Did you know. . .
- Asthma has increased continuously since the 1970s and now affects an estimated 7% of the population worldwide.
- More than 20 million people in the United States suffer from asthma as of 2008.
- Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood affecting more than 7 million children—almost 9% of all United States children have asthma.
- That boys get asthma more commonly before puberty and girls get it more commonly after puberty.
- That asthma is more common in the African American and Puerto Rican population.
- Asthma, when attended to and controlled does not often result in death (about 1.1% of people who have asthma will die of it), but it is the leading cause of hospitalization for children and the number one chronic condition causing elementary school absenteeism.
- The cost of treating asthma is estimated to be over $14 billion dollars annually which includes over 13.3 million hospital and doctor visits (a 2006 statistic).
- 90% of asthma sufferers under the age of 40 have attacks triggered by allergies.
Asthma is defined as a disease of the airway system caused by diffuse inflammation triggered by various stimuli resulting in partially or completely reversible bronchoconstriction. If you’ve never experienced this particular illness you just can’t imagine the blessing it is to be able to take a deep breath and actually feel that your lungs are totally inflating. There’s also the panic of knowing that you may not be able to get enough oxygen and that you could actually die and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is why it’s so important to be able to ferret out the triggers and core causes of asthma early on. The medical system says that once you have asthma you’ll always have asthma—and there may be some cases like that, but I’ve seen and personally experienced healing with many asthma cases.
Symptoms/Signs of asthma include difficult breathing (dyspnea), chest tightness, cough and wheezing.
The many forms of asthma include:
- Allergic asthma. Asthma is more common in those people who have allergies.
- Cough-variant or nocturnal asthma is when coughing is the only symptom present. Coughs are caused by an expectorant reaction of the body and by mucous plugging the narrowed airways. This type of asthma gets worse during the night following a circadian cycle. Four a.m. is a common time for nocturnal asthma. I remember often as an EMT bringing a patient into the hospital in the middle of the night. We’d be sitting in the waiting room waiting for the doctor to come and almost always on the PA system you’d hear, “Respiratory therapy, please come to room whatever STAT.” I often thought I’d hate being a respiratory therapist. Now that I know the asthma statistics I realize that many of these cases the respiratory therapist was attending to were asthma cases.
- Exercise Induced Asthma (see more info below on this form)
- Menstrual related asthma occurs in 30-40% of women asthma sufferers. Symptoms of asthma worsen three days before and four days into the menstrual period.
- Nocturnal Asthma occurs primarily at night in as many as 75% of asthma sufferers between the hours of 2-4 a.m.
- Non-allergic asthma is triggered by dry air, cold weather, exercise, smoke, perfumes, stress, intense emotions or even laughing.
- Occupational asthma falls into the non-allergic category and can be caused from exposure to chronic fumes that damage the respiratory tract. (See RADS for more info.)
- Persistent Asthma: Chronic asthma and repeated inflammatory attacks over the years eventually can cause irreversible structural and functional damage to the airways through the process of remodeling. Remodeling of the tissues causes the airways to narrow making breathing more difficult.
- Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS): This type of asthma is developed from indoor exposure to nitrogen oxide gasses and volatile organic compounds. This disease is an asthma-like syndrome also known as Occupational Asthma. RADS asthma can happen in people who have never experienced other types of asthma. Occupation asthma is further categorized as Nonlatent form when symptoms occur right after exposure to an irritant (gas, fumes, dust or chemicals) and Latent form where symptoms develop after prolonged exposure to workplace substances.
Asthma is classified according to the degree of symptom, the number of nighttime awakenings, interference with a normal activity, the use and need for medications, the air flow rate (FEV–Forced Expiratory Volume in one second or FVC–Forced Vital Capacity), how often an attack occurs and by the latest asthma questionnaire that a patient fills out if they go into a traditional medical system.
So, asthma can be classified as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent or severe persistent.
There is also a category called status asthmaticus which is defined as severe, intense, prolonged bronchospasm resistant to treatment. These cases are where corticosteroids are needed often and long term and the patient needs lots of hospital care and are of greater risk than those suffering from other types of asthma.
In addition to the above classifications, asthma can be well controlled, not well controlled or very poorly controlled. All of this input and data determine how often your doctor wants you to come in to be re-evaluated after that initial diagnosis is made.
There are also intrinsic, extrinsic and mixed types of asthma. Intrinsic forms include non-allergenic causes, non-atopic causes and non-immunologic causes. Extrinsic forms include allergic, atopic and immunologic causes. Mixed form of course includes some of each category. So, let’s just lump all the causes and triggers together, shall we?
