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About Breathlessness

Breathlessness is the feeling of being out of breath and could be a sign of illness if it occurs after a much lower amount of physical activity than would be expected.

It is acute if it starts suddenly and chronic if it gradually builds up over a longer period of time.

Western Medical View

The most common cause is being unfit, due to little exercise and is worsened by being overweight (and can be corrected by changing lifestyle).

Other common causes of acute breathlessness include:

  • Asthma Pneumonia (chest infection)
  • Heart failure
  • Lung disease
  • Hyperventilation.

Common causes of chronic breathlessness include:

  • Obesity
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Anaemia
  • Heart failure
  • Asthma.

Chinese Medical View

In Chinese Medical theory Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat cause obstruction to the lungs and stop the movement of Qi (the body’s essential energy), hence Qi builds up in the chest and causes acute breathlessness (Qi is also associated with each organ and either too much or too little Qi will have a negative effect on health).

External Wind is a common cause of chronic breathlessness; especially in children. This external Wind can cause interior Lung-Heat or Phlegm-Heat.

According to Chinese Medical theory acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be prescribed to treat breathlessness. A distinction is made in the CM theory between an Excess-type and Deficiency-type and both types can be treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

The treatment for Excess-type focuses on expelling the pathogenic factors from the body such as cold and wind, resolving phlegm and clearing away the heat. Whereas for the Deficiency-type the focus is on tonifying the body’s Qi (the essential vital energy), lungs and kidneys.

According to CM theory the treatment should also work to reactivate the descending of the trapped Lung-Qi.

Lifestyle Advice

Avoid eating too much fatty food, sugar, dairy, and raw-cold foods as these will lead to Phlegm which will stop the movement of Qi and cause breathlessness. Try to avoid stress, as worry will weaken the Lung and Spleen and lead to breathlessness. Try not to overwork, as this will weaken Kidney-Yin (and cause an insufficiency of body fluid) and will lead to chronic breathlessness.

For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation. Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.

For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation. Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.

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