Tuberculosis is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis, also commonly referred to simply as TB, needs to be treated very seriously because of the high risk of fatalities. Although primarily a respiratory infection tuberculosis can also infect and affect other organs of the body as the infection can spread via the lymph nodes and bloodstream. The bacteria can remain dormant in your body for years, with many individuals never experiencing any symptoms. If there is a weakening of the immune system however, the infection will raise its ugly head. If left untreated the infection is likely to be fatal, as it causes tissue death in the infected organ.
Tuberculosis is classified as a contagious disease as it is airborne. It is highly unlikely for anyone to pick up the infection from a single social contact however, but repeated or prolonged exposure to the bacteria will put you at risk of infection. This could include situations where you live with or work in close proximity to someone with an active infection. Even if infected it is not necessary that you will suffer from active tuberculosis, as only around 10% of those infected suffer from active infection, while in other cases the infection is said to be latent. In a latent infection there are no visible symptoms and the infection cannot be spread to others. A latent infection does pose the risk of turning into an active infection however, so it is advisable to seek medical treatment even if you have latent tuberculosis. Medical treatment can help eliminate the bacteria before you succumb to an active infection.
Tuberculosis was once widespread and caused a large number of fatalities across the world. With the advances in modern medicine and the birth of antibiotics the disease was brought under control from the 1950s. Tuberculosis cases saw a drastic decline, particularly in developed nations, but in recent times the disease has resurfaced. In its new avatar, the disease is even more deadly as what we are now faced with a multidrug resistant variety of the bacteria. This has created a public health crisis in many parts of the world.
While home remedies and self care may be of some help in dealing with tuberculosis, it should be pointed out that they are not an alternative to conventional medical treatment. While improved standards of living and higher levels of hygiene have contributed to the raised life expectancy in the last century, most of the credit goes to the developments in modern medicine. Medical treatments are the only safe and reliable treatment for tuberculosis, and should not be neglected, because of the high risk of fatalities. This is particularly important as many individuals tend to neglect treatment and do not adhere to instructions as soon as the condition seems to have resolved. This is the main reason for increased bacterial resistance to drugs. Home remedies for tuberculosis should not be used as an alternative to medical treatment, simply as a complimentary treatment to relieve symptoms and to facilitate recovery.
Symptoms of Tuberculosis
A latent tuberculosis infection shows no symptoms, as the infection is not active, and this can only be diagnosed through testing. When dealing with an active infection of tuberculosis the disease is characterized by severe coughing and weight loss. Symptoms of tuberculosis that you are likely to experience, when faced with an active infection include:
- A general feeling of malaise and fatigue.
- Severe coughing, that is likely to be prolonged. You would probably notice yellow or greenish mucus earlier, and in the later stages blood may also be noticed in the mucus.
- Labored breathing and shortness of breath are also common symptoms.
- Weight loss is another characteristic symptom, and you will also probably notice a loss of appetite.
- Mild fevers and night sweats may also be observed.
- There may also be a sensation of pain in the chest, kidneys, and, or in the back.
Do not delay medical attention with any attempts at home treatment or alternative cures. If you notice any of the symptoms of active infection, or have been exposed to someone with an active infection, seek immediate medical attention. This is particularly important if you live in a crowded environment or suffer from a weakened immune system because of diseases like HIV or diabetes, or are malnourished.
Although the symptoms of tuberculosis are very specific, it is best that you do not attempt any type of self diagnosis, as the symptoms can often be confused with other less serious diseases.
Causes of Tuberculosis
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the bacteria responsible for a pulmonary tuberculosis infection, which can be picked up by inhaling contaminated air droplets from the cough or sneeze of an individual suffering from an active infection. This type of infection is called primary tuberculosis. With appropriate treatment, most patients recover from this type of infection without further complications or evidence of the disease. But the infection may also remain dormant for years, and in some it may become active a later time. This is why diagnosis through medical testing is important even when there are no symptoms, if you have reasonable suspicion of exposure.
In many individuals who develop symptoms of active tuberculosis, the actual infection may have occurred in the past. In some cases however, the infection could become active in just a few weeks.
Individuals at highest risk of developing an active infection include:
- The aged
- Individuals with a compromised immune system like diabetics, AIDS patients, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and those on certain medications.
- Smokers are also at a much greater risk of suffering from active tuberculosis infection and complications
Under normal circumstances, the risk of contracting the disease itself increases, with frequent or prolonged exposure, malnourishment, or overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions. Similarly, the risk of widespread infections in a population increases with, higher number of HIV infections, larger population of homeless people with poor nutrition and living conditions, and most worrying is the appearance of strains of the tuberculosis bacteria that show multi drug resistance.
Remedies for Tuberculosis
Natural treatment can be extremely useful and effective for a variety of health conditions, but home remedies for tuberculosis can never suffice as treatment alone. There are no known natural cures for tuberculosis, and medical treatment with prescription drugs is absolutely essential to cure the disease and prevent a spread of the infection to others. This is not to say that natural remedies for tb have no use in treatment at all, but they should only be used as complimentary treatments, supporting conventional medicine.
The use of natural treatments may be directed towards relieving the symptoms, boosting immunity to facilitate the action of drugs, and also to counter any side effects from pharmaceutical treatment. Whether or not you are using any home remedies and have observed improvement in your condition, medications need to be taken exactly as prescribed. Do not attempt to skip or alter any drug dosages. This is the main cause of the emergence of multi drug resistant strains of the bacteria.
Here are some home remedies that you can use to support conventional treatment:
- Herbal remedies are quite popular and may help to hasten recovery. Herbal teas like green tea can help because of the high value in antioxidants and the immune strengthening effects associated with it.
- Garlic is another herb that is renowned for its antibacterial properties and immune stimulating effect, but you need to consult your health care provider before taking any garlic supplements. The risk of interactions with blood thinning medications in particular is considerable.
- Herbs like Astragalus and Rhodiola may also be helpful, but you should again consult with your doctor before attempting to use any herbal treatments, because of possible drug interactions.
- The use of aromatherapy with essential oils like eucalyptus and spearmint may also offer some relief from symptoms.
Diet for Tuberculosis
There is no specific diet in tuberculosis treatment, but here are some nutrition tips that could help minimize the risks and symptoms:
- Avoid any food allergens that could trigger symptoms like coughing.
- Eat a lot of vitamin B and iron rich foods like whole grains, and dark leafy vegetables.
- Include plenty of antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, tomatoes or bell peppers.
- Cut down on red meats and instead include more lean meats like sea food, poultry and beans or soy for protein.
- Avoid refined foods like bread and pasta and sugar rich foods.
- Avoid junk foods and fried foods or processed foods that are high in trans fatty acids, including baked products like cakes, cookies, donuts and more.
- Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks or other stimulants.
- When cooking only use healthy oils like olive oil.
Suggestion for Tuberculosis
Preventive measures are extremely important because of the difficulties treating tuberculosis. Get tested regularly if you are at risk of an infection. Diagnosis and treatment of the condition prior to the development of an active infection can greatly help to contain the disease.
- Griffith D, Kerr C (1996). "Tuberculosis: disease of the past, disease of the present". Journal of Perianesthesia Nursing 11 (4): 2405.
Tuberculosis - Frequently asked questions
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ayurvedic remedy for tuberculosis
suggested by ravindra on Friday, June 29, 2007
suggested by Nadeem on Tuesday, February 13, 2007