The rise in air pollution, coupled with lousy lifestyle habits, is causing a spike in respiratory diseases. According to a Lancet report, the contribution of chronic respiratory diseases in India increased from 4.5 per cent in 1990 to 6.4 per cent in 2016. With respiratory issues on the rise, there is an increased demand for natural solutions to treat such issues. Instead of conventional medicine, people are turning to alternative medical therapies to find cures for ailments.
Common Lung Disorders
Bronchitis is a health condition that causes inflammation in the airways of the lungs. This leads to narrowing of the air pathways and excess mucus causes wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. It is a chronic condition that interferes seriously with daily life.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
It is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs the airflow to the lungs. Symptoms of COPD include breathing difficulty, mucus (sputum) production, coughing, and wheezing. It can result from long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. Those affected by COPD are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, and a variety of other conditions.
This is another variation of COPD. Bronchitis causes a similar build-up of mucus that can cause inflammation and coughing. The lungs' airways are constantly inflamed as chronic bronchitis often lasts for months on end. Symptoms of chronic bronchitis include incessant coughing, whistling sounds while breathing, wheezing and a tightening of the chest.
It is said that the cure for all ailments is available the natural way. Here are some of the alternative medicine approaches to treat respiratory disorders.
Alternative Medicinal Approaches to Treat Respiratory Disorders
Asthma is one of the most common lung diseases. One of the primary causes of asthma is allergies, which often result from the food consumed. It is crucial, therefore, to first prepare a diet that is suitable for an individual. Often, dairy products, meats, and certain nuts can increase the production of mucus.
Foods like these must be avoided. Also, antioxidants can prevent damage resulting from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Diet is important in this regard, as fruits and vegetables high in Vitamins A, C, and E can improve the condition of COPD patients.
Yoga and Exercise
Treatment of lung disorders often involves the use of the lungs to promote healthy breathing habits. Exercises like cycling, swimming, yoga etc. that create a need for full capacity breathing are of great importance. Exercising the diaphragm is important and simple activities can go a long way in the treatment of the same.
Pranayama, the practise of controlled breathing, is an integral part of alternative treatment for people suffering from respiratory issues. This extensive breathing practice helps to expand the lungs and improve the capacity of the lungs, which helps an individual breathe more freely.
Nasal irrigation systems like JalNeti using a Neti pot can help to rinse the sinuses, which may provide some relief from symptoms of respiratory allergies.
The traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into the skin to stimulate certain parts of the body. According to a study published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, people with allergic rhinitis who were given acupuncture treatments twice a week for eight weeks had fewer symptoms than those administered placebo.
It is important to remember that no one complementary or alternative therapy works well for everyone with respiratory issues. Therefore, a proper assessment is done before deciding on the approach to the treatment plan. For those considering alternative medicine for their respiratory problems, it is recommended to speak to an expert first and discuss the approach that may work best. (Vinoda Kumary, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute)
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Menstrual health comprises the physical, social and mental aspects related to menstruation or periods. In India, women's health has been given secondary importance due to a male dominant society, illiteracy, low socio-economic conditions and ignorance.
The most common causes of menstrual problems are PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), and abnormal or heavy menstrual bleeding. Menstruation or monthly periods have been associated with a lot of social and cultural taboos in India.
Many young girls and women do not have facilities to manage their menses hygienically, maintaining their privacy, dignity and gender equality at home, schools and workplaces.
So, what are normal periods? A normal menstrual period lasts from 2-7 days and comes at an interval of 21-35 days. It is difficult to quantify the actual menstrual flow. In general, use of three to four XL or regular size sanitary pads per day (since they need to be changed every six to eight hours) can be considered normal on an average, but it may vary depending on the individual.
Common Menstrual Problems
1. Menstrual hygiene
2. Menstrual flow
3. Menstrual cycle
4. Menstrual hormones
Menstrual Hygiene Related Problems: Use of unclean sanitary pads or clothes can give rise to genital tract infections, anaemia and urinary tract Infection. This can be prevented by social awareness and easy availability of affordable sanitary products. It is also important to have the right knowledge about menstrual hygiene to avoid such issues from taking place.
Menstrual Flow Related Problems: One can experience excess or scanty flow during periods. Usually heavy menstrual flow can be for 1-2 days but if it continues for more than 5-7 days, it can lead to low haemoglobin and anaemia. This definitely needs to be investigated and treated along with oral iron replacement therapy. The less flow or change in flow over years can be due to hormonal imbalance. This can occur mostly after completion of family in perimenopausal age.
