Bronchitis: Causes, Symptoms and Support Strategies
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes that causes severe coughing, thickened and discolored mucus, and pain. Acute bronchitis may last for 10 days or a few weeks, and may seriously interfere with your daily activities and quality of life. By using some natural strategies, you can improve your immune response and your respiratory health.
In this article, you will learn what bronchitis is and its symptoms. You will understand some major factors that may cripple your immune system and increase your risk of bronchitis. Finally, I will share my best natural support strategies to improve your immune and respiratory health.
What Is Bronchitis
Your bronchial tubes are an important part of your respiratory system. They carry air to and from your lugs. Bronchitis is a condition when the lining of your bronchial tubes are inflamed and swollen. Clearly, this interferes with your respiration and the condition is characterized by coughing up thickened and discolored mucus and pain.
Bronchitis may be acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is more common and may be a complication of a cold or another respiratory condition. It usually gets better within a few weeks. Chronic bronchitis is more serious. Instead of getting better within a few weeks, it keeps coming back or simply doesn’t go away.
It is usually defined as bronchitis that lasts for 3 months or longer with several bouts for at least 2 years. Those with chronic bronchitis may get acute bronchitis at times on the top of their chronic conditions. Chronic bronchitis is often the result of smoking or constant irritation of the bronchial tube linings. It is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (1, 2, 3).
Major Symptoms of Bronchitis
Major symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Production of mucus, which may be clear, white, green, yellow, or yellowish-gray
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort
- Slight fever or chills
- Mild headaches
- Body aches
Bacterial vs Viral Bronchitis
Acute bronchitis may be bacterial and viral. It is important to understand the difference to find the right treatment. In most cases, acute bronchitis is caused by a virus. Viral infections don’t respond to antibiotics, hence natural remedies are your best bet to improve the condition quickly.
Sometimes bronchitis may be caused by a bacterial infection. In the case of a bacterial infection, the symptoms usually don’t improve on their own, in fact, you may feel worse and experience a fever as well.
In the case of bacterial bronchitis, taking antibiotics may be necessary when natural solutions are not working. However, it is best to start out with natural solutions and resort to antibiotics if absolutely necessary. Make sure to visit your healthcare provider. Only they can determine if you have viral or bacterial bronchitis and if antibiotics are necessary.
Besides viral and bacterial bronchitis, exposure to substances that irritate your lungs, such as smoke, dust, air pollution, fumes, and vapors, may also result lead to acute or chronic bronchitis. In this case, reducing irritants and turning to natural solutions is crucial.
5 Lifestyle Activities That Cripple Your Immune System
Having a strong immune system is critical to protect your body against bronchitis. You want to continually focus on supporting your immune system and allowing it to function at its best.
However, there are several lifestyle activities that may cripple your immune system and make you more vulnerable to illness.
Sugar and Your Immune System
Sugar may just be the number one enemy of your immune system. Sugar depletes your body from critical immune-boosting nutrients, including vitamin C, zinc, and glutathione. It feeds parasites in your body and encourages the development of abnormal tissue and cancerous growth (4, 5).
Understanding the link between sugar, vitamin C, and your immune system is key to a healthy body. In the 1970s, Dr. John Ely discovered the Glucose-Ascorbate-Antagonism (GAA) theory, which realized that glucose (sugar) and ascorbate (vitamin C) have a very similar chemical make-up. The problem is that both sugar and vitamin C depend on the pancreatic hormone, insulin, and its signaling to get into your cells.
Because of this, sugar and vitamin C compete with each other, and too much sugar can restrict vitamin C from entering your cells. As a result, your body needs to pump more insulin to get enough vitamin C to your cells.
Vitamin C is absolutely essential to handle oxidative stress and fight pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms in your body. If sugar prohibits vitamin C to support your body, your system weakens and becomes more vulnerable to illness and disease (6, 7).
Sleep Deprivation and Bronchitis
Getting 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep regularly is important for a healthy body. It is practically a fundamental nutrient that doesn’t come from food. Sleep allows your body to rest, repair, and rejuvenate.
On the other hand, sleep deprivation leads to heightened stress response, reduced immune coordination, and increased inflammatory processes. This makes your body more vulnerable to bronchitis as well. If you want to learn more about the importance of sleep and how to get better sleep, I recommend this article (8, 9).
Drinking Tap Water
Drinking plenty of water is essential for your health and immune system. However, it is critical that you pay attention to the kind of water you are drinking. Municipal water can be very toxic loaded with environmental chemicals, such as chlorine, DBP’s, arsenic, fluoride, and heavy metals.
Needless to say, these toxins can destroy your immune system. Drinking clean water using a high-quality reverse osmosis system or high-quality mineral or spring water is the way to go (10, 11, 12). You can also get a quality Berkey filter or take it up a notch and use a hydrogen water system which adds molecular hydrogen to combat oxidative stress and improve immune health.
Human beings are not meant to be indoors at all times. Our ancestors spent most of their time outdoors, yet we spend about 90 percent of our lives inside. Too much time indoors increases your exposure to indoor pollutants.