The causes and triggers of asthma include:
Environmental triggers: dust mites, fungi, mold, cockroaches, pet dander, mouse urine and mouse dander, cigarette smoke, perfumes, air pollutants, ragweed and tree/grass/flower pollens, fossil fuels (petrochemical pollution—especially kerosene) and cleaning agents.
(Note: I find in my practice the cleaning agents causing the most trouble are Scrubbing bubbles, Bleach, Pine-sol and Simple Green). Avoid barns, hay, raking leaves and mowing grass if you know you’re allergic to molds.
I’ve read recently that the reason why there are so many more asthma attacks in pollen storms is that air changes increase during thunderstorms or major weather events such as El Nino. Interesting. Another article said that the buildup of ozone before a storm may be a factor.
Air pollutants that are strongly associated with asthma include ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.
Genetics: Asthma sufferers have often inherited susceptibility genes from a parent. Mothers are more likely to pass asthma to their child than the influence of the father’s genes. Mothers carrying female children seem to present with more asthma symptoms than if they were carrying a male child. The genes connected to asthma are associated with a type of white blood cell call T-helper cells, eosinophils and mast cells which are a part of our immune system that over-respond and over-react to environmental triggers.
Emotions involved as asthma triggers include anxiety, anger and excitement. Some resources listed “fear or anxiety and a feeling of constriction or suffocation by a relationship or situation”.
In her book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay relates that asthmatic children often have “overdeveloped consciences” and take on the guilt feelings for whatever seems wrong in their environment. These children have a deep sense of feeling unworthy so feel the need to self-punish by blocking air flow. They may also have a fear of life and not wanting to be here.
Often, once we get the treatable core causes attended to, I’ll refer these asthma cases to someone who performs emotional release work. Doing NeuroEmotional Technique (www.netmindbody.com) or Emotional Freedom Technique often helps release those buttons which can trigger an asthma attack.
Examples of emotional triggers may be the smell of cigarette smoke in a bar or car or hotel room. Even though the allergy to cigarette smoke and the viruses carried by the tobacco have been treated, the smell of smoke would still stimulate neurotransmitters from the brain to be released which would affect your parasympathetic nervous system to constrict the air passages. If we can scratch or break that broken record pattern within your brain the environmental triggers and memories won’t have the adverse affect on your lungs.
Exercise: Cold/dry weather and unfiltered cold air is often a trigger for Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA). Symptoms of EIA are most intense about 10 minutes into exercising. People with this type of asthma don’t require long-term therapy and the asthma resides when the exercise has stopped but they can have other types of asthma at the same time.
Aspirin (also ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve): Aspirin-Induced Asthma (AIA) occurs in up to 30% of older patients and is often associated with post viral infections. With this type of asthma the combination of the presence of nasal polyps, GERD and taking aspirin somehow prime the body for asthma attacks.
I found it interesting in my research that none of the medical sites mentioned that GERD could most often be overcome by following a blood type diet. Often in the case of many chronic diseases and conditions if you can just control what you can, eliminate what you can and manage the other core causes, there can be stability and relief of exacerbations of all kinds of problems the body gives us over the years. Once you do these steps the body is open to repairing the damage that has been done to it. Of course some organs take longer to respond, but they do respond over time. I find this totally cool. Aspirin-induced asthma accounts for about 10% of all asthma cases and is responsible for about 25% of all asthma hospitalizations.
Infectious causes include viruses and bacteria. Implicated in the cause of asthma include: the adenoviruses Chlamydia pneumonia and Mycoplasma pneumonia, Rhinovirus, Respiratory Syncitial Virus (RSV), Parainfluenza virus and Pneumococcal pneumonia.
I personally believe that many people who have asthma have had a history of bronchial infections or some type of pneumonia. The viruses that have causes these diseases have never really been alleviated from the body and eventually (often years down the road) asthma develops as a result. The most common viruses involved are RSV (Respiratory Syncitial Virus), rhinovirus and parainfluenza but I’ve also picked up the Tuberculinum bacteria with muscle testing. Did you know that people with crooked teeth may have a cellular memory or generation influence of having relatives who died of tuberculosis?
Hormonal changes in women. (see Menstrual Related Asthma above.) Studies have shown that the use of oral contraceptives does not have much effect on treating this kind of asthma. The risk for hospitalization increases fourfold as the woman goes through perimenopause as her estrogen levels diminish.