Menstrual Cycle Related Problems: Irregular periods, skipping or not getting periods for more than six months (also known as secondary amenorrhoea) and bleeding in between periods (called inter menstrual bleeding) are a few problems under this type of problem. The most common cause for this is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), stress, anxiety and depression. Investigations in the form of pelvic sonography and hormonal investigations are necessary to make a diagnosis. Regular exercise, a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle changes are important.
Menstrual Hormone Related Problems: This usually gives rise to psychomotor issues. They can be symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) at any age group or peri/postmenopausal vasomotor symptoms after the age of 45. Bloating, breast tenderness, irritability and depression which occur premenstrually and disappear with onset of periods are classical symptoms of PMS. If they are affecting day to day family life, then it needs to be treated.
Every woman experiences menopausal symptoms in varying severity, starting usually 4-5 years before menopause. The night sweats, hot flushes, low moods, anxiety, irritability, joint and muscle pain, loss of interest in having sex, and weight gain are typical menopausal symptoms due to deficiency of oestorgen hormones.
No matter which type of menstrual problem you're facing, it is always advisable to visit a gynaecologist who will be able to identify all your queries after making the right diagnosis.
Nua, a new-age brand transforming the women's wellness space in India with holistic and personalised solutions that addresses real problems faced by women in managing their menstrual health and personal hygiene, provides an innovative range of products and services, including India's first customizable pack of sanitary pads and self-heating menstrual cramp patches, also available on a subscription basis. (Vaishali Joshi, #NuaExpert on Gynaecology, is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai)
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COPD also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders is a group of lung diseases that blocks airflow and makes it difficult to breathe. The most common of these diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Many people with COPD have both of these conditions. Emphysema slowly destroys air sacs in your lungs, which interferes with outward airflow. Bronchitis causes inflammation of the bronchi. COPD is a condition in which the disease worsens over time and it makes it difficult even to breathe. Asthma or Bronchitis is a very dangerous condition during pregnancy which causes fatigue, resulting in energy being diverted from the growing foetus.
Asthma can be hard to diagnose. To find out if you have asthma, your doctor takes your health history, does a physical exam and listens to your breathing.. You also may get a lung function test called spirometry. This is a test that checks how well your lungs work. During the test, you take a deep breath and exhale (blow) into a machine called a spirometer. This machine measures the amount of air you breathe in and out. It also measures how fast you can breathe. When you're pregnant, normal changes in your body can make you short of breath. This test can help your doctor know if shortness of breath is a common complication of pregnancy or if it's caused by asthma.
Treatment: Breathing Exercises with COPD
Pursed lip breathing
Pursed Lip Breathing
Pursed lip breathing has a range of benefits:
It's been shown to reduce how hard you have to work to breathe.
It helps release the air trapped in the lungs.
It promotes relaxation.
It reduces shortness of breath.
Practising this technique 4 to 5 times daily can help. Here's how to practice pursed-lip breathing:
While keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath in through your nose, count to 2. Follow this pattern by repeating in your head "inhale, 1, 2." The breath doesn't have to be deep. A typical inhale will do. Put your lips together as if you're starting to whistle or blow out candles on a birthday cake. This is known as "pursing" your lips. While continuing to keep your lips pursed, slowly breathe out by counting to 4. Don't try to force the air out, but instead breathe out slowly through your mouth.
Tip: Pursed lip breathing is best for performing strenuous activities, such as climbing stairs.
Feeling short of breath can cause anxiety that makes you hold your breath. To prevent this from occurring, you can practice coordinated breathing using these two steps:
Inhale through your nose before beginning an exercise.
While pursuing your lips, breathe out through your mouth during the most strenuous part of the exercise. An example could be when curling upward on a bicep curl.
Tip: Coordinated breathing can be performed when you're exercising or feeling anxious.
Deep breathing prevents air from getting trapped in your lungs, which can cause you to feel short of breath. As a result, you can breathe in the more fresh air.
Here's how to practice deep breathing:
Sit or stand with your elbows slightly back. This allows your chest to expand more fully.
Inhale deeply through your nose.
Hold your breath as you count to 5.
Release the air via a slow, deep exhale, through your nose, until you feel your inhaled air has been released.
Exercise tip: It's best to do this exercise with other daily breathing exercises that can be performed for 10 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times per day.
When you have COPD, mucus can build up more easily in your lungs. The huffing is a breathing exercise designed to help you cough up mucus effectively without making you feel too tired.
Here's how to practice the huffing:
Place yourself in a comfortable seated position. Inhale through your mouth, slightly deeper than you would when taking a normal breath.
