and channels. This leads to a breakdown of the body’s immune system, and thus leads to an infection of the chest—the seat of the Kapha element.
This condition then becomes magnified to the third and final dosha as the imbalance of the Kapha element in the chest leads to inflammation—a fiery condition associated with the Pitta element. As determined by Western medicine as well, the system generally has the tools to repair itself and resume greater balance with the aid of rest, fluids, and proper nutrition as well as treatments to alleviate the symptoms of the illness.
As a condition that is the result of imbalances related to all three doshas, there are a number of therapies in the form of certain herbs and other things that can ultimately have a balancing effect on the body as a whole. However, the most acute and problematic symptoms of bronchitis relate to the inflammation in the chest and the discharge of the yellow-green mucus we associate with infections.
These symptoms are indicative of the aggravation of the Kapha and Pitta doshas, and the primary goal to help resolve these ailments is to break up the mucus as well as cool off the heat in the chest and restore it to the digestive fire in the stomach. The main therapy is to avoid heavy and hot foods and replace them with cooling and light herbs. This helps to break down the infection and send it out through the colon.
When we neglect to establish the root cause of one illness, it can turn into another, stronger illness in the future. The first step in resolving a specific ailment or disease in the body is to assess the nature of our lifestyle and make general modifications. Living our day-to-day life with a deliberate intention to improve our health will help us to both resolve the disease we are suffering from and prevent further incidence of it and other diseases in the future. As acute bronchitis is a result of a dysfunctional immune system, it tends to resolve itself within a week or so of the onset.It is suggested to make basic changes to expedite resolution of the symptoms and decrease the chance of recurrent infections in the future.
Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness are derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices. We then have the opportunity to make deliberate and conscious choices as to what foods we do and do not put in our body which increases the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance.
Food needs to be in season, in moderate combinations of one or two food groups, not too hot or cold, in a modest enough quantity to allow for room in the stomach later, consumed without too much liquid which hinders digestive power, and should be fresh and not left over for more than a few hours. The following foods can be used to help settle the digestive fire when we experience inflammation as a result of bronchitis.
Rice (white basmati)
While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha.Sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha.Sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha. The following foods have a tendency to aggravate both Pitta and Kapha doshas, and should be avoided to expedite the resolution of bronchitis:
Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire. Instead, favors room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire.
Hot water, especially during meals and first thing in the morning.
Hot water with unsweetened lemon
Avoid cold and frozen drinks.
Avoid sugary or fizzy drinks that blend with the digestive juice and make it weak.
Avoid alcohol, coffee, and black tea.
Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes medicines and vitamins and can be taken like tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and help to strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix together 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon. Drink these in half cup of hot water. The goal of the following herbs is to help balance all three doshas and provide the body with an enhanced opportunity to recuperate from infection.
When applied therapeutically to specific ailments, yoga postures provide an opportunity to strengthen the body, rid it of toxic matter, and restore balance. The postures included in this section can be practiced as part of a more general sequence or can be focused on in short sessions. When first exploring yoga postures, it is best to only practice them for twenty minutes or so per day and build up from there once the body becomes more flexible. The following postures will help to clear up the mucus in the airways and foster better breathing.
Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin. Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil. Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.
Bronchitis can be treated with eucalyptus, sage, basil, cinnamon, musk, cedar, frankincense, mint, or myrrh oil.
Use a canola, mustard, coconut, or sunflower oil base.
Apply oil on the skin near and up the nose.
Mix a little ghee with pepper, ginger, clove and turmeric. It should not be too liquid like. Set on fire and as it burns blow the flame out and snort the smoke up each nostril a few times. This will help dry out the excess fluid in the nasal cavity.
Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment to restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity. Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly. These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.
To help control and resolve bronchitis, repeat the syllable “Ham” (pronounced hahm) for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
As a Pitta and Kapha-related disorder, it is helpful to outwardly chant this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.
Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating and cooling the body, and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress. The following breathing practices will help to rebuild the ability to breathe with clarity as the mucus in the lungs breaks up.
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