Time of day: Nocturnal Asthma factors may include chemical and temperature changes in the body that lead to increased inflammation of the airways, delayed allergic response from the day’s triggers, metabolization of the day’s medications wearing off, increase in acid reflux from laying down, postnasal drip and from sleeping on one’s back.
Low Stomach Acid: A study done in 1931 showed that 80% of 200 asthmatic children had below normal amounts of stomach acid. Low stomach acid is associated with increases in food allergies.
Occupation: Between 2 and 26% of adult-asthma cases are related to work history. Now this type of asthma can be caused from air quality or allergens at work or existing asthma can be aggravated by those components. Over 250 agents have been identified as potential occupational triggers of asthma. Some of these substances include isocyanates, trimellitic anhydrides, woods like red cedar, oak, redwood and mahogany, metal salts, vegetable dusts, biologic agents, xylanase, pharmaceutical agents, glutaraldyhyde, red dyes (which are often made from cockroaches) and diacetyl (artificial butter flavor).
Workers in the farm industry, hairdressers and those in the garment industry are at higher risk for occupational asthma. Are you being exposed? To read more go to: http://adam.about.com/reports/000004_10.htm
Vaccinations: Influenza vaccinations have been implicated from various studies as a trigger for asthma. Because of this 90% of asthma patients are not being vaccinated. Governmental agencies are saying that flu shots are safe for both children and adults.
Alcohol: Alcohol is a trigger not only because beer and wine contain sulfites but alcohol is processed through the liver. When the liver is sludgy or sick or not functioning well more allergies manifest. When there are more allergies, there are more asthma attacks associated with the allergies.
Foods and Food Additives: Eggs, fish, shellfish (sulfites?) nuts, peanuts (molds?), milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus and food colorings may trigger asthma for various reasons. Food additives and dyes can also be in medications and vitamin supplements so be aware of that. Some food additives/dyes implicated in asthma include:
- 4-hydroxybenzoate esters
- Amaranth dye
- Coccine (red) dye (the one made from cockroaches)
- Pate blue dye
- Sodium benzoate
- Sulphur dioxide
- Sunset Yellow dye
- Tartrazine (orange dye)
The Hygiene hypothesis: There are some researchers who think children are more resistant to developing asthma if they have been exposed to small amounts of exacerbating asthma triggers early in life. They feel that vaccines, antibiotics and cleaner environments do not help the immune system develop proper T-cell function so when triggers for asthma happen the immune system doesn’t respond properly which causes problems.
Dietary influences which exacerbate asthma include vitamin C and E deficiencies, certain fatty acid deficiencies and obesity.
Asthma has also been linked to young maternal age, poor maternal nutrition, premature birth, low birth weight and to a lack of breastfeeding.
What happens during an asthma attack? When the body responds to an asthma trigger the cells within the smaller tubes leading to the lungs have an allergic reaction. The white blood cells inside the airways release substances that cause a real mess inside the inner layer and smooth muscles within the bronchial tubules. Some cells swell with fluid, some slough off, some develop scar tissue and other cells are triggered to release a hormone to stimulate development of tiny blood vessels in the area. This all happens very quickly in an acute attack which causes the tubes to constrict so that you can’t breathe very easily. As the parasympathetic nervous system is irritated by all this cellular irritation, its response is disrupted further narrowing the air passages. What a mess. Then add a couple of mucous plugs to that mess and you have a person in a real panic to get air.
In severe asthma cases pulsus paradoxus occurs. Pulsus paradoxus is when there is an increase in blood pressure of over 10 mm Hg during inspiration. When this happens, the heart starts to race, the patient hyperventilates and has a difficult time breathing out. The lips purse and you can visibly see them tighten their postural and neck muscles in an effort to breathe. Often they cannot vocalize and wheezing is present. If this goes on for long there may be altered consciousness, the skin turns blue as the oxygen saturation rate decreases and the patient is in severe distress. Sometimes the lungs get so blocked with air that it escapes into the chest cavity causing what is called a pneumothorax or pneumomediastinum. Bad stuff.
We’re talking life –threatening emergency situations here. Because the person/animal can’t breathe deeply enough, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs. Sometimes this can be compensated for by hyperventilating, but if the air is trapped in the alveoli and areas past the bronchioles then acid builds up in the system and the body goes into an acidotic state. If acidosis continues the body is starved of oxygen but the eventual death is from respiratory or cardiac arrest.