Activate your stomach muscles to blow the air out in three even breaths while making the sounds "ha, ha, ha." Imagine you're blowing onto a mirror to cause it to steam.
Exercise tip: A huff should be less tiring than a traditional cough, and it can keep you from feeling worn out when coughing up mucus.
The diaphragm is an important muscle involved in the work of breathing.
People with COPD tend to rely more on the accessory muscles of the neck, shoulders, and back to breathe, rather than on the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing helps to retrain this muscle to work more effectively. Here's how to do it:
While sitting or lying down with your shoulders relaxed, put a hand on your chest and place the other hand on your stomach.
Take a breath in through your nose for 2 seconds, feeling your stomach move outward. You're doing the activity correctly if your stomach moves more than your chest.
Purse your lips and breathe out slowly through your mouth, pressing lightly on your stomach. This will enhance your diaphragm's ability to release air.
Repeat the exercise as you are able to.
Protect Your Lungs during Pregnancy
Since you're essentially breathing for two, take these steps to protect your lung health and your infant's health:
Tell Your Doctor About Any Shortness of Breath- There can be many reasons for shortness of breath in pregnancy. Pregnant women are no strangers to shortness of breath. Early pregnancy hormone surges and, later, the weight and bulk of your expanding womb restrict your breathing. If you're feeling short of breath, and you're worried about it for any reason, let your doctor know.
Ask for A Lung Function Test- While the parameters for the test might change as your pregnancy progresses, the simple, noninvasive lung test called spirometry can help your doctor check on your breathing.
Manage Asthma- Uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy puts both babies and you at risk. If you've been lax about your asthma medications, it's time to update your routine for pregnancy and then stick to it.
Avoid Cigarette Smoke- Don't smoke, ban smoking at home, and avoid all environments where you are exposed to cigarette smoke.(Suryalakshmi Paleri, Executive Physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group Of Hospitals, Bengaluru (Malleshwaram))
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Recent medical advances have made breast cancer a highly manageable disease, especially when detected early, as in the case of stages 0-to-II cancers.
Timely treatment also minimises disruptions to the patient's daily routine and quality of life. Advancements in digitalisation have also greatly benefited women, as they can easily access information through YouTube on how to self-examine themselves and learn about breast anatomy or changes in breast structure that should be brought to the notice of specialists immediately.
Women above the age group of 20 -25 years should examine themselves monthly, and those above 40 years of age should go for mammography at regular intervals. With earlier breast cancer detection, the survival rate increases to 80 per cent (Stage 1 and stage 2), as compared to 56 per cent in Stage 3 and stage 4.
In India, however, early treatment is the exception rather than the norm. By the time most patients are diagnosed, they are already in stage III or IV of the disease, where treatment modalities are more complex. Additionally, the stigma of living with breast cancer can hamper the patients' quality of life in physical, psychological, and social terms.
Mental health counselling, family and institutional support, and new drugs and modalities can help women at all stages of breast cancer to improve life expectancy, health, and overall happiness, thus ticking all the boxes for improved life quality.
Stigma And Suffering
One in 28 Indian women is at risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime. As per a CII report, the median age for diagnosis is 46 years, and nearly half of all diagnosed women are premenopausal, i.e., relatively young compared to breast cancer patients in Western nations.
The concern, though, is that at the time of diagnosis, around 70 per cent of Indian women are already in stage III or stage IV (known as metastatic breast cancer, or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body). While getting screened early may seem like an evident solution, however, low awareness and culturally ingrained stigmas still prevent many women from getting the timely help they need.
Due to cultural factors and social taboos, women do not get checked for breast cancer or share their symptoms with others, thereby leading to delayed diagnosis. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only amplified the burden of our healthcare system, magnifying these delays.
A QOL-Itative Approach
Focusing on patients' QOL means helping them thrive on the physical, emotional and social parameters by improving their all-around experience of the disease. New hope has also come in the form of targeted therapies that shrink or remove tumours by disabling specific proteins on cancerous cells to block their growth.
These therapies, which can often be taken orally, allow patients to bypass chemotherapy and related harsh side effects. Targeted therapies are proving more effective than chemotherapy in extending the survival rates of patients with stage III or IV cancers up to 5-8 years even if a patient is diagnosed at a metastatic stage.
The rise of non-invasive, chemo-free targeted therapies is opening a new front in the battle against advanced and metastatic breast cancer. By reducing or eliminating frequent hospital visits and the side-effects they earlier took for granted, it is possible to enhance patients' physical and psychological well-being and to help them live longer with dignity and independence.
