Bronchitis refers to an inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the bronchi and bronchial tube within the chest. It is a breathing disorder affecting the expiratory function. In most cases, some infection also occurs in the nose and throat. It is a disease endemic to cold, damp climates, but may occur anywhere.
Bronchitis may be acute or chronic. In chronic cases, the disease is of long duration. It is more serious than the acute type as permanent changes may have occurred in the lungs, thereby interfering with their normal movements. Chronic bronchitis is more frequent in males than in females and mortality rate is also higher in males.
In most cases of bronchitis, the larynx, trachea and bronchial tubes are acutely inflamed. The tissues are swollen due to irritation. Large quantities of mucus are secreted and poured into the windpipe to protect the inflamed mucous membrane. The phelgm, when expelled is found to be viscid and purulent. There is usually a higher fever, some difficulty in breathing and a deep chest cough. Other symptoms are hoarseness and pain in the chest and loss of appetite. Breathing trouble continues till the inflammation subsides and mucous is removed.
The chief cause of bronchitis is wrong feeding habits. The habitual use of refined foods such as white sugar, refined cereals and white-flour products results in the accumulation of morbid matter in the system and collection of toxic waste in the bronchial tube. Another important cause of this disease is smoking. Excessive smoking irritates the bronchial tubes and lowers their resistance so that they become vulnerable to germs breathed in from the atmosphere. Other causes of bronchitis are living or working in stuffy atmosphere, use of drugs to suppress earlier diseases and hereditary factors. Changes in weather and environment are common factors for the onset of the disease.
In acute cases of bronchitis, the patient should fast on orange juice and water till the acute symptoms subside. The procedure is to take the juice of an orange in a glass of warm water every two hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thereafter, the patient should adopt an all-fruit diet for two or three days. In case of chronic bronchitis, the patient can begin with an all- fruit diet for five to seven days, taking each day three meals of fresh juicy fruits. After the all-fruit diet, the patient should follow a well-balanced diet of seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits. For drinks, unsweetened lemon water or cold or hot plain water may be taken. The patient should avoid meats, sugar, tea, coffee, condiments, pickles, refined and processed foods, soft-drinks, candies, ice-cream and products made from sugar and white flour.
One of the most effective remedy for bronchitis is the use of turmeric powder. A teaspoonful of this powder should be administered with a glass of milk two or three times daily. It acts best when taken on an empty stomach.
Another effective remedy for bronchitis is a mixture of dried ginger powder, pepper and long pepper taken in equal quantities three times a day. It may be licked with honey or infused with one’s daily tea. The powder of these three ingredients has antipyretic qualities and is effective in dealing with fever accompanied by bronchitis. They also tone up the metabolism of the patient.
The onion has been used as a food remedy for centuries in bronchitis. It is said to possess expectorant properties. It liquefies phelgm and prevents its further formation. One teaspoon of raw onion juice, the first thing in the morning will be highly beneficial in such cases.
A simple hot poultice of linseed should be applied over the front and back of the chest. It will greatly relieve pain. Poultices act by diluting the vessels of the surface and thereby reducing the blood pressure. The heat of the poultics acts as a cardiac stimulant. A poultics should be applied neatly and carefully and should be often renewed, so that it does not hamper respiration.
Turpentine may be rubbed over the chest with fomentation for the same object.
A hot Epsom-salts bath every night or every other night will be highly beneficial during the acute stages of the attack. This bath is prepared by dissolving three lbs. of Epsom-salts to 60 litres of water having a temperature of 100 o F. The patient should remain immersed in the bath for about 20 minutes. In case of chronic bronchitis, this bath may be taken twice a week. Hot towels wrung out and applied over the upper chest are also helpful. After applying three hot towels in turn for two or three minutes each , one should always finish off with a cold towel. A cold pack should also be applied to the upper chest several times daily in acute conditions. The procedure is to wring out some linen material in cold water, wrap two or three times round the affected part and cover it with some flannel. The pack can remain for about an hour at a time.
Fresh air and outdoor exercises are also essential to the treatment of bronchitis and the patient should take a good walk everyday. He should also perform yogic kriyas such as jalneti and vamandhouti and yogic asanas such as ekpaduttansana, yogamudra, bhujangasana, shalabhasana, padmasana and shavasana. Simple pranayamas like kapalbhatti, anuloma-viloma, ujjai and bhramari are also highly beneficial.