- Diagnosis is based on history, physical exam and pulmonary function tests done with a spirometer. The pulmonary functions tests should be repeated every year or two to monitor progression of the disease.
- Bloodwork to check for increased eosinophils (a white blood cell) can be indicative of asthma but it also can indicate parasites or just plain allergies.
- Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF) is done with a hand-held meter. This can be done at home by the patient and is used to monitor the disease.
- Provocative Test: One diagnostic test sometimes done is the provocative test. The patient inhales a mild dose of a harmful agent such as methacholine, histamine, adenosine or bradykinin which causes bronchoconstriction. There are several contraindications to this type of testing as you can imagine, but your doctor is skilled enough to screen for patients that are high-risk of stroke, high blood pressure or COPD.
- Pulse oximetry is done when a patient is transported to the hospital or emergency room to determine oxygen carrying capacity within the bloodstream.
- RAST testing for allergies is sometimes helpful to find triggering allergens.
- Other tests that may be helpful are the diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) and chest X-rays (which veterinarians use quite often).
Treatments for Asthma:
Treatment for asthma includes control of triggers, drugs/supplements/homeopathics, emotional release work, monitoring, client education and attending to exacerbations of the disease with emergency procedures as needed. Note: Any asthma attack that does not resolve despite using an inhaler is a medical emergency.
Drugs for Asthma include:
- Anticholinergics which are used to dilate the bronchioles. Anticholinergics include Ipratopium and Tiotropium. Adverse effects of these include papillary dilation, blurred vision and dry mouth.
- Antiinflamatory agents: Cromolyn (a mast-cell stabilizer) and Salmeterol (Serevent) are both beta-agonists that also have mild anti-inflammatory action.
- Beta-agonists act to dilate the bronchioles. From the shortest acting to the longest include: Cromolyn, Albuterol, Levalbuterol, Ipratropium, Theophylline, Salmeterol, Fomoterol and Tiotropium. Tachycardia, tremor and mild hypokalemia (low blood potassium) are side-effects of these drugs.
- Corticosteroids (Inhalers, pills and injectables in an emergency). Use of long-term corticosteroids can really cause some problems with the adrenal-pituitary axis and also cause osteoporosis, liver damage, cataracts, skin atrophy, bruising and out of control hunger.
- Immunomodulators include omalizumab which affects the IgE antibodies. One side effect of overuse is anaphylaxis so there should be emergency drugs handy if this one is used.
- Leukotriene modifiers such as Zileuton. Occasional side effect is the Churg-Strauss syndrome. Of course, being a veterinarian I had to look this syndrome up. We normally just name our syndromes for what the organ or system is and don’t attach some doctor’s name to the syndrome. . . Oh, it’s vasculitis.
- Mast cell stabilizers (for allergic causes). Some feel these are the safest (but most ineffective) to use in controlling asthma.
- Methylxanthines. These drugs relax bronchial smooth muscle and increase heart and diaphragm contractility. Theophylline is in this category. Side effects are many and can include headache, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmias and seizures. Additionally conditions such as fever, liver disease and heart failure alter the metabolization of this drug so it is dropping out of favor.
- Some other drugs used in the treatment or control of asthma have included low-dose Methotrexate and Cyclosporine (both cancer treatment drugs), magnesium sulfate, Gold, Colchicines (a gout drug), Heliox, general anesthesia and high-dose IV immune globulin. Biaxin (clarithromycin) may improve lung function if the patient shows evidence of infection with Mycoplasma or Chlamydia. Zanamivir is a new antiviral medicine used to treat influenza in patients over the age of 12.
- Nebulizers are used for acute asthma attacks. Several substances can be used in the nebulizer including: lidocaine, heparin, corticosteroids, aminophylline and ipratropium.
Contraindicated drugs for asthma include anxiolytics and morphine because they cause even more problems with breathing and often increase the need for mechanical ventilation.
Inhalers should be used properly to be effective. Have a trained specialist walk you through this until you feel comfortable in knowing that you are doing it correctly. If you see mist coming out of your mouth after using an inhaler, you’re using it wrong.
Natural Treatments for Asthma
Note: I believe that natural treatments work most excellently for asthma, but please don’t stop taking your “real” drugs until symptoms have abated and you talk with your doctor about cutting back, minimizing then finally eliminating the drugs you no longer need. Sometimes it’s just good to have an emergency backup plan if you fall off your “healthy living” lifestyle.
