Natural Treatment for Asthma and COPD

If you have asthma and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) you probably spend a lot of time using various inhalers and nebulizers. Many times these contain glucocorticoids (steroids). Some of the major side effects of long term steroid use include: cataracts, osteoporosis, adrenal insufficiency, weight gain with dramatic increase in abdominal fat, Type 2 diabetes and behavioral changes such as extreme anger. Besides steroids, which lessen inflammation in the bronchi and lungs, other inhalers contain drugs which dilate the bronchi allowing more air in. However, in many people, these drugs cause very rapid heart rate, tremors and insomnia. While these drugs may be life saving, there is increasing evidence for natural treatments for asthma and COPD, particularly the natural alternative inhaled glutathione.

Asthma is a condition in which the airways constrict, become inflamed and produce excess mucous. Symptoms can vary from mild shortness of breath to wheezing, extreme shortness of breath, coughing and in some cases, respiratory failure. Asthma is responsible for over 100,000 deaths a year in the US. There is also an asthma variant in which the primary symptom is chronic coughing. Triggers include allergies, certain drugs, pollution and severe stress.  Symptoms respond well to natural treatments for asthma and COPD.
COPD is comprised of two diseases, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which result in narrowing of the airways and obstruction in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. While the vast majority of COPD is related to smoking, COPD can develop after prolonged uncontrolled asthma, exposure to pollution, second hand smoke and other lung irritants. With asthma, the narrowing of the airways comes and goes but with COPD, airways are permanently damaged. Both conditions are generally treated with the same drugs. Long acting broncho dilators are commonly used, however these have been linked to increased risk of hospitalization and death. There is hope for a natural treatment, the anti-inflammatory amino acid glutathione (GSH) which in the body is produced by the liver. While drugs treat symptoms, GSH may actually reverse the process causing the disease. Because asthma and COPD can be life threatening, you must be under the care of a knowledgeable health care professional before changing your current treatment and begining natural treatment for asthma and COPD.
In Europe physicians use GSH precursors to treat asthma. While it may not be effective for everyone, increasing intracellular levels of GSH, especially in the airways and lungs, promotes lung heath and decreases the incidence of attacks. Inhaled GSH could increase the effectiveness of current medications or better yet, allow eventual withdrawal of these drugs.
Glutathione works at the cellular level boosting immunity, detoxifying and acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is the most potent antioxidant known. Taking oral glutathoine, does not result in increased GSH levels in the body because, when digested, it changes into a mostly inactive substance. However, taking a cysteine supplement such an N-acteylcysteine (NAC) can increase glutathione levels in the body but generally not enough to help with asthma/COPD. There is evidence that the liposomal form of glutathione may be absorbed unchanged and result in higher serum/tissue levels of GSH. At this time, it is inhaled glutathione (via nebulizer) that offers the most promise for asthma/COPD.
GSH levels in the airways have been shown to be inversely related to the severity of the disease process. In other words, the more severe the asthma or COPD, the greater the inflammation in the airways but the lower the GSH levels. Lower levels of GSH in asthmatics have also been identified in red blood cells, white blood cells, serum, platelets and lung fluid. Epithelial cells that line the lower respiratory tract have a protective layer of glutathione to protect against oxidant damage by free radicals. This is severely diminished in patients with asthma and COPD.
A Case Study Abstract:
The following case study was published on the curezone website:  We present the case of a 95-year-old man with an acute respiratory crisis secondary to emphysema and apparent bronchial infection. Treatment with nebulized glutathione led to a rapid resolution of the crisis, as well as a marked improvement in the chronic course of the disease. This treatment has been used since for a number of patients with emphysema. The safety and bioavailability of this method of delivery have been established in human studies. Preliminary results suggest efficacy for nebulized administration of glutathione in this patient population. We suggest this treatment can be considered an option for acute respiratory crises due to COPD.
Even conventional medicine is agreeing that inhaled glutathione can be beneficial in a wide range of respiratory conditions. According to Medscape, a review of conventional, evidence based studies resulted in the following conclusion:  GSH inhalation is an effective treatment for a variety of pulmonary diseases and respiratory-related conditions. Even very serious and difficult-to-treat diseases (e.g., CF, IPF) yielded benefits from this novel treatment. GSH inhalation is very safe, and rarely causes major or life-threatening side effects. The potential applications are numerous when one considers just how many pulmonary diseases and respiratory-related conditions are affected by deficient antioxidant status, poor oxygenation and/or impaired host defenses. More studies are clearly warranted.
At this time, you need a prescription for inhaled glutathione which can be used in a nebulizer. Nebulizers can be purchased with or without a prescription in most states. Theranaturals has a buffered L-glutathione (Reduced L-Glutathione Plus) which they state can be used in a nebulizer when dissolved in distilled water and they give you directions to prepare this solution.
In asthmatics, inhaled GSH may cause broncho-constriction (further narrowing of the airways). This is believed to be due to formation of sulfites in the airways and affects sulfite sensitive patients. The reaction tended to be mild and sub-clinical but could be a reason to not use inhaled GSH. Sulfite sensitivity results from a deficiency of the enzyme sulfite oxidase which breaks sulfites down into sulphates. Again, therapy with inhaled GSH should not be undertaken without medical supervision.