Asthma is rapidly on the rise in the US, especially in children
Asthma is basically a hypersensitivity and inflammatory respiratory disorder—and is rapidly on the rise in the US, especially in children . The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but, from the naturopathic perspective, it appears to have a lot to do with diet (peanuts, gluten, food additives, genetically modified foods, (GMOs)) and environment (various environmental chemicals such as sulfites and various preservatives and allergens such as pollen, dust, animal dander, some drugs, smoke). Asthma can also be induced or influenced by cold air, exercise, a woman’s menstrual cycle, acid reflux (GERD) and stress. Risk factors include a family with a history of asthma, having another allergic condition, being overweight, smoking (or if your mother smoked while pregnant) and a low birth weight. Symptoms can vary from relatively mild to life-threatening. They can be infrequent or daily. Symptoms may be exercise induced, occupational or allergic, or the “trigger” may be unknown. Conventional treatment includes medications and some suggested lifestyle modifications.
If you have asthma and see a naturopathic physician, the approach is likely to be a bit different. A naturopath may want ensure that you have a quick-relief inhalant medication for emergencies. They will also very likely ask you many questions about your diet, your home, any animals, your personal and family history, questions related to your adrenal glands, whether you were breast fed and when you started solid foods, the numbers and types of vaccinations you’ve had, stomach problems, bowel movements and overall stress. They may recommend testing for food sensitivities and adrenal gland function as well as a panel of testing reproductive hormones. The reason for this is that studies have shown, for example, 92% of people who avoided all animal products showed significant improvement in their asthmas symptoms. Other studies have also shown that diet can play a significant role in the treatment of asthma. Still other studies have indicated a relationship of asthma with functioning of the adrenal glands and the hormonal cycle.
Diet, supplements the appropriate use of botanical medicines
There are other clues that diet, supplementation with appropriate nutraceuticals and the appropriate use of botanical medicines such as Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice), Grindelia camporum (grindelia), Euphorbia hirta (euphorbia), Drosera rotundifolia (sundew) and others can have a profound impact on the frequency and severity of asthmatic symptoms. Other herbal medicines useful in the treatment of asthma are Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco), Capsicum frutescens (Cayenne pepper), Tylophora asthmatica , Ginkgo biloba , Boswellia and members of the Allium family—onions and garlic.
Since asthma may be the end result of many different or interacting factors, it is very important to find the cause, and, if possible, to remove it. This is one of the reasons a naturopath might ask so many questions and suggest so many tests.
If a child has a gluten or dairy sensitivity, they may improve within days or weeks of removing all gluten or dairy from their diet. If the asthma is made worse by hormonal imbalances, supporting the adrenal glands, the immune system or the reproductive system may alleviate many or most of the symptoms. If pet allergies are the problem, you may not have to get rid of your pet—just institute some steps like limiting the pet to a few areas of the house or giving your furry friend a few more baths every week. The point is to find the cause, remove it or limit it and build up overall health with diet and exercise. Air purifiers can be installed in bedrooms and hypoallergenic bedding can also be used.
Exercise, deep breathing and diet
Exercise and deep breathing should be emphasized—deep breathing means to breath like babies and opera singers do -using the diaphragm and expanding the lungs. You should start deep breathing exercises and do them 50-100 deep breaths every day. Soon, you may start breathing this way all the time. This “exercises” the lungs and makes the most of the oxygen you take in with every breath.
A whole food, additive and allergen-free diet is strongly recommended. Find out what you are sensitive to and avoid it. Many people with asthma actually have low stomach acid—they may have acid reflux or heartburn, so many don’t really believe it. Try drinking water with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar about 20 minutes before meals. If you have fewer problems with heartburn—and asthma—after trying this, you may actually have LOW stomach acid – and not too much.
Use spices and herbs such as onions, garlic, turmeric and basil in your cooking. Increase the amounts of vegetables and fruit (especially apples—the skin contains quercitin, an anti-inflammatory). Try a vegan diet for at least 4 months if you are still having symptoms.
*Note: these are adult doses. Consult a physician if you are working with a child.
Taking 2-3 times the RDA of a B vitamin complex is usually effective and less expensive, but make sure you get:
- Vitamin B6: 25 to 50 mg twice a day
- Vitamin B12: 1000 µg/day (under the tongue)
A good, whole-food multi-vitamin is best, but make sure you get
- Vitamin C: 1000 to 3000 mg every day in divided dosages
- Vitamin E: 200 to 400 IU daily
- Beta-Carotenes: 25,000 to 50,000 IU/day
- Vitamin D: 1000-2000IU each day
The best multi-vitamins are also multi minerals. Make sure you get
- Magnesium: 200 to 400 mg three times a day
- Selenium: 200 mcg each day
- 2-3 grams of omega-3 fish oils every day
- Quercetin: 400 mg about 20 minutes before every meals
- Grape seed extract: 50 to 100 mg three times/day
As mentioned, there are many herbs available which can help with asthma—licorice, grindelia, euphorbia, lobelia, ginkgo, aloe vera and boswelia to mention a few . These should be taken with the guidance and care of a naturopathic physician or an herbalist. These professionals can provide you with a combination of herbs that is designed to be very specific for your condition.
Patients with asthma can do a lot to control their symptoms—but its not always easy. It may not be easy to give up your favorite foods (and the sad truth is, many of our favorite foods are not too good for us!). On the other hand, if you give up, for example, gluten, and are symptom free within a few days, it is worth it!