Until last year, the IPF community had no FDA approved medications to treat Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Today we have two medications (OFEV and Esbriet). Both probably improve survival by slowing disease progression and decreasing the frequency of dangerous flares of the disease. Unfortunately, these medications do nothing to decrease some of the most troubling symptoms of IPF such as cough and shortness of breath.
Our readers have inquired about alternative medicine interventions in IPF. I encourage my patients to explore alternative treatments if they desire. However, be wary of scammers and promises that can’t be kept. The grander the promise, the greater the scam. Don’t use alternative medications to replace medicines and interventions based on good quality science. Don’t let your wish for an easy fix blind you to the cost and implausibility of claims made by snake oil salesmen.
There is a small craze over essential oils. These may be applied to certain parts of the body or even nebulized. The claims are tremendous. What they deliver is probably far short of the promises. That being said, I have no objection and would even encourage my patients to experiment with these interventions provided that the consumers proceed with open eyes.
If you are looking for a cure for IPF in essential oils, you will not find one. Some patients may experience improvements in symptoms. Essential oils should not be used as an alternative to medicines that are proven to be effective, nor should they be used as an alternative to participating in a research study.
Have you heard the claims that a tablet containing a proprietary blend of antioxidants and amino acids will cure IPF? Anyone that has searched the Internet has probably seen these advertisements. For a bargain price of several hundred dollars you can have a one-month supply. My advice is eat a balanced diet and pass on the expensive supplements. On the other hand, if you want to try taking cumin, cinnamon, garlic or other spices, proceed. Just don’t empty your bank account in the process.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
I think these are great supplements to western medicine. These techniques may offer some improvement in cough with minimal risk. The treatments are not cheap so don’t break the bank. Beware of overly ambitious promises.
The claims by some naturopaths can be quite amazing. I would be very skeptical in this area. These practitioners often like to diagnose metal toxicity syndromes and prescribe chelation therapy. There is no role for chelation therapy in IPF. There is no role for vitamin C infusion in IPF.
Prayer and Faith Healing
I long ago learned to accept help from all quarters in the treatment of progressive life threatening medical problems. While prayer is not going to cure IPF, using faith as a pillar of support and a coping mechanism is highly effective.