Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, can be a distressing symptom. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of various conditions, ranging from anxiety to heart and lung diseases. Shortness of breath is clinically one of the most significant symptom of COPS (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Common cause: Why Does Anxiety Cause Shortness of Breath?
Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is a common symptom of anxiety. When someone is anxious or having a panic attack, they might feel like they can’t get enough air, even though there’s no physical obstruction to their breathing. Understanding the connection between anxiety and shortness of breath can help individuals manage this distressing symptom.
- Fight or Flight Response: When faced with a perceived threat, the body’s immediate response is to prepare for “fight or flight.” This reaction involves a surge of adrenaline, increased heart rate, and faster breathing. Even if the threat is only imagined or psychological, the body can still react this way, leading to feelings of breathlessness.
- Hyperventilation: Anxiety can lead to rapid, shallow breathing, or hyperventilation. This can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood, leading to symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.
- Muscle Tension: Anxiety can cause muscles, including those around the chest, to tense up, which can make it feel harder to breathe.
Shortness of Breath Due to Anxiety can be manged with Pursed-lip Breathing outlined below. Another methid is Diaphragmatic Breathing: Focus on breathing deeply into your diaphragm rather than shallowly into your chest. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. As you breathe in, try to make the hand on your stomach rise more than the one on your chest.Another is Grounding Techniques: Techniques such as the “5-4-3-2-1” method, where you identify five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste, can help divert your attention from the anxiety and anchor you to the present moment.
Over-the-Counter Alternative Medicines for Shortness of Breath
While it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for any persistent or severe symptoms, many people also turn to alternative medicines for relief. This article will explore some of the best over-the-counter alternative treatments for shortness of breath, including herbal, Ayurvedic, and homeopathic remedies.
1. Herbal Remedies:
- Mullein: Traditionally used as a remedy for respiratory issues, mullein can be consumed as a tea or taken as a supplement. It’s believed to help soothe the respiratory tract and reduce inflammation.
- Lobelia: Also known as Indian tobacco, lobelia has been used historically to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions. However, it’s essential to use it in moderation as it can be toxic in large amounts.
- Elecampane: This herb is known for its expectorant properties, helping to clear mucus from the lungs.
2. Ayurvedic Remedies:
- Licorice (Yashtimadhu): Licorice has anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to soothe the respiratory tract. It can be consumed as a tea or taken as a supplement.
- Holy Basil (Tulsi): A revered plant in Ayurveda, tulsi is believed to have adaptogenic properties that help the body adapt to stress. It’s also used to treat respiratory conditions.
- Pippali (Long Pepper): Often used in combination with other herbs, pippali is believed to rejuvenate the lungs and improve respiratory function.
3. Homeopathic Remedies:
- Antimonium Tartaricum: This remedy is often recommended for rattling coughs where there’s difficulty in expelling mucus.
- Arsenicum Album: Suitable for those who experience shortness of breath, especially when lying down, and feel better with warm drinks.
- Carbo Vegetabilis: Often referred to as the “corpse reviver” in homeopathy, this remedy is for extreme cases where the face turns blue from lack of oxygen, and there’s a need for fresh air.
- Aspidosperma: This medicine was hugely popular as first aid for difficulty in breathing during the pandemic. Aspidosperma removes temporary obstruction to the oxidation of blood by stimulating respiratory centres. It helps in condition where patient is gasping for breath. Considered a tonic for the lungs
4. Other Alternative Treatments:
- Breathing Exercises: Techniques like diaphragmatic breathing and pursed-lip breathing can help improve lung capacity and reduce shortness of breath. Taking slow, deep breaths can help calm the respiratory system. Try inhaling deeply through your nose, holding for a few seconds, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. In Pursed-lip breathing, you inhale through your nose for two counts, then exhale through pursed lips for four counts. This technique can help increase the amount of oxygen that reaches your lungs.
- Essential Oils: Eucalyptus and peppermint oils can be inhaled or used in a diffuser to open up the airways. However, they should not be ingested or applied directly to the skin without dilution.
- Acupuncture: Some people find relief from shortness of breath through acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water can help thin the mucus in your airways, making it easier to breathe.
- Steam Inhalation: Breathing in steam from a bowl of hot water can help clear the airways. However, be careful to avoid burns.
- Black Coffee: In some people, the caffeine in black coffee can act as a bronchodilator, helping to relax the airways and improve breathing. However, it’s essential not to consume too much, as excessive caffeine can cause other issues.
While these alternative remedies can offer relief, it’s crucial to remember that shortness of breath can be a symptom of a more severe underlying condition, such as asthma, heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Always consult with a healthcare professional to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment