Pneumonia

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Pneumonia is an infection of either one or both of the lungs. The air sacs or alveoli, which function to absorb oxygen, become inflamed, fill with pus and can solidify, which makes it difficult for the lungs to function properly, which inevitably leads to the blood and cells throughout the body being deprived of oxygen1

Causes

Bacterial: Pneumonia is generally caused by a pneumococcal infection, brought about by bacteria, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Staphylococcus aureus.

Viral: Less common, pneumonia can also be caused by a virus, usually respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) but it can also be caused by influenza type A or B.

Fungal: A rare cause of pneumonia is endemic or opportunistic fungi colonising the lungs leading to them becoming infected.

Aspiration: Pneumonia can be caused by inhaling liquid, food, vomit, smoke or chemicals, which, if not removed, can lead to bacteria multiplying in the lungs and causing an infection.
Hospital-acquired: Pneumonia that is contracted while in hospital. Often people in intensive care and in need of ventilator assistance pick up pneumonia, usually caused by bacteria rather than a virus.2

Symptoms

Symptoms of pneumonia can vary, ranging from relatively harmless and manageable to severe and lethal. Pneumonia characteristically starts with signs usually associated with a cold and flu, such as a cough, runny nose and feeling run down which progress to include a high fever, shivers and coughing up phlegm.3 Symptoms can be much worse in the elderly or people with an already weakened immune system.

Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling run down and unwell
  • Fever. Hot and cold. Sweating and shivering.
  • A cough, with or without phlegm
  • Chest pain which worsens when breathing or coughing.
  • Laboured breathing and breathless
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Appetite loss

Less common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Coughing up blood
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Feeling bewildered and perplexed4

Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • Skin turns a bluish tone due to lack of oxygen
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High fever with a temperature of 102.5°F or higher
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Coughing up mucus with blood5

Who is affected?

Pneumonia is a lot more widespread than is perhaps realised. Approximately 8 in 1,000 adults get pneumonia in the UK every year and cases are more common in the seasons of autumn and winter.6

Increased risk


People of all ages can get pneumonia but certain groups of people are more at risk and symptoms can be worse in:

The elderly

Babies, toddlers and young children

Smokers

People who are already unwell with a health issue, such as heart, liver or kidney problems; asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Those with an already weak immune system; often due to an illness; undergoing chemotherapy; or on a course of medication after an organ transplant.7

Contagious?

Most cases of pneumonia are caused by bacteria and not contagious. It is possible, however, for the bacteria or viruses that cause pneumonia to be passed on by inhaling globules from the sneezes and coughs of someone who is infected with pneumonia. This doesn’t inevitably lead to contracting pneumonia but could lead to this if, for example, you fall into the category of those more susceptible.8 Practicing general good hygiene can help reduce the risk of passing such bacteria and viruses on:

Avoid sneezing or coughing over or near others; cover mouth with tissue.

Discard used tissues to avoid spreading germs; these are best flushed away.

Wash hands often to reduce risk of spreading bacteria or virus.

Lifestyle and dietary tips

Generally keeping healthy, eating well and exercising can help to lessens the chances of getting pneumonia.

Smoking can harm the lungs which means smokers are more susceptible to infection.

Sustained, heavy alcohol consumption will also cause damage to the lungs, putting excessive pressure on the immune system, increasing the chance of contracting infections and getting pneumonia.

Vulnerable people who are more likely to be at risk of getting pneumonia can be given the pneumococcal vaccine and flu vaccine to help lessens the chances of this.

Ensuring we are drinking plenty of water will help keep the tiny airways in the lungs, known as bronchioles, healthy, which will lessen the chances of infection which could lead to pneumonia.9

Generally giving our body a helping hand by eating immune system boosting foods such as garlic, lemon, root ginger, and plenty of fruits and vegetables which help to fight off infection.

Ginger is used medicinally for its antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial capabilities. It can help fight infection, tackle phlegm and benefit the health of the upper respiratory tract which can help make it easier to breathe.

Turmeric has anti-fungal, antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial properties and is a particularly effective anti-inflammatory. It could be particularly helpful for those suffering with pneumonia as it can aid the health of the upper respiratory tract.

Cayenne pepper can help improve some respiratory symptoms associated with pneumonia by helping to loosen and get rid of mucus from the respiratory tract, which can help the lungs breathe better. Laboured breathing is one of the more serious symptoms of pneumonia.10

Oregano oil is antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial and studies have shown it can help fight symptoms of pneumonia by targeting cells infected with bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumonia. Thyme and Rosewood oil have also been shown to have a similar effect.11

Suitable supplements

A range of health supplements can help improve the symptoms or lessen the risk of getting pneumonia:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is generally amazing at boosting the immune system which helps the body to fend off viral and bacterial infections, such as pneumonia. The American pediatrician Alfred Hess’ research in the early 1900’s firmly put Vitamin C on the medicinal map when his studies showed a direct link between a Vitamin C deficiency and scurvy which led to a firm connection between the health benefits of Vitamin C in relation to preventing and treating pneumonia.12

Vitamin C has antiviral capabilities and is a powerful antioxidant. Not only can Vitamin C reduce the chances of getting an infection by helping our immune system to stay strong and healthy, it can also help the body to get rid of an infection quicker by strengthening the cells that have been targeted by the infection. Vitamin C assists the immune system to fight pneumonia by “activating, strengthening and increasing the number of the specialised immune cells (phagocytes and lymphocytes) used by the body to fight infections” stopping the infection from getting any worse and helping to restore the body to good health.13 In addition to this, pneumonia can cause a reduction in vitamin C levels in the body so supplementing the body with Vitamin C has been found to be helpful for those with pneumonia.14

