Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs characterized by inflammation of the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs or alveoli fill up with phlegm or pus resulting in shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. It is a chronic disease that could be fatal if not treated in good time. It occurs more in infants, old people and other invalids due to their vulnerability that is a result of weak immune systems. It can be treated easily upon early diagnosis but can result in complications leading to death if left untreated over long periods of time.
Types of Pneumonia
There are different types of pneumonia mainly classified from the cause. They include: Hospital acquired, community acquired, bacterial, viral and fungal pneumonia. A mild and less severe form of bacterial pneumonia is walking pneumonia which is quite common and often gone unnoticed as walking pneumonia symptoms are usually dismissed as a common cold; the only marker that could potentially raise alarm is difficulty in breathing and chest pain which manifests after a while if treatment is not administered early. It would take like two weeks after exposure for symptom of walking pneumonia to present.
Causes of Pneumonia
There are numerous causes and risk factors that may lead to pneumonia. Different strains can be caused by a virus, fungi or bacteria. Other risk factors include: complications of other upper and lower respiratory tract infections, low immunity, tuberculosis, HIV/aids, prolonged hospitalization, old age and inhalation of pollutants and other harmful compounds. Irrespective of the cause, treatment is quite similar, but additional drugs can be added depending on the condition of the patient.
There is no known vaccine to date that acts against total prevention of pneumonia. However, there are shots available for persons in high risk groups to reduce chances of getting infected. For other healthy individuals, they can reduce their chances of contracting it by keeping off sick persons, avoid smoking and alcohol consumption, eating a healthy well balanced diet rich in organic fruit and vegetables, proper hygiene and sanitation and lastly getting enough rest. Constantly exercising will also highlight any changes in the lungs or in breathing at an early stage.
Symptoms of Walking Pneumonia
These present themselves like a normal flu and the symptoms include a dry cough, sore throat, chest pain while breathing, fever and chills, headache, fatigue, malaise and loss of appetite. In advanced cases, nausea and vomiting have been acknowledged to be symptoms of pneumonia as well. Pneumonia is the most common infection of the lungs and any symptoms of pneumonia, walking, viral or whatever strain should not be ignored and it would help if medical assistance is sought with urgency.
Treatment of Pneumonia
Pneumonia is treated by use of antibiotics alongside other drugs such as anti inflammatory drugs. Cough syrup and painkillers can also be included to treat symptoms walking pneumonia may elicit in an individual. Dry cough is irritating to the throat, some individuals develop pain as a result of changes in breathing characterized by shortness of breath hence the use of painkillers.
Administration of drugs is solely dependent on the symptoms of the patient and may vary between individuals. Improved dietary intake also plays a huge part in the recovery process as some foods have been known to speed up recovery. Dietary focus for treatment bears emphasis on foods rich in anti inflammatory properties, antioxidants, immunity boosters, hydration as well as energy rich foods. All these combined help to fight off the infection and improve lung health in general.
Fluids in general are known to be beneficial for patients with pneumonia. Water in particular is beneficial and daily intake should be increased from the normal. Water will help to loosen mucus in lungs and to eliminate harmful toxins and foreign matter along the walls of the respiratory tract. This greatly contributes in keeping the lungs healthy. It also helps to relieve congestion clearing the airway and improving breathing. For treatment of chronic patients, proper hydration with water also will help to restore fluids lost through diarrhea and vomiting. This can be administered orally or in solution form for chronic patients where it is administered intravenously. In mild infection cases, steaming is recommended.
Inhaling the moist humid air helps loosen mucus along the lining of the air sacs in the lungs. Important to note is that one of the symptoms of pneumonia is fever which releases moisture slowly from the body in form of sweat. It is important to replace all the moisture being dispelled which is why drinking water is key. For patients with a dry cough or irritated throat, they can also gargle warm salty water to ease the discomfort.
Commonly referred to as body building foods, protein rich foods will help to repair worn out and damaged tissues in the body. It is a macro-nutrient for a reason and just like carbohydrates and vitamins, proteins are required in each meal to consider it balanced. Amino acids found in protein have anti inflammatory properties that could help pneumonia patients recover faster. Such foods include fish, meats, legumes and nuts. For vegan individuals who rely solely on plant based protein, they can consider incorporating protein bars or protein shakes in their diets to ensure they get all essential amino acids. Despite the nutritional value of these protein-rich foods, they also increase satiety especially with reduced carbohydrate intake in patients with pneumonia and other infection of the respiratory tract making them full longer.
Found in foods such as yogurt, they help in increasing good bacteria in the gut and to limit growth of the pneumonia causing agent in the body. Many fermented foods like Kimchi and pickles are also rich in probiotics. Once this good bacteria is introduced in the body it multiplies and helps the body to fight off disease.