You are also missing out on the protective factors you may receive in nature, including vitamin D from the sun, fresh air, and electrons from the ground when walking or standing barefoot from on the ground (13).
Water is essential for your circulation, nervous system, immune health, and all organ function. Chronic dehydration leads to histamine access in your body.
While histamine tries to ensure that your organs get enough fluids even when you are dehydrated, elevated histamine may also increase inflammation, allergies, headaches, chronic pain, digestive issues, and immune system problems. It may make your body more vulnerable to illness, including bronchitis as well (14).
12 Natural Support Strategies for Bronchitis
You don’t want bronchitis to slow you down. Try these 12 natural support strategies to improve your immune system and respiratory health.
While none of these strategies are FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure bronchitis they can be very helpful for the immune system and overall lung and respiratory health. I recommend these strategies to my clients that are concerned about their immune system and developing a condition like bronchitis.
Eat Light and Hydrate Well
If you are dealing with the symptoms of bronchitis, it is important that you support your body with nourishing foods. Don’t overburden your system with heavy foods. Eat light. Remove refined sugar, refined oils, deep-fried food, processed foods, junk food, and heavy meals. Focus on hydrating greens, vegetables, low glycemic-index fruits, herbs, spices, fermented foods, and healthy fats.
I recommend that you drink 8 to 10 glasses of water minimum a day. Use a high-quality reverse osmosis system that purifies your water by removing all the toxins.
Carrying a water bottle around can be helpful to stay hydrated at all times. I recommend using a stainless steel bottle to avoid toxic chemical residue from plastic bottles.
Use Immune Supportive Foods
Eating nutrient-dense, immune-boosting foods that are low in sugar and rich in phytonutrients is key to your recovery. Eat a diet that’s rich in greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, fermented foods, fruits, and healthy fats.
Some foods have higher immune-boosting properties than others. I recommend that you eat at least 3 servings of each of these 8 top immune-supporting foods:
- Lemons and limes: Lemons and limes are full of vitamin C and antioxidants, and help to alkalize and cleanse your body (15).
- Bone broth: Bone broth is incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals and is soothing for respiratory conditions (16, 17, 18).
- Garlic: Garlic is incredibly anti-inflammatory, supports your immune system, and can effectively fight infections (19, 20).
- Onions: Just like garlic, onions are also powerful infection-fighting, immune-boosting, and anti-inflammatory foods (19, 20).
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar provides powerful disinfectant support against even the most resistant bacterial strains and viruses and offers antioxidant support (21, 22).
- Olive oil: Olive oil is rich in monosaturated healthy fats which is incredible for your immune system (23, 24).
- Ginger: Ginger is a powerful spice that helps to decrease inflammation, boost your immune health, improve sore throat, and reduce pain (25).
- Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms have been used for centuries for immune-boosting benefits and to reduce inflammation (26, 27, 28).
To learn more about the benefits of these immune-boosting foods, I recommend that you read this article.
Good Sleep, Fresh Air & Light Movement
Getting good sleep, fresh air, and light movement are all crucial for a healthy immune system. Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep on a regular basis. If you currently have bronchitis, you may need more sleep. Honor your body, and get some rest. Take naps if you need to. Avoid sugar and caffeine close to bedtime. Turn off all electronics at least two hours before bed. Use sun-blocking curtains or an eye pillow to support deep sleep.
Get some fresh air. Go for a walk or do some grounding. Do some light movement. Even if you are sick, it is important to move your body and get outside a bit. Light yoga, stretching, or a short walk may be beneficial. Do as much as you can handle. To prevent bronchitis, exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day 5 times a week, and keep a generally active lifestyle. Go for nature walks, take the stairs, try some cardio, do strength-training exercises, and stretch.
To improve your lung and immune health, try my homemade garlic salve for immune and respiratory health. It’s simple to make and easy to use. Here is how to make it:
You will need:
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 10 drops lavender oil (it’s incredibly calming and soothing)
Blend these ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy. The garlic cloves should be completely blended.
How to use it:
- Rub it onto the soles of feet. Apply generously. Put socks on to help hold the salve in place.
- Rub it on your chest.
- Repeat every 2 to 3 hours until your condition improves.
Use Elderberry & Astragalus
Elderberry and astragalus are two amazing plants that I recommend for immune health. Research has shown they help improve immune function and support respiratory health (29, 30, 31).
Elderberry is nature’s richest source of quercetin and this compound helps it act as an immunomodulator to help balance the immune system. One study examining the structures and the immunomodulating properties of the pectic polymers from elderberries has found that Sambucus elderberries contained immunomodulating polysaccharides and may benefit respiratory illness. Another study examined the immune-modulating effects of astragalus root and elderberry fruit extracts in bone marrow-derived murine dendritic cells by measuring IFN-β and other cytokines with ELISA and RT-PCR tests.
Results suggest that both elderberry and astragalus increased L. acidophilus-induced IFN-β production while decreasing pro-inflammatory reaction to E. coli. These findings suggest that both elderberry and astragalus offer antiviral and immune-enhancing benefits.
Furthermore, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of 180 participants on the effectiveness of black elderberry for respiratory issues has found that elderberry supplementation may substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms and may be beneficial for cold and flu recovery (32, 33, 34).