Breast cancer doesn't mean the end of life. Today, treatment options for breast cancer have advanced, giving hope to patients even in advanced stages. Nowadays, due to government policies (Ayushman Bharat), every woman, regardless of her social strata, can avail of world-class cancer treatment in medical facilities across the country.
Even in advanced stages, families should not lose hope, as newer drugs such as molecular therapy treatment have proven effective for patients suffering from hormone-positive breast cancer, which is the most common form of cancer among Indian women. As many as 60 to 90 per cent of patients respond to these advanced treatments positively, enabling them to lead an enhanced quality of life. With such innovations, cancer can be viewed as a chronic disease that needs management.
Awareness-building and sensitisation are key. Educating women and girls in urban and rural contexts about breast cancer, the importance of regular self-monitoring, and de-stigmatising medical examinations and advanced treatment options, so that they can maximise their chances of identifying and beating the disease.
It would also help address psychosocial impacts like anxiety, depression, or fear by making therapy or psychiatry facilities accessible, affordable, and un-stigmatised for patients. This would also include teaching families and communities to support patients by accompanying them for treatments, helping with chores, spending time with them, and not letting them feel like a "burden".
The late American writer John Diamond said that cancer is "a word and not a sentence". However, for lakhs of women, breast cancer is a life-changing reality. While conventional treatments for breast cancer are constantly evolving and their efficacy is undeniable, life after a breast cancer diagnosis is about more than survival (extending the patient's life) or pain management (alleviating physical discomfort). What's required is a holistic approach towards improving the quality of the patient's life and this is being understood today. (Padma Shri Pankaj Shah, Medical Oncology Haematology, Zydus Hospital, Ahmedabad)
Read More► Is Pregnancy Related Low Back Pain Sciatica?
Low back pain effects approximately 50 to 80 per cent of pregnant women. There are numerous etiologies for pregnancy-related back pain, such as mechanical effects of gravid uterus, positional stressors, and hormonal effects resulting in pain at pubic symphysis and sacroiliac joint.
Lumbar radiculopathy or true sciatica is rare and accounts only for 1 per cent of low back pain in pregnancy.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is also known as lumbo-sacral radicular syndrome defined as a radiating pain along the course of the sciatic nerve. The pain travels from the lower back, buttocks, posterior of the thigh, leg and the foot. It can be a deep, dull pain or a shooting, sharp pain. Sciatic pain can range from mild to severe. It often resolves with treatment.
Causes of Sciatica During Pregnancy
Sciatic pain is typically caused by lumbar spine problems, such as:
A bulging or herniated disc
Spinal narrowing or stenosis,
Osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease
These situations can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing symptoms. Sciatica due to a herniated disc during pregnancy isn't common. But, sciatic-like symptoms are common with low back pain in pregnancy.
Sciatic like symptoms can also be caused by
Muscle tension and unstable joints
Pelvic bone pain
Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction
Pelvic Girdle Pain (pelvic bone pain)
Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) describes pain in the joints that make up your pelvic girdle; this includes the symphysis pubis joint (SPJ) at the front and the sacroiliac joints (SIJ) at the back. Majority of pregnancy-related low back pain is PGP and is often misdiagnosed as sciatica.
PGP discomfort is often felt over the pubic bone at the front, below your tummy, or across one side of your lower back, or both sides. At the front, below your tummy, or across one side of your lower back, or both sides. A diagnosis of PGP can be reached based on certain signs and symptoms that you may experience during the pregnancy or afterwards. Having one or more of them may indicate the need for a physiotherapy assessment followed by advice on appropriate management.
You may experience pain in all or some of the areas shaded in the diagrams above. You may also experience the following:
Pain when standing on one leg (e.g. Climbing stairs, dressing, or getting in or out of the bath)
Pain or difficulty moving your legs apart (e.g. Getting in or out of the car)
Clicking or grinding in the pelvic area you may hear or feel this
Limited or painful hip movements (e.g. turning over in bed)
Difficulty lying in some positions (e.g. On your back or side)
Pain during normal activities of daily life
Pain and difficulty during sexual intercourse
With PGP, the degree of discomfort you are feeling may vary from being intermittent and irritating, to being very upsetting.
This is a problem with one of the main stabilizing muscles in the buttocks. This is a common cause of sciatic pain during pregnancy and can present with PGP. This is due to the tightness of the muscle and change in posture in pregnancy.
Piriformis syndrome can be due to both muscle pain from the baby's weight that can also add stress to SI joint because it puts extra pressure on your pelvis and hip joints. Occasionally, the position of your baby can add pressure to your sciatic nerve.
