What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a hypersensitivity reaction, which occurs when branches in the lungs (called bronchioles) spasm and secrete mucous. This reaction results in swelling of the lining (or mucosa) of the lungs causing respiratory distress. Asthma is most common in male children under the age of 10, however it can be present at any age. Today this condition affects approximately 3 % of the population. Some signs of asthma include:
What Triggers Asthma?
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty exhaling and
- Rapid breathing
There are two types of asthma. One type involves the immune system (specifically IgE - see section on Allergies for further explanation) and is triggered by exposure to allergens such as dust, molds, foods, animal dander and pollens. The other type does not involve the immune system and may be stimulated by: cold air, exercise, inhaling irritating chemicals (smoke, gas, paint fumes etc.), infection or emotional upset. Although the allergic type tends to be more common in children, most people have a mixture of these two types. Fortunately, many children outgrow asthma with age. It is important for each person to find and avoid the triggers specific to them in order to prevent chronic, recurrent attacks. The lungs should be strengthened as well.
What Are My Treatment Options?
Allopathic / Conventional Medicine
Medical Doctors treat with corticosteroids in the form of puffers, which can be used to prevent as well as treat asthmatic episodes. Allergy shots may also be recommended once they have identified which ones are triggers.
- Nutrition: This usually begins with an elimination diet. During an elimination diet you remove foods that are likely to be triggering the asthma attacks. These foods are then reintroduced at a later date in a systematic way, in order to determine the body's reaction to them. There are some foods that are highly associated with asthmatic episodes, and should be avoided. These include dairy, wheat, citrus and chocolate. Removing meat and including plenty of ocean going fish will help to decrease inflammation that may occur in the lungs.
- Nutritional Supplements: Quercetin and vitamin C can help decrease the histamine released during allergic reactions, which aggravates asthmatic episodes. Magnesium is also helpful as it is involved in relaxing the bronchioles. B6 and B12 have also been found to be of value in helping prevent attacks.
- Botanical Medicine: These can be used in the form of a tincture (liquid), tea or capsule.
- Sundew for dry asthma and when there is a dry, irritable and persistent cough
- Elecampagne for moist asthma, and persistent cough with pain beneath the sternum (upper chest)
- Gum plant (Grindelia) for asthmatic breathing with a sore raw throat, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
- Mustard plasters have been found to be very helpful in relieving asthma when associated with bronchitis
- Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture: According to traditional Chinese medical theory, asthma is mainly due to disorders of the lung and kidneys. Therapies are geared towards strengthening these organs and preventing pathogens such as wind, heat and damp from attacking the system. There are many herbal formulas (called patents), which can be used during acute episodes and as prevention. Minor Blue Dragon is the name of one of these patents. Acupuncture needles can be used in conjunction with herbs to further strengthen and support the organs. The emotions grief and fear may weaken the lungs and kidneys, and therefore should be addressed as well.
- Aconitum napellus and Ipecacuanha are often given alternately during acute episodes to ease breathing and coughing.
- Belladonna is useful when there are violent spasms of asthmatic breathing, with constriction of the chest. There is also a feeling of constriction of the throat, as if the person is suffocating
- Kali carbonicum is a remedy used when asthma tends to occur after midnight. The attacks tend to
- Lifestyle Changes: Deep breathing exercise, Qi Gong and yoga may all be helpful in strengthening the lungs. As mentioned above, grief and fear may also contribute to asthma. Therefore healthy expression of emotions is very important in the treatment of this condition.
The above treatment considerations are intended for informative purposes only and Millennium Health Centre does not propose that they will ensure cure. While some have used the basic information mentioned above to successfully treat themselves, such self-diagnosis and treatment is greatly cautioned. These therapies need to be considered in the greater context of an individual's overall health status, other medical conditions and the use of pharmaceutical medications. Indeed, these treatments must always be considered as to their potential to interact with other botanical and pharmaceutical medications. As such, consultation with a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine is strongly advised. Please see our 'Links' page for the O.A.N.D.'s website to locate an N.D. in your area, or call Millennium Health Centre to arrange an appointment.