This lung disorder, in which spasms and inflammation of the airways restrict flow of air into the lungs is characterised by attacks which usually begin with sudden fits of wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath. However, it may also begin insidiously with slowly increasing manifestations of respiratory distress. A sensation of tightness in the chest is also common. There are 3 components to the obstruction: inflammatory cells causing swelling of the mucous lining, increased mucous production, and constriction of the smooth bronchial muscle. Symptoms may be worse at night or precipitated by exercise or exposure to cold air, emotion or stress.
Asthma, affects over 5 million people in Britain and is on the increase. The number of people with asthma and the death rate from this condition have been increasing since the late 1980s. Environmental pollution may be one of the causes of this growing epidemic. Work exposure to flour or cotton dust, animal fur, smoke, and a wide variety of chemicals has been linked to increased risk of asthma.
The standard medical treatment for asthma is to use inhalers to widen the airways. However, the underlying causes of asthma can be treated naturally, to help easier breathing.
While the root cause of asthma in most cases is allergic reactions to irritants, such as exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke dust, pollen, house dust mite or foods, the overall approach to reducing asthma is much broader than this since many factors contribute to the potential and severity of allergic reactions.
Factors that contribute to asthma include:
• Airborn allergies
• Food allergies
• Poor digestion, increasing risk for allergy
• Lack of anti-inflammatory essential fats
• Lack of anti-inflammatory antioxidants
• Poor air quality
• Long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Fish oil||Anti-inflammatory.||3gm to 6gm daily|
|Magnesium||Helps to relieve muscle spasm.||200-600mcg daily|
|Selenium||Anti-oxidant and combats the effects of free radicals.||100-200mcg daily|
|Vitamin B6||Works with magnesium and helps the nervous system.||50-100mg daily|
|Vitamin B12||Works with B6 and helps the nervous system.||100-1000mcg daily|
|Vitamin C||Supports the immune system, anti-inflammatory, helps mucous membranes to heal.||1000mg daily|
|Vitamin E||Antioxidant and helps combat allergic reactions.||500iu daily.|
|Lobelia||Increases depth of breathing.||Use as directed|
|Chamomile flower||Use as a steam inhalant, one tablespoon in hot water.|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
The main goals for working naturally with asthma are to reduce irritants and to improve the immune system.
First, find out if you have any allergies
There are two kinds of allergies: IgE and IgG. IgE, which stands for ImmunoglobulinE reactions are conventional allergies. People with asthma are often found to have higher levels of IgE, making them hypersensitive to certain substances. You can test your IgE sensitivity to Peanut, Celery,
Carrot, Meat mix, Cows milk, Whole egg, Fish Mix, Shrimp, Soy Bean, Hazelnut, Wheat, Rye Flour, House Dustmite, Birch, Hazelnut pollen, Grass pollen mix, Mugwort, Stinging nettle, Aspergillus fumigatus,
Alternaria alternata, Cladosporium herbarum, Dog epithelium, Cat epithelium and Latex. This can be done privately through York Test Laboratories. The test involves taking a pin prick of blood with an easy to use home kit and posting it to the laboratories for testing.
Most asthma suffers also have IgG sensitivities to foods. These type of intolerances are not so obvious and may not always precipitate an asthma attack. If they do, asthma symptoms may not occur until 24 hours later. Common foods that cause reactions are milk products, gluten cereals (wheat, rye, barley, oats) and yeast. Your doctor is unlikely to offer an IgG allergy test, so you can test yourself tested with a home kit from Food Detective.
Once you know what you are reacting to, you need to avoid your allergens. IgE sensitivities last for life, while you can grow out of IgG sensitivities if you avoid the allergens strictly for six months.
If you are pollen sensitive you may find it helpful to avoid all grains and dairy products during the pollen season.
The house dust mite lives in mattresses and carpets, these bugs love moisture and don’t like big temperature changes. Put your mattress outside on a couple of extremely hot days. Then cover in a house dust mite proof cover, which you can buy from most major department stores. Also get some house dust mite proof pillow cases and covers. Wash your sheets and pillow cases frequently in hot water and dry really well.
Invest in a bed base that lets the bed air really well. Don’t make your bed. Leave it to ‘air’ and, ideally, let the room air as well. Ideally, don’t have a carpet in the bedroom and don’t leave wet towels lying around the place. All these actions also reduce exposure to moulds (which can trigger off an allergic reaction).
Do what you can to improve your air quality.
Most people with asthma are hypersensitive to changes in air quality and do much better in clean air. Try investing in a decent ioniser for the bedroom or your main living space. Ionisers take dust and other particulate matter out of the air, including smoke and pollen. Now a new type of ioniser is also able to replicate the natural ions found in nature that can be absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream. In addition to ionisers for your home you can now buy discreet personal ionisers that can you can wear and help protect you whether you are out in the fields or in a smog filled city street.
Learn to breathe better. Breathing techniques are an important part of yoga and tai chi and are a great way to de-stress and calm down. They will teach you to take deeper breaths which fully utilise your lung capacity.
One of the major causes for food allergies, which you may or may not have, is poor digestion. A lack of stomach acid, for example, means you don’t digest your protein properly, hence have undigested food proteins in the gut. See the articles on digestion and leaky gut syndrome.
Eat at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily for their high antioxidant nutrient content.
Eat lots of broccoli, peppers, berries, citrus fruit, apples (all rich in vitamin C), carrots and tomatoes (rich in beta-carotene and lycopene) and seeds and fish (rich in vitamin E).
Eat foods rich in Omega 3 for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Meat, dairy, margarine, sunflower oil are all high in omega 6, while flax seeds and fish are high in omega 3. Have a tablespoon of a ground seed mix with at least half as flax seeds, or a dessertspoon of flax seed oil a day.
Supplement your diet with omega 3 fats unless you eat oil fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and herrings at least 4 times per week.
Acupuncture and herbs can help asthma. When looking for an acupuncturist make sure they are a member of The British Acupuncture Council and that the herbalist is registered with the RTCM.
Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)
Suggested further reading:
- Understanding Asthma
- Preventing Asthma
- Buteyko method explained
- Buteyko Part 2