Pulmonary Disorders 

Lung disease is influenced by conditions of the environment, occupation and personal and social habits such as smoking.

It has three clear classifications:-

  1. Acute or chronic,
  2. Obstructive or restrictive and
  3. Infectious or non infectious.


These are characterised by airway obstruction that is worse with the out breath, (where more muscle is needed, and emptying of the lungs can be slowed).

The most common obstructive lung disease is asthma as well as chronic bronchitis and emphysema also prevalent. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Asthma too can be chronic but it is typically more acute and intermittent.


Unlike asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD represents pathological lung changes as seen in emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is both preventable and treatable.

Airway obstruction can be due to loss of supporting elastic recoil, from the lung tissue, and/or tube  narrowing as a result of airway wall thickening.

Risks include:

  • GeneticsSmoking
  • Exposure to air pollution

Symptoms include:

  • Breathlessness
  • CoughPhlegm production
  • Recurrent respiratory infection
  • Wheezing


  • Bacterial and viral infection

Herbal medicine and nutrition will

  • Remove mucus
  • Relieve symptoms
  • Improve immunity
  • Reduce inflammation


  • Fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables should make up the largest percentage of the diet


  • GrainsCarbohydrates – biscuits, jams, cakes‘Saturated’ fatsMucus producing foods – dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream), wheat


This is defined specifically as hypersecretion of mucus with a chronic chough producing phlegm usually caused by cigarette smoking or air pollution.l2

Chronic Bronchitis on right

Inspired irritants result in airway inflammation which causes bronchial swelling and increased mucous production that cannot be cleared because of impaired ciliary function. Infections can exacerbate the condition.  As the airways become increasingly narrowed, expiratory airway obstruction results. Extensive air trapping puts the respiratory muscles at a mechanical disadvantage causing hypoventilation (inadequate ventilation) and hypercapnia (increased carbon dioxide).

Once pathological changes occur they are not reversible so early intervention is best, however once smoking has stopped, the disease progression can be halted and management techniques can be introduced.


This is the abnormal permanent enlargement of gas exchange airways (pictured) accompanied by destruction of alveolar walls. Obstruction results from changes in lung tissue, rather than mucus production and inflammation. The major mechanism of airflow limitation is loss of elastic recoil.




  • Cigarette smoking
  • Air pollution
  • Childhood respiratory infections (such as diphtheria)

Inhaled oxidants in tobacco smoke and air pollution stimulate inflammation, which over time cause alveolar destruction and loss of normal elastic recoil of the bronchi. This produces large air spaces which become less effective in gas exchange. The loss of alveolar tissue means a loss of the respiratory membrane where gases cross between air and the blood, resulting in what is called ventilation-perfusion mismatching and hypoxemia (low oxygen levels in the blood).  Loss of recoil also reduces the volume of air that can be expired and it is trapped in the lungs. This causes an increase in expansion of the chest and increased workload of breathing.


Malnutrition is a major concern for individuals with COPD because they have increased energy expenditure, decreased energy intake and impaired oxygenation.

Please contact your doctor or visit your naturopath if you have any concerns about the health of your lungs.

Info: Craft, Gordon, Tiziani; Hechtman;  Sarris and Wardle