Obesity or weight gain (including weight gained during pregnancy)
Prolonged sitting can also increase risk of developing sciatic pain
Muscle tension and stress to the pelvic joints, sacroiliac joint problem
Symptoms of Sciatic Pain During Pregnancy
Occasional or constant pain in one side of your buttocks or leg
Pain along the sciatic nerve path, from the buttocks down the back of your thigh and to the foot
Sharp, shooting, or burning pain
Numbness, pins and needles, or weakness in the affected leg or foot
Difficulty walking, standing, or sitting
Activities to Avoid
Avoid sitting for long periods
Avoid doing pain exaggerating activity
Do not lift heavy weights often and beyond your ability
Warm packs or cold packs depending on the comfort
Rest from the pain exaggerating activity
Managing weight gain during pregnancy
Sleeping on the side that is not affected
Use a pillow for comfort and support
Stretches (as per recommend by your physiotherapist)
If the symptoms persist it is recommended to consult your Obstetrician and get referred to see a physiotherapist. These sign and symptoms should not be dismissed as normal aches and pain. (Shazia Shadab, Senior Physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals (Jayanagar))(By Shazia Shadab)
Read More► Why Are Cancer Cases Rising in India?
Although India has, for a long time, battled the incidence of cancer, latest estimates pegs them to be rising at significantly higher rate. Once thought of as an old age disease, cancer is now a cause of concern also among the youth and children.
National Cancer Awareness Day is observed every year on November 7 in India, to increase awareness about cancer prevention and the need for its early detection.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there will be an estimated 12 per cent rise in cancer cases in India in the next five years.
Longer life expectancy is a major contributor to the overall cancer incidence. As people grow old, their bodies have longer time to allow faults to build up and the body accumulates more of these faults in the genes, considerably increasing the risk of cancer.
"Larger proportion of older individuals is the first cause of increased cancer numbers. The higher the proportion of older age in the population, the higher is the chance of cancer," Wesley M Jose, Clinical Associate Professor, Medical Oncology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, told IANS.
Further, males (52.4 per cent) are more prone to the risk of all cancer cases compared to females (47.4 per cent). Tobacco use is the major reason comprising 48.7 per cent of cancers among males and 16.5 per cent among females.
A recent report states that the number of cancers associated with tobacco use in 2025 would be 4,27,273 contributing to 27.2 per cent of India's total projected cancer cases. Initiation of tobacco, known to contain at least 69 cancer-causing agents, in the youth is a contributory factor to the increased burden of cancers associated with tobacco use in India.
"Tobacco cessation will reduce the cancer burden by about 25 per cent. The major contributing factor being tobacco and ghutka consumption that directly accounts for 27 per cent of cancers in India," Murad E. Lala, Oncologist at P.D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mahim, Mumbai, told IANS.
"We all know that oral and lung cancer that affects our male population to the maximum can be prevented by curbing smoking and tobacco consumption. We need to start thinking of some unhealthy foods similar to what we think about tobacco unnecessary, addictive, and harmful," said Anil Heroor, Director-Advanced OncoSurgery Unit, Fortis Hospitals Mumbai.
Apart from tobacco, alcohol, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and environmental factors also contribute to the increase in cancers.
"The overall living circumstances of the Indian population have improved and that have also led to a larger sedentary workforce, which has access to a high-calorie diet. These factors indirectly have affected the rise in numbers," Jose said.
"Nearly six types of cancers are linked to obesity and are slowly on the rise among people under 50. These are cancers of the colon or rectal, pancreas, kidney, gallbladder, uterine (also called endometrial cancer), and multiple myeloma. These Cancers are often not discovered in younger people until the disease is advanced and harder to treat," Heroor said.
Childhood cancer is also seeing an increasing trend, mainly of leukemia and lymphomas. Childhood (0-14 years) cancers constitute 7.9 per cent of all cancers, according to ICMR.
"The common types of cancers in children are leukemias, lymphomas, CNS tumours, retinoblastomas and Wilm's tumours. While most of the childhood cancers are curable if detected early and treated appropriately, children in India have limited access to tertiary centres that treat childhood cancers. This delay in treatment causes the survival rate to drop," Jose said.
The cancer burden in the country can be reduced by strengthening the government health systems, making universal health coverage, health education, treatment compliance, and early detection centres at the community level.
Besides, vaccination for virus-related cancer like liver and cervix, and improved physical activity, stricter tobacco and alcohol laws can also help, the experts suggested. (IANS)
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