Complementary Approaches to Clearing Mucus

Feb 23, 2020 | Blog

The clearance of mucus is very important for individuals fighting pulmonary conditions. In cystic fibrosis (CF) and COPD the clearance of mucus is crucial to clearing bacteria pathogens to reduce the decline in lung function.

To understand how we can attack the clearance of mucus outside of the typical inhaled medication treatments, we need to first understand what we are working with.

What is Mucus?

Mucus is made up of 97% water, 3% solids and is secreted from cells and glands (goblet cells & submucosal glands) (Fahy & Dickey, 2010). In the airways, these cells line the surfaces (epithelia surface) and sweep across the airways picking up and removing waste from air inhalation. In normal conditions, mucus is secreted into the airway tract and traps inhaled particles. When mucus secretion is dysregulated, such as for individual’s with CF and/or COPD, airway mucus secretion increases, which leads to obstruction of the respiratory tract, reduces airflow, and can lead to an increase in inflammatory response within the respiratory tract. The hypersecretion increases ciliary dysfunction and oxidative stress on the respiratory tract. 

 

So, how can you potentially clear more mucus?

 

Step 1: Drink more water.

         The lungs are made up of around 80% water (Lange, & Schuster,1999). The mucus within the respiratory tract is comprised mainly of water. The lungs are estimated to lose 1/4th of the water consumed by the human body through respiration each day. Dehydration increases thickening at the airway surface layer, obstructs ciliary from moving mucus due to dehydrated mucus which leads to inhibition of mucociliary clearance.

Step 2: Strength Training and Cardio   

         Increase mucus build up can lead to an increase in inflammatory markers within the lungs. Increased inflammation causes an increase in oxidative stress and a decline in lung function over time. To combat against this, integrating resistance training and cardiovascular training into your weekly routine can help decrease some mucus build up. Research has shown that resistance training and cardiovascular training reduce oxidative stress markers, improve maximal oxygen consumption, and more importantly, increase mucociliary transit time (Silvaa et al. 2019). To keep it simple, when you move more, or at a greater intensity/frequency, the need for oxygen is going to increase. This increases breathing rate and heart rate, and through the rhythmic vibration, it also loosens up the mucus to be able to move out of your system.    

 

Step 3: Recovery

         After reading this you will want to get started right away, but you need to make sure you don’t push too hard to soon. Remember that exercising can increase inflammatory responses and induce neurological and muscle fatigue. Which is not to worry, it’s expected but you will need time to recover. Recovery between workouts is one of the most important aspects of exercising. People often over train and see less progress. Schedule rest days between hard workouts. On rest days you should focus on hydrating, sleeping, stretching, and your food intake. What you do outside of your workouts is more important than the actual workout itself.

 

Key Takeaways

         Let’s sum it all up so you can get going on clearing more mucus. Drink more water. Most people perform respiratory treatments in the morning when they wake up. Drink a glass of water within 30 minutes of waking up, or before your respiratory treatment, and also throughout the day. Integrate resistance and cardiovascular training into your weekly routine 2-4 days a week. If you are limited on time or days, you can split it up and work out half the time performing resistance training and the other half performing cardiovascular training. Last but not least make sure you integrate rest/recovery days into your exercise plan. Listen to your body. If your body is stiff, beaten down, or you feel like a zombie focus on stretching, drinking water, taking a nap, and getting your calories in for that day. Your body knows best. If you feel better, you will push yourself more and if you can push yourself more you can potentially improve mucociliary clearance.

 

Train Smarter, Not Harder

 

References

Fahy, J. V., & Dickey, B. F. (2010). Airway mucus function and dysfunction. The New England Journal of Medicine363(23), 2233–2247. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra0910061

Lange, N. R., & Schuster, D. P. (1999). The measurement of lung water. Critical Care3(2), R19–R24. https://doi.org/10.1186/cc342

Silva, B. S. A., Ramos, D., Bertolini, G.N., Freire, A.P.C.F., Leite, M.R. Camillo, C.A., L.A. Gobbo. L. A., & Ramos, E.M.C. (2019). Resistance exercise training improves mucociliary clearance in subjects with COPD: A randomized clinical trial. Pulmonology, 24(6), 340-347.

 

  

For more exercises check out our YouTube Channel: Cystic Fibrosis Fitness Institute 

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