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Vitamins to Boost Health if You Have Emphysema

Karen Frazier
Coughing Man
expert checked

Emphysema affects nearly two million Americans annually, which may lead you to speculate about vitamins for emphysema. This obstructive lung disease is irreversible, but certain supplements may help slow its progression.


Emphysema is a progressive lung disease that is one of a group of diseases known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The disease affects the alveoli of the lungs, causing airway collapse during forced exhalation. This results in air becoming trapped in the lungs. The primary symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath, and sufferers are unable to get enough oxygen or adequately expel carbon dioxide from the lungs.

Emphysema is irreversible and progressive. In other words, it continues to worsen as time passes, and changes to the lungs brought about by emphysema can't be undone. Treatment for emphysema focuses on slowing the progression of the disease, improving quality of life, and treating symptoms.

Vitamins for Emphysema

One of the biggest problems for patients with emphysema is adequate nutrition, so vitamins may help to assure proper nutrition. Research studies have been done that look into vitamins and emphysema with some interesting results.

Vitamin A

Science Daily reports a link between cigarette smoke, vitamin A deficiency and emphysema. According to the findings of a Kansas State University study discussed in the article, smokers who were deficient in vitamin A were more likely to develop the disease than those who weren't. While vitamin A supplementation won't cure emphysema, the study points to its preventative qualities among populations who smoke. Medical News Today, however, reports that a Geffen School of Medicine Study showed little or no clinical benefit from vitamin A retinoids for patients with emphysema.

Antioxidant Vitamins reports that during exacerbation episodes of COPD, the levels of the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E were low, and suggests that supplementation of these antioxidant vitamins may reduce the risk of free radical damage that can exacerbate outbreaks of emphysema. Taking these vitamins may help prevent lung injury during cases of inflammatory flare-ups of the disease.


Coenzyme Q10 blood levels in people with emphysema are lower than levels in people without the disease, Peace Health suggests. Patients in a CoQ10 study were given CoQ10, and while the supplement didn't lead to a change in lung function, there was increased blood oxygenation. Exercise performance and heart rate improved as well. While CoQ10 supplementation may have some positive effects, the end result for emphysema treatment remains unclear.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The same Peace Health article suggests that Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is correlated with a decreased risk of COPD including emphysema, but that there are no research findings suggesting that it can help to slow the progress of the disease or lessen symptoms associated with emphysema. Omega-3 fatty acids occur naturally in fatty fish, flax seeds and some nuts. You can also get Omega-3 fatty acids by supplementing with fish oil, walnut oil or flaxseed oil.


L-carnitine is an amino acid shown to help improve muscle function during exercise. A 1986 study into L-carnitine and chronic respiratory insufficiency showed that L-carnitine led to improved breathing response during exercise.

Medical Intervention

If you have, or suspect you have, emphysema, medical intervention is absolutely necessary. The repercussions of emphysema can be quite severe, so you should never attempt to treat it using only vitamins and supplements without proper supervision of a qualified medical professional. While there is research that suggests certain supplements may help prevent emphysema, treat symptoms or improve quality of life issues associated with the disease, vitamins for emphysema will neither reverse nor cure it, and very little is known about how they will affect the progression of the illness. Work with your doctor to make nutritional therapy a part of your overall treatment, which will likely include lifestyle choices like quitting smoking, as well as medical modalities.

Vitamins serve important functions in the body. If you eat a balanced diet filled with a variety of healthy foods, it is unlikely that you will require supplementation. In the case of treatment for emphysema and other types of COPD, little is known about the overall effects vitamins will have on the illness.

Vitamins to Boost Health if You Have Emphysema