- Acupuncture/Acupressure: Chinese medicine classifies asthma as either acute or chronic. The treatments are quite different. For acute attacks the focus is on symptom relief. For chronic asthma the focus is on strengthening the weakened organs or systems.
- Alexander Technique: Re-education on how to relax and breathe is helpful in controlling asthma. The Alexander technique encourages the release of tension in the chest while increasing the intrathoracic capacity. It also helps with stress management. See the Alexander Technique website for more information: http://www.alexandertechnique.com
- Aromatherapy: Roman Chamomile is used to relieve spasms.
- Ayurvedic medicine: The goal is to balance the doshas according to the individual’s condition. Panchakarma therapy may be useful. Here’s a link to read about that: http://chakrapaniayurveda.com/panchakarma2.html. For immediate relief of asthma, one Ayurvedic doctor recommends squeezing an onion and drinking ¼ cup of the onion juice mixed with 1 teaspoon of honey and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Woof. My lip is already curling.
- Biofeedback or Autogenic training: This isn’t something that can be done at home. There are clinics you can go to and usually this takes several sessions to retrain your thinking patterns. The goal is to desensitize your nervous system to some of the triggers of the disease.
- Buteyko Breathing Technique: http://www.buteyko.com The Buteyko method is named after its founder Doctor Konstantin Buteyko. It is the “most effective drug-free approach for the management of asthma and other breathing related problems” says the website. It can be practiced by both adults and children, and gives quick and consistent results. I checked it out and you can purchase a DVD and manual for about $100 US. The method is based on raising carbon dioxide levels in the airways.
- Caffeine: Say you’ve left your inhaler at home and you’re stuck somewhere and feel and attack come on. Now’s the time to drink a couple stiff cups of coffee. Coffee acts as a bronchodilator and is similar to theophylline (the caffeine found in chocolate).
- Chinese Herbal Formulas. Chinese herbs for asthma include carminatives, herbs to clear fluid retention (dampness) and herbal tonics, antitussives, expectorants and anti –asthmatic herbs. One listed on the internet is Aller Relief Chinese herbal cold and allergy. This one contains aristolochic acid which may cause kidney problems and has been known to cause cancer. Make sure you get Chinese formulas that have been screened for sulfites and heavy metals as they do use a lot of sulfites as a preservative over in China which can make your symptoms worse.
- Chocolate: In a pinch—and this shouldn’t be used on a daily basis—a couple of chocolate bars has enough theophylline in them to help in an asthma attack.
- Cymatics or Sound Healing: Certain sounds can help heal the body. Cymatics is the science of finding those sounds and tones that work best for your condition. Read more about that here: http://www.collegeofsoundhealing.co.uk/pages/about.html
- Eating for your Blood type: www.dadamo.com
- Emotional Release work: www.netmindbody.com
- Exercise: Practicing yoga exercises regularly helps reduce or stop the need for asthma medications.
- Flower Essences: Back flower remedies such as Rescue Remedy can help with stress and anxiety.
- Glandulars/Protomorphogens: Taking these nutritional products that contain some of the organs that we are trying to heal entices specific nutrition to the organs that are weak. So asthmatics would take a glandular (like Pneumotrophin PMG) with lung tissue in it. Many of my vegans and vegetarians won’t take these products so if you are a practitioner you may want to ask about the eating habits of your clients/patients before recommending treatments.
- Grapeseed extract (GSE): Grapeseed extract is touted as a natural antihistamine although I’ve never experienced that in my practice.
- Herbs used for asthma include:
- Angelica sinensis is used as a natural antihistamine for the relief of allergic symptoms in association with pollens, dust, molds and animal danders.
- Asian Ginseng
- Butterbur capsules: The root extract of the herb Petasites hybridus (also known as butter dock, blatterdock, bog rhubarb and exwort) contains petasin and isopetasin which supposedly act to reduce smooth muscle spasm. Butterbur is a relative of ragweed though which may exacerbate allergies and it does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids in it which can destroy healthy liver cells. NOT recommended in pregnant or nursing women. Side effects can include indigestion, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation along with elevated liver enzymes and liver damage. I think there are safer products on the market. I had never heard of this plant and have about 260 different herbs on my shelves at the moment.
- Capsicum frutescens (Chili peppers) helps to desensitize the airway mucosa to various mechanical and chemical irritants. Useful for breaking an asthma attack.
- Drosera rotundifolia (Sundew)
- Echinacea has been used in the past and it may help the immune system but often people don’t test they need this one.
- Ephedra sinica (Ma huang, Mormon tea or Desert tea) Ephedra has been used as a bronchodilator or well over 5000 years. Its use in modern medicine began in 1923 with the discovery of its alkaloid compound ephedrine. Ephedrine is not as safe as the whole plant and can cause increased blood pressure. Ephedra’s therapeutic effect diminishes over time. It is often used with Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Panax ginseng as these herbs support the adrenal glands which are weakened by ephedra usage. I’ve used this herb for my own asthma in the past but I wouldn’t want to take it for more than a few doses.
- Euphorbia hirta
- Ginger: Drinking ginger tea can help increase circulation and therefore oxygenation to the tissues.
- Green Tea (Thea sinensis): Theophylline and antioxidant properties in green tea help to prevent and treat asthma.
- Grindelia camporum: Used as an expectorant.
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) to support the adrenal glands, as an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. Licorice also helps to repair damage done to the body by steroids. Too much is not a good thing however. Licorice has been known to increase blood pressure over time because it acts on the body to retain water.
- Lobelia is used as an expectorant and to help the body release natural hormones from the adrenal glands that help to relax the bronchial muscles. Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco), Lobelia urens and Lobelia dortmanns have all been used. In days past the Native American Indians used Lobelia inflata to cut and extend the tobacco they got from the white man. As a tincture Lobelia inflata makes your throat tickle and feel prickly. It’s kind of weird.
- Nettles for its natural antihistamine value
- Onions and Garlic: Inhibits the manufacture of leukotrienes as these foods contain Quercetin—a natural antihistamine.
- Polygala senega (Senega)
- Saw Palmetto
- Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap) used for its anti-inflammatory actions
- Skunk Cabbage (Symphlocarpus factida) is used as an expectorant and respiratory sedative.
- Thyme (Thymus vulgarus) helps with viruses.
- Tylorphora asthmatics is an Ayurvedic herb.
18. Homeopathic Remedies: My favorites are Viral Immune System Stimulator, Virus Nosode Drops, Chlamydiae drops, Mycoplasma pneumonia, Tuberculinum Nosode drops and any other homeopathic supportive of detoxification that the body wants through muscle-testing. Other common homeopathic mixes may include Toxic Fungi/Mold drops, Mycological Immune System Stimulator drops or Bacterial System Immune Stimulator drops.
19. Hypnosis and Self-hypnosis: You can go to a practitioner to learn this therapy or you can read some books and develop a self-suggestive guided meditation on how to make your respiratory system healthy, happy and whole. Some people do well with hypnosis techniques while others can’t seem to trust enough to relax into the process.
- Selenium: Selenium helps to reduce leukotriene formation. Leukotrienes cause the bronchioles to constrict.
- Magnesium: Helps relax bronchial smooth muscle.
23. More raw fruits and veggies: Especially those high in antioxidants, vitamin A, Vitamin C, selenium and manganese like tomatoes, carrots, leafy green vegetables and carrots. Selenium foods include fish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, liver and garlic—OK, so who cares if these are high in arachidonic acid right? This seems like a conflicting suggestion from other studies. See Omega Fatty Acids next.
24. Omega Fatty Acids: Arachidonic acid is thought to increase inflammation. Foods high in arachidonic acid are egg yolks, meat and shellfish. Although lots of people who consult with me are on different omega fatty acids, most times I find that Udo’s Choice Oil Blend capsules or Norwegian Wild Salmon Oil are the specific oils they need in their body. I think these brand names come up most often because some of the other brand names may not be as high quality or they are left around too long so have oxidized or maybe they are contaminated with mercury. If you’re burping these supplements up, your body is trying to tell you that you may not need them or they are the wrong ones for your body.
25. Probiotics: A healthy gut is a healthy immune system. Often FructoOligoSaccharides (FOS) are more effective in enticing good gut flora to reproduce, but this was listed on one website.
26. Reflexology: Specifically work all the lung and bronchial reflexes on the top and bottom of both feet. Also work the adrenal glands, the solar plexus/diaphragm points and the sinus reflexes on the toes and fingers. There are many great reflexology books on the market but I tell my clients to just start rubbing and pay particular attention to anything that elicits pain. Work those points more—lightly at first and then press with more pressure and keep working the areas until the pain goes away. This may take 2-4 treatments but just keep at it. About ten minutes a day is most beneficial.
27. Relaxation and Stress Reduction techniques: People with asthma have higher rates of anxiety and depression. Because of this sometimes protocols aren’t followed properly and medications/ supplements are not adhered to which makes asthma symptoms more severe and life threatening.