Diffuse Essential Oils
Diffusing essential oils may help to open up your airways, reduce mucus, and improve coughs, sore throats, and sinus issues. Essential oils that may benefit your bronchitis symptoms include eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, frankincense, oregano, thyme, geranium, cinnamon, nutmeg, bergamot, cypress, and tea tree essential oil.
They are full of antioxidants and immune-protective qualities. It is important to know that some people may be sensitive to certain essential oils. Start out with a small amount. Pay attention to your body and reactions. Use essential oils that you enjoy and work the best for you (35).
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing a pure oil around in the mouth to draw toxins from the body. It can help with dental plaque, bacteria in the mouth, elimination of parasites, pain, and respiratory conditions. Squish a tablespoon of coconut oil around your mouth for 10-20 minutes each morning then spit it out.
Brush your teeth after oil pulling. This practice may help to improve your bronchitis and reduce the risk of future illness. It may be challenging to oil pull for a full 10 minutes while suffering with bronchitis but even doing it for a minute can be helpful. To learn more about the benefits of oil pulling and how to do it, I recommend reading this article (36, 37, 38).
Drink Herbal Tea
Drinking herbal tea is one of the best things you can do if you have bronchitis. It can help to break up mucus, soothe your cough and pain, boost your immune system, reduce your symptoms, and improve your conditions.
The echinacea plant has been medicinally used to stimulate the immune system to fight off flu, the common cold and other infections for centuries. Studies show that echinacea helps inflammation and pain while combating harmful pathogens. One of my favorite teas, I recommend for immune health is a good quality Echinacea tea (39).
Use Colloidal or Nano Silver
Colloidal and nano silver are powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial agents. While your body can build up resistance to prescription antibiotics, it’s not the case when it comes to colloidal silver. This may be good news considering that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are over 2 million people who suffer from antibiotic-resistant infections in the US alone. (40)
Moreover, long-term use of antibiotics can damage your gut leading to inflammation and health problems. On the other hand, there is no evidence that colloidal or nano silver interrupts your gut flora. In fact, it can actually disrupt the cell membranes and stop the reproduction of fungi, such as Candida, which is known to compromise the gut flora. (41)
According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, silver may be effective against both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. Research has found that colloidal silver is able to permeate and damage bacterial cells. Further research suggests that by increasing oxidative stress in bacterial cells, colloidal silver may also be able to inhibit the growth of or kill bacteria. (42, 43, 44, 45, 46)
While there are no further studies on the subject, it interesting to point out a case report of a twelve year-old patient with cystic fibrosis. Colloidal silver supplementation effectively treated his Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is a multi-drug resistant bacteria that can lead to pneumonia. (47) While it is not FDA approved to prevent, treat or cure pneumonia, it can be very helpful.
Use a Specific Herbal Support Formula
Herbs have so many powerful benefits for your health. The most well studied herbs and compounds for natural respiratory support include lovage root, eucalyptus leaf, peppermint left, rosemary, lemon balm leaf, lungwort leaf, orange leaf, plantain leaf, chapparal leaf, elecampane root, lobelia flower, and peppermint essential oil.
Peppermint and rosemary contain rosmarinic acid which has been shown to block the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes. Rosmarinic acids also encourages cells to produce key molecules that keep the airways open for easy breathing (48).
You can use these as herbal teas, essential oils, herbs in your food and herbal supplements to encourage lung, sinus, and respiratory tract health.
Load Up on Vitamin C
Research has shown that vitamin C has incredible benefits for lung infections. It is one of the most important vitamins for your immune system.
Vitamin C rich foods include lemon, lime, oranges, mandarins, grapefruits, guava, strawberries, papaya, pineapples, kiwi, sweet green pepper, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. I also recommend taking a vitamin C supplement. (49, 50).
Take Vitamin D and Zinc
Vitamin D and zinc are both essential to support your immune system, yet most people are not getting enough. While it is important to get some sunshine to improve your vitamin D needs, with our indoor lifestyle, it is impossible to meet all your requirements. This is why I recommend that you take a daily vitamin D supplement. If you are dealing with immune symptoms, I would recommend taking 20,000 IU of vitamin D3, two to three times daily.
Most people are not getting enough zinc in their diet and suffer immune dysfunction as a result. I recommend that you eat plenty of zinc-rich doofs, including spinach, pumpkin seeds, salmon, and grass-fed dairy. To support your immune system, you can take an extra 20mg of vitamin D3 and if you want to load your zinc levels, you can take around 20 mg of zinc every 2 hours until you feel better (51, 52).
Final Thoughts on Bronchitis
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes that causes coughing, thickened and discolored mucus, and pain. Follow my tips and natural support strategies to improve your immune function and respiratory tract health.
If you seem to be struggling with a lowered immune system that dosn’t seem to be getting better in spite of your best efforts, I would recommend consulting with a functional health coach. If you want to work with a functional health coach, I recommend this article with tips on how to find a great coach.
At my clinic, we offer long-distance functional health coaching programs. For further support with your health goals, just reach out and our fantastic coaches are here to support your journey.