• Claire Best

Better breathing

I hope you don't mind me sharing this but a couple of weeks ago my mum was diagnosed with a respiratory condition. She's been living with rheumatoid arthritis for a long time so it may well be fibrosis, but the consultant thinks COPD. For a day or so I didn't handle the news well until I realised that, although her illness is beyond my control, there was still quite a bit within the realm of complementary therapy that could be used safely to support her - not aim to cure or replace medical treatment, but simply help. The positive ideas and changes we are suggesting to her are simple, good sense ideas and I think could benefit all of us. That's why I'm sharing the following ideas with you. Of course, you already know about smoking and exercise so I won't be going into that territory.

Firstly, we thought about her breathing techniques and stress levels post diagnosis: This isn't just for someone with a respiratory condition - anyone can use breathing techniques to support emotional wellbeing and strengthen lungs. Good breathing exercises can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our rest state, and deactivate the sympathetic nervous system which regulates our flight-or-fight response. If you would like some guided breathing practice, please take a look at this link: Wellbeing Hub | Full Circle Fund Therapies. These resources were created free-of-charge by the charity I work with and were aimed at patients, their families and medical staff to use during the pandemic. Our yoga and meditation teacher, Gabriele, recorded the breathing techniques, which I know my mum has found deeply relaxing and supportive. If you enjoy using the resource, there is the possibility of making a small donation to the charity. Secondly, we considered the air quality in her home: The NHS recommend avoiding 'strong smelling cleaning products' when living with COPD, but I guess we could all benefit from cleaner air. 1. Consider switching your cleaning products for these 3 ingredients: eco-friendly washing up liquid, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Add some machine washable cloths and a bowl of lemons and you have all you need. I promise it's not expensive and it's not complicated, otherwise I'd never have stuck at it for the past 3 years. For my 3 key ingredients, I buy in bulk from local company Cleaning products | Packaging free shopping | Naked Larder Herne Hill, who are based off Herne Hill Rd. Here's how I clean:

  • For sinks, the bath, kitchen surfaces, tables and painted woodwork: hot soapy water made from washing up liquid, a machine-washable cloth for each room.

  • For grubbier surfaces like cooker hobs there are options: a) fill an old spray bottle with water, a squirt of washing up liquid and a squirt of white vinegar; or b) make a paste of white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda; or c) by far the easiest, dip a half lemon in bicarbonate of soda and wipe away the grime. In fact, a lemon microwaved in a bowl of water also does wonders for the inside of the microwave.

  • For the loo: around the seat and rim you can wipe using a spray bottle of water, washing up liquid and white vinegar; for the bowl you can scrub with bicarbonate of soda and washing up liquid and for overnight, a squirt of white vinegar and a few drops of tea tree oil.

This is what we do but I am not an authority on whether these products clean 99.9% of bacteria and viruses so please do your own research, make your own judgement and find what works for you.


I must also add that I've used a more belt and braces approach as far as massage is concerned and have a sanitising spray for the couch, taps and door handles after using hot soapy water.


2. Replace air fresheners and plug-ins with an essential oil diffuser


Mum likes a nice smell in the flat but, again, the NHS advise against air fresheners and plug-ins. Instead I have bought her an essential oil diffuser - I was advised against an oil burner.


Essential oils need to be used safely so it's worth buying from a reputable company like Neal's Yard, Tisserand or Absolute Aromas.


It is also worth asking a trained aromatherapist for a consultation to indicate beneficial oils, contraindicated oils and safe usage.


I had a great phone consultation with Neal's Yard for mum's respiratory condition and came away with a list of frankincense, lavender and mandarin. See here: Virtual appointments with the Neal's Yard Remedies Team | Bespoke skincare (nealsyardremedies.com)


3. Swap spray deodorants and perfumes for natural alternatives.


There are plenty of alternatives on the market that don't involve spraying chemicals into the air near your face.


I've been making a natural deodorant in my food processor for years now. It's quick, cheap and effective. Even Mr B swears by it. It's a simple concoction of coconut oil, shea butter, bicarbonate of soda, arrowroot and some essential oil at a safe dilution. There are plenty of recipes if you look for them, but I am happy to share mine.


4. And, finally, fill your house with lots of lovely oxygenating plants!


I really hope you found some of the ideas and links helpful and that it inspires you to take steps to take good care of yourself. I also hope it shows how complementary therapies can work to support health. Please know that my intention is not to replace medical advice, simply to complement it. Always see a doctor if you have any concerns.


It's great to be back and I hope to see you again soon,

Claire x


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Claire Best

Holistic Massage Therapy
Herne Hill, London
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