29. Shiatsu: Shiatsu sequences help relieve strained neck muscles caused by asthma attacks and the coughing associated with those attacks. Start with light pressure and gradually increase it and be careful as the neck is quite delicate.
30. Treat underlying allergies and allergic rhinitis
31. Urine Injection: Ummm. OK. This treatment uses cattle urine. What the hay—Premarin is made of pregnant horse urine. Here’s the link: http://www.cowurine.com/asthema.html
32. Visualization: I like the Silva method but there are lots of great methods out there. Often I find it’s easier to visualize when you know the anatomy of the area you are trying to repair so in your Google search box type in “images of” or “photos of” or “videos of” the organ or system you’re trying to heal and you’ll get some good images of healthy tissue and function.
- Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 may help the body utilize tryptophan which is converted to serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter). Asthmatics seem to have a challenge using tryptophan in their body in the conversion to serotonin. Apparently serotonin acts to constrict bronchioles. Don’t overdose on this however. Mega doses can be toxic. On the other hand, it’s pretty difficult to overdose on foods high in B6. Check out those B6 foods here: http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/Diet_Nutrition/vitamin_b6_pyridoxine.htm. It may also help to cut back on those foods high in Tryptophan.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 appears to be most effective for people with sulfite allergies. The stomach cells that secrete stomach acid also secrete B12 components (intrinsic factor) which help with B12 absorption.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C inhibits the constriction of bronchioles and helps to normalize fatty acid metabolism. In actuality, ascorbic acid (which is not vitamin C) was used in these studies. Ascorbic acid is just one molecule of the vitamin C. Vitamin C is made of four molecules so natural forms of vitamin C (rose hips, acerola, bioflavonoids) may work better than ascorbic acid as an antioxidant.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and helps to inhibit inflammatory compounds.
34. Water: Drinking water is not an item that is very interesting for asthmatics and people with other pulmonary conditions but this will help thin the mucous that causes the plugs that makes asthma worse. Drink it at room temperature, warm or hot. Iced water can cause constriction
35. Weight reduction for sleep apnea exacerbated asthma.
Miscellaneous Notes on Asthma:
- If your child has asthma, his/her teachers and nurses at school needs to know the action plant for attacks. Cromolyn and Nedocromil are long-acting drugs for asthma but they are not as effective as other drugs. They do however prevent the embarrassment of having to take drugs at school.
- Pregnant women with asthma: Poorly controlled asthma in the mother increases prenatal mortality, premature delivery and lower birth weights. Asthma drugs have not been shown to have adverse affects on the fetus.
- Elderly people with asthma: Increased use of corticosteroids also increases the risk of osteoporosis so this group may need additional supplementation to support the skeletal system.
- Poverty is a consistent risk factor for asthma. Both the elderly and the urban poor have the highest risk for severe asthma and death.
- The poorly educated and those who exercise less (and obese) are the highest risk for adult-onset asthma.
Things you can do at home to help minimize trips to the emergency room:
- Clean often: For those of you asthma sufferers who have to do your own cleaning (and cleaning IS important) be sure to wear a dust mask, gloves, grubby clothes and don’t use feather dusters. Pick up the dust with a damp cloth and use HEPA filters for your vacuum. When you are completed with cleaning, take a shower to wash off the disturbed matter.
- Use pillows made of synthetic fibers and mattress covers made of impermeable material. Wash them frequently and don’t hang them out on a line to be dried where they will pick up more pollens and dust. Put pillows in the drier on hot setting once a week for 20 minutes—especially during allergy season. This helps minimize dust and kills bacteria and molds that just love that warm humid environment created while the patient is sleeping and breathing into the pillow.
- Wash and change bedding frequently in hot water (130 degrees F or 54 degrees Celsius) as this kills any dust mites and helps to remove animal dander. I usually recommend that the pillowcases be changed every week. If you can’t get your water that hot or you feel that washing them so often in hot water will ruin them another option is to freeze the sheets for 24 hours before washing them in warm water. Freezing kills the mites but doesn’t get rid of the feces. But the washing should do that.
- Remove from the sleeping area and as many other areas as possible: carpet, upholstered furniture, soft toys scented candles and pets. If you can’t remove the carpet then opt for low-pile carpet. Ditch the shag carpeting.
- Keep bookcases out of the bedroom. Books often build up dust on them and also have mold spores in them—especially in humid environments.
