A healthy set of lungs is a crucial component of general health and well-being. Those with a mind for lung health have recently been startled by the term “lipoid pneumonia” or “lipid pneumonia” and its implications for easy breathing.
In short, lipoid pneumonia refers to a condition where oils or fats enter the lungs and create an inflammatory condition in the respiratory system. This could be frightening because oils, waxes, and fats are all prevalent lipids in the modern world, and individuals can only imagine the countless ways in which they could be inhaled.
However, learning more about this fairly uncommon condition can provide some peace of mind and direction in caring for your lungs.
What Is Pneumonia?
In a healthy breath, air enters the nose or mouth and is pulled into the trachea before being sent into the lobes of the lungs through large tubes called bronchi. From the bronchi, air is sent into many smaller tubes called bronchioles, before being directed into over 600 million tiny air sacs called alveoli.1
The alveoli are highly-elastic and inflate and deflate as individuals breathe in and out. They are all clasped in a net of tiny blood vessels called capillaries that absorb oxygen from each inhalation and deliver carbon dioxide to be exhaled.
The lungs have defense mechanisms to keep foreign enemies at bay. The trachea and bronchi are lined with mucous and small, finger-like villi that catch contaminants and deliver them to be expelled through the mouth and nose. However, if these defenses become overwhelmed, this process can become compromised.
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Pneumonia occurs when inflammation occurs in the alveoli. This is most often caused by foreign elements like bacteria, viruses, fungus, or parasites that have passed through the body’s defense mechanisms and caused infection in the air sacs. This infection fills the alveoli with fluid and causes getting enough air with each breath to become very difficult.
Pneumonia can be lobar, meaning only a portion of one lobe is affected, or it can be bronchopneumonia, meaning that many areas may be affected. Some of the more common symptoms of pneumonia include: 2
- Cough and severe coughing spells
- Fever, sweating, and chills
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Stabbing chest pain when breathing deeply or coughing
What Is Lipoid Pneumonia?
Lipoid pneumonia features the same inflammatory reaction and fluid-filled alveoli that occur in all types of pneumonia. Instead of viruses or bacteria, it the accumulation of lipids in the alveoli that causes the issue. Lipids are fat particles and can come from a variety of sources and in different forms. Waxes, oils, and cholesterol are all classified as lipids.3
The two types of lipoid pneumonia are defined by the source of the lipids:
Exogenous lipoid pneumonia occurs when particles of mineral, plant-based, or animal oils enter the lungs from outside of the body via the mouth or nose. This usually occurs due to inhalation or aspiration––aspiration occurs when a foreign solid or liquid goes down the trachea, or “windpipe,” rather than the esophagus, or “food tube.” By entering the trachea, lipids in any form can enter further into the lungs, causing inflammation.
The severity of inflammation will depend on what type of oils were introduced into the lungs and how severe the exposure was. Severe conditions could result in irreparable damage.4
Endogenous lipoid pneumonia occurs when lipids, typically cholesterol, are carried into the lungs from sources within the body. The accumulation of cholesterol in the lungs causes a yellowish buildup, earning it the informal name “golden pneumonia.”
The causes behind this form of lipid pneumonia are not as clear but one theory is that the buildup of lipids in the lungs occurs due to an obstruction in a particular airway. For example, if a tumor were to obstruct a specific section of the airway, this can cause healthy cells to become damaged and inflamed, leading to a buildup of cholesterol which is difficult for the body to break down. As more cholesterol accumulates at the site, the situation is compounded.5
Endogenous lipoid pneumonia can be affected by various factors like bronchial obstruction, chronic lung inflammation, and hypoxia. However, the most important take-away about this type of lipoid pneumonia is that it results due to dysfunction in processes within the body rather than because of the introduction of external agents.6
Final Thoughts on Lipoid Pneumonia
Endogenous pneumonia is not only rare but has extensive pathogenesis affected by a range of biological and lifestyle factors. Smoking is one example of an activity that can contribute to endogenous lipoid pneumonia.
Exogenous lipoid pneumonia can be caused by a wider variety of factors, although it is also not a very common issue. Recently, there has been discussion that the use of e-cigarettes can lead to the development of exogenous lipoid pneumonia.
Although studies about whether this is the case are still not fully conclusive, the CDC warns users about using e-cigarettes because the range of chemicals they contain are not always regulated and can result in harmful side effects, such as lipoid pneumonia, caused by the heat from e-cigarettes and chemical reactions that occur between the unregulated compounds.7,8
Safety at MONQ
Your safety is our primary concert at MONQ. Because of this, MONQ diffusers contain only 80% therapeutic grade, organic, vegetable glycerin and 20% pure essential oils—and nothing else. Additionally, they are designed to heat up to the lowest possible temperatures to diffuse essential oils and provide health benefits without producing excess vapor. Finally, MONQ diffusers should be breathed gently into the mouth and out through the nose where they interact with the olfactory bulb to provide the benefits and should not be inhaled into the lungs.
Photo credits: OrawanPattarawimonchai/shutterstock.com, DarioLoPresti/shutterstock.com, biDaala_studio/shutterstock.com