Bronchiectasis is damage to the airways of the lungs which make it hard to fight off chest infections. It is an irreversible condition. I was diagnosed with mild, bilateral Bronchiectasis about a year after having a fairly severe pneumonia. In the three years that followed, I had five or six chest infections each year, was using a inhaler, and felt a bit lousy most of the time. I was beginning to wonder whether I could continue in a full-time job, and was tested for late onset Cystic Fibrosis (I didn’t have it). I should emphasis that I only have mild Bronchiectasis – and I’m full of admiration for the courage of those with more severe symptoms than I have ever had.
While the damage the pneumonia caused to my lungs has not receded, I now feel considerably better than I did, indeed more or less back to where I was before the pneumonia, and I’d like to outline here some of the reasons – beyond luck and natural healing processes – that I think have aided my recovery, in the hope that they’re helpful to others.
Keep a strong immune system: Bronchiectasis can lead to a vicious cycle of chest infections, with the antibiotics you take (and need to take) to fight off severe infections weakening the body ready for the next one – this is certainly what happened to me. I now take high dosage Vitamin C (500mg a day) & Zinc, plus sometimes odourless garlic & Echinacea to strength my immune system. If you were only going to take one of those, I’d go for the high dosage Vitamin C – and I’d suggest higher dosages when fighting off a cold or infection. I’m convinced that using these supplements has helped transform me from someone with weakened immunity to someone who can now fight off most bugs. I’m well aware that conventional western medicine would dispute the efficacy of these supplements, but the problem conventional western medicine has is that its understanding of the workings of the immune system seem partial at best, and it offers no convincing remedies of its own to help strengthen a weakened immune system.
Physiotherapy: it took a while after the diagnosis of my Bronchiectasis to get an appointment to learn how to do the physiotherapy that keeps my lungs clear of infection. When I’m feeling dodgy, I do my physiotherapy properly, lying down and doing the breathing/pushing exercises. If I’m feeling ok, I just sit down first thing in the morning with a big mug of lemon & ginger tea (fantastic for dodgy chests!) , and clear out any gunge. The physiotherapy helps a lot, especially if you can combine it with keeping your immune system strong.
Tried a salt pipe, but it didn’t do a lot for me.
Exercise: I was gutted when I first had my lung problems that my ability to exercise was so compromised. Before the pneumonia I was running half-marathons, after it I could barely cope with the average working day. However, as things began to turn round health-wise, I was able to exercise more fully, and now I’m back to running and biking happily. My suspicion is that overdoing the exercise previously (like training full-out for the half-marathons) was probably part of what brought the pneumonia on (as in runners flu) so I now try to take it easy and do little & often. And I also dress in warm clothes if its cold out – which is clearly the kind of thing your mother would tell you, and equally clearly therefore wouldn’t do. But exercise is brilliant for strengthening the immune system, and sharpening the brain.
Relaxation: the ability to relax is essential to living with Bronchiectasis, which brings stresses of its own. I’ve learnt to know when I’m overdoing it, mentally or physically, and learnt that I need to rest if I have overdone it. And I do my own curious, self-taught version of meditation to still my over-active brain.
Diet: I eat loads of fruit, drink loads of water, and have cut back on the booze. While I was doing all this, but was still getting the chest infections, I began to wonder if it was worth living the life of a nun, but it does pay off in the end. And I’d stick up for old cliché of moderation in all things, including moderation.
I’ve learnt to respect my Bronchiectasis, but also learnt that, if you adapt your life to cope with it, and if you are lucky, your condition can improve substantially, and you can live a normal life.