- Bathe your pets once a week. This greatly decreases the pet dander which exacerbates the asthma condition. Some pets that are asthma-friendly are poodles and Devon-Rex cats (mostly hairless). And don’t use human shampoo to do this—it has the wrong pH and can cause skin problems for the pet. You wouldn’t want that.
- Use a dehumidifier in basement and poorly aerated areas.
- Damp mop and dust often-at least once a month-to remove dust and molds. We spend about 8 hours/day in the bedroom so be sure to wipe down the bed frame, around the bed and the furniture more often than the rest of the house. Unfortunately, if you back off on any of the cleaning, new dust bunnies will develop and you’ll have to start all over again.
- Steam clean existing carpeting and upholstery twice a year to diminish dust mites, cockroach feces and animal hair/dander. Dust mites need a warm temperature (about 70 degrees) and lots of humidity (about 50%) to thrive. Come to think of it that’s the perfect environment for fleas to hatch as well!
- Keep the bathroom door closed while showering and the vent fan on. This prevents increasing humidity in other rooms of the house.
- Use window shades: Window shades collect less dust than either drapes or blinds. It’s a hassle and expensive to wash curtains or blinds on a regular basis.
- Don’t place your bed over a heating vent. If you have to do this then plug the vent so no air can come through it. You don’t want dust coming up through the heating system and you want that vent in an easy place to clean it. Have your heating system vents cleaned about once a year.
- Use a HEPA (High-efficiency Particulate Air) filter in your vacuum.
- Watch what you eat: Avoid foods with sulfites and MSG. (see those handouts listed under the Nutrition section of my website). Often milk (which causes increased phlegm in many blood types), beer, wine, dried fruits, nuts, seafood and processed foods are a hidden source of food additives and allergens. I noticed that even flour tortillas are preserved with metabisulfites. Even smelling some foods you are sensitive to may bring on an attack.
- Use salt sparingly: Especially table salt. Salt and increased asthma attacks have a high correlation.
- Don’t smoke in the house or around an asthma sufferer. If you have asthma, stop smoking! Louise Hay says that 95% of people who smoke have an unresolved issue with either their mother or father. Do your body a favor and resolve the issue and stop taking it out on yourself.
- Woodstove heat is a no-no. If that is your only heat source then be sure the stove and chimney are airtight to reduce particulate matter coming into the room and be sure to ventilate the rooms that you heat.
- Eat for your blood type: Gastric reflux can exacerbate asthma. Most all my clients who eat for their blood type resolve their GERD issues. The medical system recommends taking an antacid before bedtime. This should be a temporary fix as there are lots of challenges with antacids (See Antacid handout: http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/SpecificDiseases/antacids_problems_associated.htm )
- Don’t wear perfumes, use room deodorizers or use detergents with strong odors.
- Don’t exercise out of doors without a scarf or mask to warm up and humidify the cold/dry air as you exercise. Breathe through your nose.
- Take your asthma meds about 15 minutes before exercising. Warm up, start slowly, then be sure to add in a warm down cycle when you exercise.
- Don’t exercise in high humidity. Strangely enough though, swimming is a good exercise for asthmatics. Baseball, tennis and golf are also good sports. Be sure to wash your clothes and hands after golfing though as there are lots of chemicals sprayed on those turfs. Golfers have a very high incidence of cancers.
- Stay away from people with colds-especially viral in origin. Wash your hands often.
- Don’t take aspirin. Try Tylenol (Acetaminophen) instead for pain management but even this may be a trigger for some with asthma.
- Control cockroaches. Clean counters, put food and garbage away and clean up any crumbs if you are in a cockroach area. Also, don’t eat in bed. It leaves too many crumbs for those critters.
- Close windows during warm weather and turn on the air conditioner to control humidity.
- Use indoor air filters to control mold spores, tobacco smoke and animal dander.
- Avoid outdoor activities when air particulate levels or pollen counts are high.
- In the car be sure to set the fan or air conditioner on recirculate. You don’t need extra pollens speeding into the car as you drive down the road.
- Moving to a different climate doesn’t always work these days. Places like Arizona have changed so much over the years that urbanization and irrigation are making the same problems there than where you are right now.
Differential diagnoses for asthma include:
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- Pneumonia (bacterial, viral, parasitic or fungal)
- Heart failure
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Vocal Cord Dysfunction
Prognosis for asthma is good with treatment. The medical profession says there is no cure for asthma but I believe differently. The key is to track down the triggers and eliminate or minimize them from your life with whatever method works for YOUR body.