Turmeric and Black Pepper

This clever formulation of Black Pepper and Turmeric 15 is praised for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which could help improve the symptoms associated with pneumonia. Turmeric is particularly effective for the upper respiratory tract. It acts as a mucolytic which helps to loosen and remove mucous phlegm and catarrh from the lungs. Black pepper is a powerful antibacterial and antioxidant, also known to be beneficial for respiratory health and can act as decongestant, like turmeric, helping to remove mucous from the alveoli.16

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is predominantly stored in the liver and is an incredible vitamin with many benefits. It’s really an all-rounder and helps us to feel our best. It helps to promote a healthy immune system and has an important part to play in cell division and the growth of healthy, happy cells. It’s clear to see how this could not only help prevent pneumonia but also benefit the symptoms of pneumonia by helping to promote healthy cells in the lungs that have been damaged by infection.17 Essentially, Vitamin A helps to repair cells that have been affected by pneumonia, such as damaged pulmonary tissues. Carrots, green leafy vegetables, and papaya are packed with Vitamin A. Try taking this and other Vitamin A based supplements with an avocado which is ripe with “good fats,” and can help the body to take in the Vitamin A. Studies have indicated that eating one avocado can help the body to absorb twice as much Vitamin A.18

Zinc

Zinc (Zn) is a trace element, that’s found in almost every cell in the human body and is a vital co-factor component of many enzymes. The source of Zinc in our tablets is Zinc Citrate, which has approximately 34% zinc in its structure. Zinc is essential, meaning it’s only found in the body due to its consumption in foods; we are unable to make it. Zinc is found in foods such as red meat, organ meats, yeast, wholegrains and eggs. Females should consume 8mg and Males, 11-14mg per day. From nutrient studies it has been shown that the average intake from foods is approximately 15mg. However, supplements can provide between 10-70mg. Our tablet contains 43.9mg of Zinc Citrate, which will provide 15mg of bioavailable Zinc, which is highly adequate. Zinc is known to contribute to the health of the immune system and is highly effective in combating cold and flu symptoms. Additionally, Zinc is an antioxidant that protects DNA, protein and lipid structure and is thought to be effective in helping to fight infections; also an antiviral, particularly useful in preventing lower respiratory infections so beneficla as a treatment for pneumonia. In addition, taking a zinc supplement together with vitamin A has the potential to increase vitamin A levels.19

Omega 3 soft gels

Omega fatty acids, such as fish oil, can help to reduce inflammation and could therefore be helpful in lessening inflammation of infected lungs in those suffering with pneumonia. These essential fatty acids are generally good for us and considered crucial for maintaining a healthy heart, mainly because they contribute to normal blood cholesterol levels; have the ability to stop blood clotting; and contribute towards a healthy and regular heart rhythm. Salmon, tuna, mackerel and halibut are good sources as well as avocado, sunflower oil, flax, linseed oil and walnuts.

Ginseng tablets

Native to China and Korea, the Panax Ginseng plant is known locally as an ‘all-healing’ supplement. The root is where the active ingredient Ginsenosides reside. The Asian form of Ginseng is one of the oldest known herbal medicines and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 7000 years. In Chinese traditional medicine ginseng is refer to as the “root of heaven”, as it’s believed to possess the ability to cure every ailment.20 Ginseng is thought to strengthen the immune system, helping us to avoid cold and flu viruses which can weaken our immune system, potentially making us more susceptible to pneumonia; as well as sometimes being the cause of pneumonia. Ginseng is also thought to improve the body’s ability to deal with stress, allowing the body to ‘get better’. Research has shown ginseng may also contain chemicals that react against some bacteria and viruses, helping the body to kill off such invasions and recover faster.21

Lactobacillus Acidophilus Tablets


Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of lactic acid bacteria which rapidly ferments carbohydrates (sugar containing foods) and release lactic acids. This microorganism is classified under gram-positive bacteria. This highly effective probiotic could assist in the battle against pneumonia as it could help regulate and improve immune activity in the respiratory system.22

Oxford Vitality provide Acidophilus tablets which are a small and very manageable 6mm in diameter, and just 150mg in weight which makes them very easy to swallow. You are advised not to take this with a hot drink as this will destroy the live bacteria.23

Iodine tablets

Iodine (I) was discovered in 1811 by French scientist Barnard Courtois. Iodine is an essential trace nutrient that cannot be formed in the body. Iodine can be found in food sources such as non-organic milk, seafood, crustaceans, vegetables grown on and cattle reared on iodine rich soils. However, the most potent source of iodine are seaweeds such as Nori, Dulse, Wakame and Kelp.24 Iodine can kill bacteria and fungus25, both of which can be causes of pneumonia. The homeopath Prof. T. F. Allen claimed that a treatment of iodine in pneumonia sufferers “would arrest the process of hepatization (the consolidation of tissue in the lungs) within twenty-four hours”.26

Staying Healthy

Having pneumonia can be exhausting at best with uncomfortable symptoms; and at its most severe, it can be very painful and potentially life-threatening. Taking steps to look after our body and staying healthy; leading an active and healthy lifestyle; ensuring we are looking after our immune system so that we have a fighting chance of fending off infections; and enhancing a balanced, healthy diet with the right combination of dietary supplements, can all help lessen our chances of getting pneumonia, as well as helping treat the symptoms of pneumonia to ensure normal health is regained as soon as possible.

 

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1 http://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/directory/p/pneumonia

12 Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Vitamin C may affect lung infections:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2099400/

14 Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Vitamin C may affect lung infections:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2099400/

22 Review Article: Probiotics in the Management of Lung Diseases: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2013/751068/

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