Green Leafy Vegetables
These are rich in antioxidants which help to protect the body from harmful infection- causing pathogens. The various nutrients contained in these boost the immune system and help in healing the infected respiratory tract. These include vegetables like collard greens, spinach, broccoli among others. They are rich in water soluble vitamins as well as vitamin K coming only second to supplements which contain pure vitamin extracts.
Whole grains and cereals
They are a healthy source of complex carbohydrates which are broken down in the body to provide energy for the patient. For chronic patients, they experience body weakness and require a healthy source of energy such as whole grains and cereals. Examples are oatmeal, millet, barley, brown rice, and buckwheat found in whole wheat flour. They are also a source of vitamin B complex and micro nutrients such as selenium, magnesium, iron and folic acid. The micro nutrients increase the body’s ability to fight off infection and promote overall health.
Fruits are known to help in fighting off flu and respiratory diseases by boosting the immune system and enabling it fight infection more effectively. Citrus fruits in particular are beneficial to these patients as they are rich in vitamin C. Examples include oranges, lemon, grapefruit, lime and tangerines. Any foods, fruit or supplements containing vitamin C should be consumed to strengthen body immunity and fight off disease-causing pathogens. Pneumonia patients that are treated with antibiotics coupled up with better nutrition from a well curated diet have been found to recover faster. The wider the fruit variety consumed the more the vitamins and minerals are assimilated into the body.
Turmeric, Ginger and Honey
A staple in most kitchens, these are some of the oldest yet natural home remedies for many flu-like diseases. Turmeric and ginger are known for their anti inflammatory properties. Ginger and honey on the other hand posess antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and are commonly used to treat common cold and coughs. They can be used together as a concortion in hot water or separately. Ginger in warm water helps to soothe the throat and can help relieve chest pain. If taken in early stages, these three can suppress the infection completely without medical care. However, it is always advisable to seek medical advise for a proper diagnosis and prescription as per the condition. Home remedies may work but they are not worth taking the risk.
Are Eggs and Milk Good for Pneumonia?
While still on diet, there have been arguments over the years on the suitability of consuming eggs and/or milk for patients with pneumonia. Eggs are a rich source of protein and energy and would be a valuable addition to such patients. They are a source of healthy fats and contain amino acids that help to repair worn out tissue. They also contain antioxidants that keep the body healthy against harmful pathogens. Eggs also contain selenium which is good for the immune system and a healthy thyroid.
Milk on the other hand is debatable as a component of diet for an individual with mucus related illness. Consumption during respiratory illness has been associated with increased production of mucus. However, there is barely any scientific evidence linking milk directly as a cause for the same. There are also some fundamental aspects to be considered prior for the same to be true. The milk in question has to be A1, beta-CM-7, then it has to go through systemic circulation and at that very time the mucous tissue has to be actively inflamed. Since the effect is said to be milk makes mucus thicker providing a media to the pneumonia causing pathogens to thrive, it is advisable to consult your doctor before incorporating it in the diet.
Foods to Avoid
Other foods to avoid in the diet of these patients include starches, sugars, stimulants and fats. Alcohol should also be avoided while taking any medication. These foods promote the growth of the harmful bacteria and viruses which is why it is important to eliminate them from the diet. Caffeinated drinks such as sodas, tea and coffee have diuretic properties and should be avoided. This is because they lead to dehydration working against the objective to stay hydrated that is meant to help cure pneumonia.
Pneumonia and Weight loss
There is also the question on weight loss that comes up in many pneumonia related forums. Just like any other disease, the loss of weight is a common occurrence. This is a result of reduced appetite that translates to less calories being consumed in a day. Patients with advanced pneumonia have more harsh symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea that results in a rapid loss of nutrients exceeding the rate at which the same can be replenished. Inevitably, the patient will end up losing weight during the duration of these symptoms.
However, this is not characteristic of all cases as some individuals do not lose weight during the duration of illness. With proper nutrition management, even the chronic patients can pull through without any significant weight loss.
Some of the medication used in the treatment of pneumonia could also triggr nausea or induce vomiting leading to loss of nutrients and possible weight loss. However this is uncommon as the doctor is likely to counter this effect by switching up the prescription or introducing an additional drug to prevent the extreme side effects.
Patients with underlying conditions such as kidney, heart or liver disease are more likely to experience weight loss compared to other healthy patients. This is because already their immunity is conpromised, and with a new infection it becomes overwhelming on their bodies. Their eating habits are affected, gut health compromised, and as a result more nutrients are lost. Such patients need close monitoring and nutrition support which in dire cases calls for enteral or parenteral nutrition support.
As any other disease, its is prudent to get treatment early for a speedy recovery. Informed food choices and proper nutrition during this time is also crucial and it is advisable to consult your doctor, nutritionist or dietician for dietary recommendations.