Asthma is a very common condition affecting all ages, especially the young. The airway tubes going down to the lung ( bronchi) become inflamed, swollen, secrete mucus and tighten blocking the easy pathway of air into the lungs. This causes coughing, breathlessness, wheezing and chest tightness.
The bronchi become excessively sensitive to dusts, pollen, moulds, infection, smoke and fumes - leading to the asthmatic attack. The cause is often a combination of genetic and the environment.
If a cause can be found, then avoiding this is the best treatment by far, but for most allergic and immune conditions, there are many causes and often the gut is involved (leaky gut allowing large molecules to enter the blood).
What your doctor can do
- Relievers: drugs which open the bronchial tubes (bronchodilators). These are usually delivered directly into the bronchi via an inhaler – Ventolin, Serevent, Bricanyl. It is important to use these properly, and if the breathing becomes tight, then a spacer enables the drug to get into the lungs. Long acting relievers Salmeterol, Albuterol can also be used - see below.
- Preventers: usually an inhaled corticosteroid – Pulmocort, Flixatide, Respocort, take these regularly to prevent attacks. If the asthma is frequent it is best to use preventers regularly to prevent attacks.
- In severe attacks or in people with very bad recurrent asthma, oral steroids such as prednisone, are used.
- The common recommendation for using asthma drugs depends on the frequency of attacks:
Intermittent - 2 or 3 attacks per week, not affecting breathing between episodes - use a RELIEVER as needed, Also if exposed to cat or viral infection which can precipitate an attack.
Mild Persistent - more than 2-3 attacks per week, can affect breathing between attacks - use a PREVENTER plus relievers as required.
Moderate persistent - daily attacks, affecting normal activity - regular use of a PREVENTER plus a long acting RELIEVER ( salmeterol or albuterol ) and short acting reliever if required. If severe then consider taking oral steroids like prednisone.
What you can do
- Monitor the asthma. Patients with moderate to severe asthma should regularly monitor their lung function - Peak Flow monitor are the easiest to use. If there is a steady or sudden decline, then they should have a 'cricis plan' - increase the rellievers or preventers, start oral steroids, go to hospital. This is especially important in young people and children or those who cannot detect easily changes in their breathing.
- Avoid, if you can, things which bring on an asthmatic attack, this is the most important step – cigarette smoke, pollens, food, chocolate, stress, dust mites, animal dander, mould, cockroaches, smoke from stoves and fires, chlorine based cleaning products, perfumes and all sorts of sprays. Some groups of food - especially sulphite treated foods (beer, wine, processed potatoes, dried fruit, sauerkraut, shrimp). For a list of possible causes which should be eliminated click this link precipitators-of-asthma
- Drugs - some drugs - especially aspirin, beta blocker drugs and antibiotics can cause asthma and should be carefully avoided
- Sometimes a low-stress diet can help; eliminate all milk products and gluten from the diet for at least a month. Also, if any foods (chocolate, red wine) appear to aggravate the asthma, then eliminate them too.
- Avoid foods containing sulphites which are used to stop discolouration. About 5% of asthma sufferers can be triggered by these - they include beer, wine, processed potatoes, dried fruit, sauerkraut, or shrimp
- A leaky or unhealthy gut may allow large molecules into the body which can cause immune diseases. Plenty of fibre to cleanse the bowel, pro-biotics and may be helpful.
- Learn good breathing techniques – diaphragmatic (tummy) breathing. Buteyko breathing - many people find this very helpful (click here for the history behind the techniques, and click here and here for a description on how to do it ) has helped many thousands of people to control their asthma.Nutritional supplements
- A good multivitamin/multimineral makes sure that tissues have all the nutrients and minerals required to function perfectly.
- Omega 3 fish oils, 1–2 grams daily improve the elasticity and strength of the lung tissue. They also have a strong anti-inflammatory action.
- Calcium and magnesium, 800-1,000mg/day. Magnesium can relax the bronchial muscles and can relieve the asthma, both as a preventative and also as treatment. In many ED departments, magnesium is given iv to treat acute asthma. Many asthmatic people are short of magnesium, if they were fully supplemented with magnesium, they may reduce the risk or severity of further attacks.
- Grapeseed and high dose antioxidants
- Selenium. In areas where this mineral is low in the soil (for example New Zealand, parts of Australia, USA and China), the addition of 150–200ug of selenium daily may help reduce asthmatic attacks.
- High dose vitamin C 1-2 grams daily can also help as it can reduce inflammation and infections.
- Vitamin D is important in many allergic conditions - taking 5,000-10,000iu daily may help reduce asthma attacks and their severity. (Vitamin D seems to have many beneficial actions, including turning the genes on and off when required. Low D levels are present in many diseases and it does seem important to have adequate levels all year round)
- Probiotics to normalise the gut bacteria
The Nutritional supplements I use and recommend to my patients
For Asthma patients - USANA - Cellsentials*, Biomega, Active Calcium plus, Proflavanol C , probiotic, and vitamin D -
Other therapiesThere are a number of other therapies which you might like to look at. They have not been specifically included with this disease because some are a form of treatment which is applicable to most diseases and many focus on the mind, body, spirit, and the universe. These include - acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, homeopathy, naturopathy, prayer, visualisation and some people with this condition might like to look at these topics (I have described them more fully on another page on this website click here .) With my personal experience and reading, I do not think that I can comment of whether one or a number of these might help. They fit well with most conventional and complementary treatments and I suspect some or even all of them can be extremely powerful - if performed by an experienced practitioner. My only caveat is that if in the course of one of these therapies, you are given potions or herbs, do check with your health practitioner that they will not interfere with other treatments or drugs you are receiving.
Nutritional supplementsI believe in today's world that nutritional supplements are so necessary as to be an essential component of any form of both prevention and treatment. Not only is today's food lacking in nutrients because of the way it was grown and processed, but also most of us make the wrong choices in diet. It is virtually impossible to obtain optimal levels of most of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients although many people try to do so, and even then fresh produce is not available all year round. *There are many quality supplements available on the market, including –Thorne, NFS, Douglas Labs, Xtend Life, True Star Health, USANA, and Metagenics. There are others, but do your due diligence before choosing one. USANA Health Sciences has added a new adjunct to its multivitamin and multi mineral called CellSentials. These are a patented blend of phyto-nutrients which they believe affects cell signaling and growth, and increases the production of preventative antioxidants within the cell. These should add to the value of the multi, so these are the multivitamin/mineral preparation I recommend.