Shortness of breath is a very common problem that most of us complain about from time to time. Medically known as dyspnea, shortness of breath means you are having difficulty breathing and feeling suffocated.
Breathlessness can be mild, moderate or severe. In some cases, people also experience anxiety or stress that makes the condition worse.
It is normal to experience some shortness of breath when you exceed your usual activity level or climb to high altitudes where there is less oxygen in the air. In such cases, breathing returns to normal after a rest period.
Shortness of breath, however, can also be due to a number of health issues. It can be caused by anemia, respiratory infection or disease, chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and allergies. It is a very common symptom in people suffering from lung cancer.
Most episodes of shortness of breath are not serious. However, contact your doctor if it starts suddenly without any obvious reason, occurs while at rest, keeps you awake all night and you have symptoms like fever, chest pain, tightness in the throat or chest and wheezing.
When suffering from dyspnea, it may be difficult for you to do something that you normally do with ease. It may even affect your daily activities as well as quality of life.
You can try incorporating some lifestyle changes, dietary changes and simple home remedies to manage this health problem. Also, consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause.
Here are the top 10 ways to manage shortness of breath.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Also called abdominal breathing or deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing can help manage your breathlessness. This technique is particularly helpful when you have shortness of breath due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Lie down on your back, put your hands on your abdomen and relax your muscles.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose, expanding your abdomen and then filling your lungs with air.
- Hold your breath for a couple of seconds.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth and empty your lungs completely.
- Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Do this breathing exercise 2 or 3 times a day.
2. Pursed-lip Breathing
Another common breathing technique that can help ease shortness of breath is pursed-lip breathing.
It can quickly slow your pace of breathing, helping you restore your normal breathing. It also helps relieve stress and anxiety.
- Sit comfortably and relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
- Keep your lips pressed together tightly, except the center.
- Inhale for a couple of seconds through your nose.
- Exhale slowly and gently through your pursed lips while counting to 4.
- Continue to inhale and exhale for another 10 minutes.
Try this breathing technique any time you begin to feel short of breath. Within minutes, you will start feeling much better.
3. Drink Black Coffee
A cup of black coffee can also help cure shortness of breath. The caffeine in coffee helps reduce respiratory muscle fatigue and improves airway function modestly. In addition, it may reduce asthma symptoms.
Drink 1 to 2 cups of strong, black coffee to relieve shortness of breath and restore your normal breathing.
Do not drink coffee in excess as it may raise your heart rate and blood pressure.
4. Steam Inhalation
If a respiratory problem is causing breathlessness, steam inhalation is a good option. It will help keep your nasal passages decongested.
In addition, the heat and moisture from the steam will help break up and dissolve mucus for easy elimination from the system.
- Fill a bowl with very hot water.
- Add a few drops of essential oil, such as eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil.
- Place your face over the bowl and a towel over your head.
- Inhale the steam, taking deep breaths for several minutes.
- Follow this simple remedy whenever you have nasal congestion.
As soon as the congestion clears, you will notice fewer episodes of breathing difficulty.
Ginger is another excellent expectorant that can help treat chest or nasal congestion that may cause breathing difficulty.
Several components in ginger help inhibit secretion of mucus to help you breathe easier. In addition, it helps fight off any kind of throat and respiratory tract infection.
- Drink 2 to 3 cups of ginger tea daily. To make the tea, add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped fresh ginger slices to 2 cups of boiling water. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain, add a little honey and sip the tea slowly.
- Also, chew small ginger pieces or ginger candies to get rid of congestion.
6. Eat More Beetroot
If your shortness of breath is due to anemia caused by iron deficiency, you can eat beetroot to improve your condition. Beetroot has high iron content as well as fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamins.
- Extract the juice of 1 medium-size beetroot, 3 carrots, a handful of spinach and ½ sweet potato in a juicer. Drink it once daily.
- Alternatively, roast 1 to 2 beetroots along with their peels on the stove. Allow them to cool, peel and then eat them with salt and pepper.
Also, include more iron-rich foods in your diet.
According to Ayurveda, fennel can help treat breathing problems. It has expectorant properties that help break up phlegm to treat respiratory disorders, such as congestion, bronchitis and coughs. In addition, the iron in fennel is helpful in treating anemia.
- Add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds to a cup of hot water. Cover and steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain, add raw honey and drink this fennel tea 2 or 3 times a day.
- You can also simply chew a spoonful of dry roasted fennel seeds.
8. Quit Smoking
Whether you are an active or passive smoker, cigarette smoke can cause many breathing problems, including dyspnea.
The harmful chemicals in it are the most important factor contributing to the development of respiratory and breathing problems. So, try to quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
Apart from helping you breathe with ease, it will reduce your risk of lung cancer. One of the major symptoms of lung cancer is shortness of breath.
If needed, consult your doctor and seek help from others to help quit smoking.
9. Enjoy Walking
Walking is a great cure for shortness of breath, which is common among overweight people. Regular walking helps improve your stamina and reduces episodes of breathlessness. It also helps you lose weight.
In addition, walking will provide distractions to help your subconscious mind restore your normal breathing.
Walk at a moderate pace for 30 to 60 minutes, 5 times a week, to boost your metabolism and increase your stamina.
10. Relaxation Therapies
Relaxation therapies like yoga and meditation can also help deal with breathing difficulties. Such therapies can increase blood and oxygen flow throughout your body and even slow down your heart rate. In addition, they can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can worsen your condition.
If possible, do yoga and meditation in an open area where you can breathe fresh and pure air.
To reap the benefits of yoga and meditation, do it on a regular basis and in the correct way. Learn these therapies from an expert.
- Keep a journal of when you experience shortness of breath, what makes it better and what makes it worse.
- If you have difficulty sleeping, try to sleep propped up with several pillows or in a recliner. You can also try to lie on your side with a pillow between your legs and your head elevated with pillows.
- Avoid sleeping in an overly warm room as it can worsen shortness of breath.
- You can even try changing your position to help relieve shortness of breath.
- When you begin to feel short of breath, stop what you are doing and rest until your breathing returns to normal.
- Instead of focusing on your breathing, try to distract your mind. This helps your subconscious mind take control of your breathing again.
- Take short breaks at regular intervals while doing strenuous activities to avoid shortness of breath.
- Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals at home or work.
- Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and thin out the mucus, making it easier to expel.
- Do not take any supplement or medicine without consulting your doctor.
- People with asthma may use an inhaler before exercising.
- Use a humidifier, especially in winter, as dry air thickens mucus and can make breathing difficult.