Cystic Fibrosis

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Achievable options

If you have Cystic Fibrosis, CF, or you are doing some research on behalf of a loved one, then you already know that there are an enormous number of therapeutic options out there and it can be rather overwhelming because you simply can't do everything and it is very hard to know which ones to focus on.

Because of this, and because it is vital that whatever treatments are being considered must be able to be sustained over the long term, the strategies focused on here are ones that I and others have seen to sgnificantly help whilst being steps that should not be too taxing on time, effort or cost

Hot water & lemon juice

A simple but potentially powerfully effective strategy to thin out the excess mucus of CF and make it much easier to expel is to regularly drink hot water to which you have added some fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Of course, you have to try things out to see how they work but this one step has produced some excellent feedback. The lemon juice by itself may be enough to make a difference but feel free to experiment with adding a little vitamin C powder (e.g. a quarter to a half a tsp) to the hot water and lemon and likewise see if you like it better or it seems to work better if you add a similar amount of honey to the drink.

If you are willing to try something a little more adventurous then I can also highly recommend making a Ginger decoction to which you add lemon & honey and perhaps a little cinnamon root. All these herbs are great for reducing and moving stuck mucus and a detailed recipe for this is found on the page on Ginger here.


Dairy products challenge

The Cystic Fibrosis foundation encourages dairy to keep up the intake of calories and the official line is that they do not consider it to be an issue but from my own and other practitioner's experiences we see that dairy does make a big difference to some people with CF.

The only way to know for sure is to completely remove all dairy products from the diet for at least a week, you then observe yourself to see if there is a significant reduction in mucus production when you don't have dairy, then deliberate re-introduce it and see if there is a marked increase in mucus production when you do. The process is described in further detail here


Herbal medicines

Herbs were our first medicines, long ago we learned which ones reliably helped and how best to use them. There are a number of herbs with the potential to help a person with CF. Herbs for the lungs, for immunity, for digestion. Many of the common problems that people with CF have can be helped with these potent and safe plants; our ancient allies that we have journeyed with for countless generations.

The herb Thyme, for example, there is strong medicine in its tiny leaves that can help open and clean the airways. It can be of much help when taken in small regular doses as a tea or when used in a vaporiser at night.

Likewise, other key respiratory herbs, such as Elecampane, Mullein and White horehound, can make a deep difference to clearing and strengthening the lungs when used in regular daily doses for a time.

It has often been seen that a weak immune system, unable to resolve recurrent infections, has had a complete turn-around with such great immune tonics as Echinacea, Astragalus, Cordyceps.

Thymus vulgaris (Thyme)

Postural drainage + Heat

Presumably everyone with CF will have tried some kind of postural drainage to help get mucus out of their lungs and bronchial tubes. However, they may not have tried it with an application of heat beforehand and this extra step can make a great deal of difference to the speed and effectiveness of the whole process.

The procedure is quite simple; apply a heating pad, such as a wheat-bag, or a hot water bottle to the chest for a good few minutes and then perform postural drainage by lying face down with the top half of the body off the bed, using the forearms as support.  The drainage position should be maintained for as long as it takes to cough out the now-loosened phlegm into a basin or newspaper on the floor.



Salt inhalations

Cystic Fibrosis support groups have picked up on this so you may have already heard about this one. Just below I will copy the initial report that came out and towards the end you will see how they are talking about wanting to find a simpler method of delivering the salt to the respiratory tissues. Here you might want to look into obtaining a 'Therapipe salt pipe' as found here

Surfers chasing waves off the coast of Australia gave researchers a clue to a cheap, effective treatment for cystic fibrosis.

Two studies published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine report that cystic fibrosis patients who inhaled a specially mixed saltwater solution at least twice a day had half as many hospitalizations for lung problems and significantly improved their ability to clear mucus from the lungs.

The patients in the studies also had marked improvement in lung function, said Dr. Scott Donaldson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cystic fibrosis affects about 30,000 children and young adults in the United States and is the leading fatal genetic disease in whites worldwide -- it affects other races much more rarely. The disorder causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs. Lung airway surfaces in CF patients are dry, which makes the mucus both harder and stickier, Donaldson said.

Healthy people cough to clear their lungs, but for people with cystic fibrosis, coughing is not enough. An effective treatment has long been elusive, and now it seems that one was hiding in plain sight: in the world's oceans.

"Surfers with cystic fibrosis had fewer lung exacerbations," Donaldson said. That led him and other scientists working in North Carolina and at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia, to theorize that there might be something about saltwater that could explain improved lung function in the surfers.

When the patients inhaled the saltwater, it caused their lungs to "re-hydrate by adding a layer of water to the airway surface," Donaldson said. "That acts as a lubricant, which makes it easier to clear the mucus."

Donaldson and colleagues conducted a pilot study on 24 patients, and those results were shared with the Australian doctors, who tested the treatment in 164 patients for 48 weeks.

Donaldson said he was surprised by the results because he doubted that saltwater -- or more precisely a 7 percent sodium chloride solution called "hypertonic saline" -- could work by itself. So he thought another drug would be needed.

"We found exactly the opposite," Donaldson said. "The patients who received just the hypertonic saline got all the benefit, while the patients who underwent pre-treatment with amiloride (a diuretic drug used to boost the hydration effect of the saltwater) had no improvement.

"We were blown away by this finding, and it sent us scurrying back to the lab where we discovered a novel property of amiloride: It blocked water transport from the blood."

In the Australian study, patients getting the saltwater through a nebulizer had significant improvement in lung function and -- perhaps most significantly --they had 56 percent fewer lung exacerbations.

Dr. Gail Weinmann, director of the Airway Biology and Disease Program at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said the enthusiasm for the finding needs to be tempered because "more clinical trials are needed to determine how well this treatment is tolerated."

Dr. David Taylor, a professor of medicine at Louisiana State University and a pulmonologist at the Ochsner Clinic, said it might be difficult to dampen the enthusiasm once these results are widely circulated.

"It is not very often that you can find a cheap substance that offers the potential to make a difference in the outcome of a disease that begins early in life and carries a very high morbidity and mortality," said Taylor, who was not involved in the research.

He estimated that cystic fibrosis patients are hospitalized for exacerbations about once a year, "so cutting that rate in half is very, very significant."

But he predicted that translating the finding into practice might be difficult. "Just because it is so cheap -- I can't imagine any drug company is going to get enthusiastic about producing hypertonic saline," he said.

Donaldson agreed, but said 3 percent saline and 10 percent saline solutions are already being manufactured, "and it is relatively straightforward to mix these in a 50-50 mixture to achieve very close to 7 percent."

Meanwhile, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is working to get a 7 percent solution made. Another problem, Taylor said, is getting patients to inhale the way they should. He noted that in the Australian study, the rate of compliance with the treatment was 63 percent.

Donaldson said another possible barrier to compliance was that the treatment requires the saltwater be inhaled for 15 minutes at a time. "We are working to improve delivery to perhaps three or four minutes, and ultimately less than one minute," he said.

If the saline cannot be adapted for a more patient-friendly delivery method, "we may be able to use something other than salt to achieve the same effect. For example, there is now a pilot study with mannitol, which is a dry powder that has the potential for quick delivery," Donaldson said.

Both studies received funding from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the North Carolina study received additional support from the National Institutes of Health, while the study in Sydney was also funded by the Australian Cystic Fibrosis Research Trust and the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia.

By Peggy Peck
MedPageToday Managing Editor

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd