The Different Medical and Natural Remedies for the Treatment of IPF

With the documented success rate and benefits of naturopathic treatment for various chronic illnesses, it is hard for patients not to consider how natural remedies might help with their personal diagnosis. Natural remedies such as the use of essential oils or organic supplements, and those grounded in Chinese medicine such as acupuncture and herbal medicines, are gaining traction for their benefits in treating various diseases.

Medical Remedies
For someone with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), the sad truth is that the treatment options are currently limited and the prognosis of survival beyond three to five years remains poor. This is because Western medicine or the traditional medical treatment of this disease includes just two approved anti-fibrotic medications that are used to slow down the progression of fibrosis in the lungs.

There currently aren’t any medications that a patient with IPF can take to stop or reverse the fibrosis and damage in the lungs, leaving the only real “cure” to IPF being a double lung transplant. For those who don’t want to endure organ transplantation for personal or health reasons, or for those who can’t withstand such a surgery, the other options for treating, or even for living better with IPF are few. That is unless a patient considers natural remedies for the treatment or management of their disease.

MORE: Four tried-and-true tips for coping with a chronic illness

Natural Remedies
When considering natural remedies for the management of IPF, it is hard to know where to begin. The Internet is filled with a plethora of information about naturopathic options to treat chronic illness, and some of it is legitimate and credible, however much of it is not. This is where patients have to be careful.

The other consideration is that often times, natural remedies target a symptom of a disease that is contributing to a vicious cycle of other symptoms or an overall decline in a person’s health. For example, patients with IPF are familiar with inflammation both in the lungs and joints, as often times rheumatoid arthritis goes hand in hand with the diagnosis of IPF.

A naturopathic treatment for reducing inflammation could include the use of certain essential oils or acupuncture, which can improve mobility and patients’ joints, enabling them to be more active and reducing their pain levels. Reducing inflammation in the lungs would also likely increase the process of oxygenation, which is something IPF patients struggle with as their disease progresses.

This is just one example of how natural or Chinese medicines may be used to target a symptom of chronic illness that causes a patient pain, immobility or reduced ability to breathe and how eliminating or treating that symptom could benefit patients, particularly those living with IPF. This all being said, it is incredibly important to speak with a doctor, as well as other professionals who have access to credible literature on how natural remedies might help in the treatment of specific chronic illnesses.

MORE: Three professionals to talk to before traveling with IPF/PF

The Debate
The debate about the use of traditional medicine versus natural remedies for the treatment of chronic illnesses across social media, television (both fictional and non-fictional series), and medical journals, as well as among patients remains a very controversial topic.

There are documented success stories of people claiming to cure their chronic illness, or at least alleviate symptoms naturally. As a result, it’s hard for patients not to consider an alternative to Western medicine, especially for diseases where treatment options that are known to work are rare, such as IPF.

MORE: Four breathing exercises for pulmonary fibrosis

Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

13 comments

  1. Lea says:

    I want there to be more info on this!!

    First, I don’t have an IPF diagnosis. I have a diagnosis of ILD, with no clue of why. Non smoker. Never exposed to environmental disease risks. And so on. Any helps that I come up with may not apply to others.

    Second, my symptoms occur in flare ups, i.e., 3-day to 5-day periods of time when my oxygen will not increase not matter what I try, and I just want to sit in a recliner until it is over.

    Third, I ain’t even close to 30.

    Now.

    Chocolate has become my “go to” medicine for rough days. I’m looking for safe chocolate recipes, that don’t increase my likelihood for allergic reaction.

    Cannabis oil increases my oxygen for about 3 hours. It became legal and my son, anxious for a cure, ran out and bought it for me. The label says 3 drops, but I only use 1-2 drops. It seems to also lower my blood pressure. I don’t need low blood pressure, so I don’t use a lot.

    A supplement called N-A-G helps with gastric issues.

    Olive oil has become my skin soother for nasal scabs.

    Serrapeptase has done nothing noticeable.
    Grapeseed oil is good for my nasal sores, but causes nausea.
    N-A-C has done nothing noticeable.
    Vick’s Vaporub and similar products only agitate my allergies.

    Thank you for allowing comments here so that I can share!

  2. My Father really enjoyed Reflexology sessions as a means of an alternative therapy to provide relief. I’ve also had other family members who have found it useful with mental health illnesses. I am a big believer in natural remedies and essential oils, alongside the use of traditional medicines when used correctly. Something as simple as lavender oil to calm helps me in day to day life and as a hand lotion I encouraged my Dad to use it to moisturise his hands but also to distract from times when he was feeling anxious xx

  3. Ruth Ridgway says:

    Are there two types of Pulmonary Fibrosis?
    My pulmonologist told me that I won’t die from this, I would die from something else.

  4. Nick Hill MD says:

    By seeming to equate the efficacy of the available IPF medications and natural remedies, the article by Charlene Marshall on natural remedies is misleading and does patients a disservice. It undervalues the approved medications – they clearly slow the progression of the disease and perfenidone (and probably nintedinib) improves survival. No natural remedies have been shown to do either of those. The natural remedies are unproven when it comes to interstitial lung disease and there’s no debate about that. I tell patients to check with their doctor before using a natural remedy to make sure it is likely to be safe and not to break the bank! They do sometimes make people feel better for a variety of reasons (including the placebo effect)and many of them can be taken with the medications.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hello Mr. Hill,

      Thank you for contributing your comments to my column, I appreciate the time anyone takes to read and respond to my work.

      My recent column was not meant to equate the efficacy of the available IPF medications and natural remedies, as you say. I agree that there is exceptional work being done and studies that publish the success of medications that slow the development of fibrosis in the lungs. I am on these medications and am grateful for what it has been able to do for me. I also encourage everyone to speak with their Doctor about natural remedies first and foremost, which is what I have done. I have been approved to try certain natural remedies to help with my IPF, and if others want to do this as well then I encourage them to do that. Everyone is entitled to the treatment options that suit them individually, as the side effects of anti-fibrotic medications are often unpleasant and are not worth it to some patients I have spoken with. The fact that there is no known standard treatment and care for IPF (although this is getting clearer, which I know patients including myself really appreciate) that is applicable to everyone, there is a large responsibility on patient’s to consider all their options in not only treating their disease but alleviating side effects and symptoms as well. There may not be any literature supporting the use of natural remedies and IPF/ILDs, however, there are a number of patients who have good things to say about different naturopathic options that have helped them in the management of their disease. Perhaps this is the placebo effect, but unless you are living with the daily struggles of IPF, you cannot possibly understand the desperation to alleviate the symptoms or side effects of this disease and if natural remedies help to do that legitimately or via the placebo effect, the important thing is that there is some relief.

      In summary, absolutely patients should check with their Doctor first about any natural remedies. That being said, I think this is an individual choice and if patients want to try these options let them without argument. Western medicine and the intensity of some medications are not worth it to some patients and this should be an individual’s choice.

      Thank you again for your comments.

      Charlene.

      • Love your reply, Charlene. Very balanced and respectful. I found your column very informative and in no way misleading. As a patient, it has provided me with wonderful information, which I will carefully consider. Like you, I always run any treatments by my doctor. I have found some doctors very open to natural remedies, and others will not consider them unless there are mounds of research supporting them. Somehow, volumes of patients reporting their experiences doesn’t count. Crazy, huh? I appreciate you sharing so freely your experience, and appreciate your column so much.

    • Hey Nick, I’m sure you had the best of intentions in your comment above. I can tell that you care deeply about your patients, and want them to be helped, not harmed. That’s a good thing. However, your zeal to make sure patients get the full picture came across harsh and insulting, “the article by Charlene Marshall on natural remedies is misleading and does patients a disservice.” First, this is not true. Second, I know your comment came from a good place. I would encourage you to remember in the future that this column is being written by a patient who is doing her best to survive, and is brave to offer her experiences to other patients. Please remember we are patients with tender hearts and we have valuable information to share about the day in and day out of living with a terminal illness. The information you have to share is important. Please deliver it more kindly in the future.

    • Vic says:

      Dr. Hill it is disingenuous to say that natural remedies are unproven. The reality is that synthetic drugs like OPEV and Esbriet have had multiple high-level medical investigations because, like other synthetic drugs that didn’t make it to market, because there is an economic incentive behind finding a product that shows results. Look both are $90,000/year and that is the recoup cost for finding a medicine for a rare disease. There is an article on lycopene use in induced PF rats that show great results for rats fed tomato juice. One can of tomato juice a day is $1, $365/year. But there are no studies on the effective dose of tomato juice in PF humans not because tomato juice is not effective but because there are not the research dollars to get through the rigors of FDA approval. The same goes for propolis, a plant substance collected by honeybees. Who would fund these investigations and be able to recoup the costs of the study? So reality is not that natural treatments are not effective, instead that no one financially sponsors natural treatments through to the rigors of drug investigation. Usually those studies, even positive ones are stuck at the animal level.

  5. Chuck says:

    Hello All. I have sarcoidosis of the lungs. In the 6-8 times it has caused me discomfort and chest pressure, 1,000,000 I. U.’s daily of serrapeptase has brought relief, but not this time. So much to my dismay, my MD has just put me on prednisone. He said he knows nothing of natural or holistic treatment for sarcoidosis. He is trying to find me a Dr. who has expertise with lung sarcoidosis. I have read on health websites of some getting great results by using food grade hydrogen peroxide or a baking soda solution and using it in a nebulizer.

    • Jim W says:

      Vincent, my pulmonologist said that stem cell might work in the future but so little is known about it and how to use it that it is not for right now. Maybe some day. In the meantime, be very skeptical.

  6. Jim W says:

    Charlene, Thanks for your column and the opportunity to commend and comment. In year five of IPF I am willing to try something beyond FDA and that is Chinese herbs. I have not spoken to my pulmonologist about this but did mention it to a research doctor and got the eye-roll response followed by this is not approved by FDA. The Chinese have been treating lung problems for a couple of centuries before FDA and using herbs and other stuff I don’t want to know about, with apparent success. It is too soon to say if they are working, and indeed, I continue to decline so don’t know if the uninsured cost will pay off or not. I also get acupuncture for inflammation which has no side effects like Prednisone does. I just want to be positive in my response to your bringing up a subject we IPFers wonder about. I hope I can respond later to report that the Chinese herbal tea works way better than it tastes.

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