34 million Americans have asthma. 8 million of these are children. Asthma is behind 12.8 million missed school days every year and 10.1 million missed work days. Asthma costs America $14.7 billion a year. $6.2 billion of this is spent on prescription medications for asthma–drugs that treat, and sometimes worsen, the symptoms.
Asthma medications have a host of side effects: they affect the endocrine system and the immune system. They contribute to yeast growth and osteoporosis. They even come to cause asthmatic reactions after a while.
Research has found that the inhalant albuterol alters genes in children so that asthma attacks are 30% more likely.
Dr. John Mills, chief of infectious diseases at San Francisco General, says, “Conventional drugs used for treating asthma, particularly steroids, can impair immune function and lead to more serious health problems. Doctors tell you that steroids (cortisone, prednisone) only cause side effects after many years. But new research shows that permanent damage is immediate and devastating. Studies show that steroids cause permanent, debilitating effects after a single dosage. Steroids are probably the most sleazy of modern day medications.”
There are many different theories about what causes asthma, but toxins are a recognized root in many theories. Poor nutrition, pollution, antibiotic abuse and stress play a large role in the development of asthma. The Western lifestyle correlates with increased numbers of asthma-sufferers. Asthma is rare in remote areas of Asia and Africa but the numbers rise as Western foods are introduced.
To treat asthma naturally, lower environmental and dietary toxin intake, eat nutrient-rich foods, address the nervous system’s role in lung function and learn to manage stress.
Toxins Cause Asthma
There might not be much you can do about pollution outdoors, but minimizing pollutants in your home will greatly lessen susceptibility to outdoor asthma attacks–especially since the EPA tell us our indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment.
- Try to keep a window open even during the winter to bring fresh air in. If you can afford it, use a heat recovery ventilator (air-to-air heat exchanger) to bring outside air in.
- Avoid second-hand smoke from wood-burning stoves and cigarettes.
- Switch to natural household cleansers or use baking soda, lavender oil and vinegar to make your own. There are many simple recipes available online that can keep added chemicals out of your home and save you a bundle of money.
- Avoid aerosols and petroleum-based ingredients in your health and beauty products.
- Use a dehumidifier in damp areas and fix water leaks to reduce mold.
- Buy a water filter to remove chlorine from your tap water.
- Go for flooring or carpets that you can vacuum beneath to reduce dust mites.
- Wash bedding weekly and keep upholstery and carpets regularly vacuumed.
- Keep furry friends out of the bedroom.
- Cockroaches are another asthma trigger so remove them or move yourself.
It is widely accepted that antibiotics play a role in asthma attacks and may contribute to its original cause. Many children are so well protected from germs, bacteria and childhood illnesses that their immune systems don’t develop properly. Instead of acquiring the immune cells specific to certain bacteria and viruses, they retain highly reactive immune cells.
Ampicillin, amoxycilllin cephalosporins, erythromycin, spiramycin and tetracycline, both in prescription form and the antibiotic-treated animal products we ingest, worsen asthma attacks.
Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen can trigger or worsen asthma attacks.
Other drugs such as betablockers, estrogen, NSAIDs and sulfites can trigger or worsen asthma attacks.
Foods that Trigger Asthma
There are many reasons that processed and refined foods contribute to asthma. Lack of fiber reduces probiotic bacteria, stomach acid and proper digestion. The lack of nutrients in these foods stresses the entire body and makes it less able to neutralize toxins. The lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in the Western diet contributes to poor nutrition.
- Children who eat foods fried in vegetable oils and consume hydrogenated fats are twice as likely to have asthma. These trans-fats contribute to the presence of dangerous free radicals in the body.
- Children who are bottle-fed with powdered and pasteurized infant formulas are significantly more at risk of developing asthma.
- The high-sugar content in many processed foods contributes to the overgrowth of yeast or Candida albicans. Yeast can be a trigger itself, but worse, it steals valuable nutrients from the digestive tract.
- Hidden food allergies are often triggers for asthma attacks. The most common food allergies are to pasteurized milk products, gluten, soy, eggs and nuts. Wheat gluten and soy are present in a wide variety of foods. They hide on labels as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lecithin, starch and vegetable oil.
- Food preservatives and food coloring can trigger asthma attacks. Avoid MSG, tartrazine (yellow food dye), sulfites and sulfur dioxide to name just a few.
- Avoid animal products treated with hormones and antibiotics as well as pasteurized foods and drinks. Farm-raised fish is laden with these chemicals and have high mercury levels that correlate with increased incidence of asthma.
Natural Asthma Treatments
Top Foods for Asthma Diet
Eating a healthy diet gives the asthmatic the antioxidants and nutrients to combat toxins and triggers. Eating a wide variety of foods can ensure that we get all the nutrients we need.
There have been numerous studies that show consuming the right foods can be the best form of natural asthma treatments:
- Beta-carotene, the compound that gives fruit and vegetables their orange or red color, reduced asthma attacks in 53% of people in one study. Carotenoids are the basis of vitamin A which is involved in the mucous membranes. Severity of asthma correlates with low vitamin A.
- Folate, or vitamin B9, reduced allergic reactions and inflammation. It lowers wheezing by 40%. Folate is present in green, leafy vegetables, beans and nuts.
- Vitamin B3 and vitamin B12 are commonly low in asthmatics. These nutrients lower antihistamine levels and reduce wheezing.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps to detoxify the body. Vitamin C reduces wheezing and inflammation.
- Vitamin E and magnesium are powerful antioxidants as well. Low levels of magnesium are associated with increased risk of developing asthma and increasing magnesium reduces the severity of asthma attacks.
- A study of 68,000 women showed that those who ate more tomatoes, carrots and leafy greens had much lower rates of asthma.
- Broccoli, broccoli sprouts, brussel sprouts and other members of the cruciferous family greatly increase many antioxidants in the body. One of the key compounds in broccoli is sulforaphane.
“A major advantage of sulforaphane is that it appears to increase a broad array of antioxidant enzymes, which may help the compound’s effectiveness in blocking the harmful effects of air pollution,” said Dr. Marc Riedl of UCLA. “We found a two-to-three-fold increase in antioxidant enzymes in the nasal airway cells of study participants who had eaten a preparation of broccoli sprouts. This strategy may offer protection against inflammatory processes and could lead to potential treatments for a variety of respiratory conditions.”
- Garlic, onions and mustard are considered anti-microbials. They may help to fight bacterial infections. They also contain quercetin, which inhibits inflammation.
- Another rising star in the treatment of asthma is Vitamin D. It seems to slow declining lung function. Calcitriol, the form of Vitamin D we make in the body, is an anti-inflammatory. It also stops lung “remodeling”, the narrowing of breathing passages over time.
- Raw milk seems to protect children from developing asthma and hayfever. The healthy probiotics in raw milk strengthen the immune system. Mothers can prevent their children from developing asthma if they ingest probiotics while pregnant or breastfeeding. Probiotics improve digestion and help stop allergic reactions that occur as proteins and other allergens pass through the digestive lining.
- Prebiotics are the plant fibers that help us to eliminate toxins and feed healthy probiotic bacteria. Whole grains, nuts, seeds and raw vegetables are loaded with prebiotic materials.
- The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, orange roughy, salmon, trout and tuna lowers the incidence of asthma by 4 times. Omega-3’s reduce airway inflammation and reactivity.
- Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid is needed in larger quantities by asthmatics. They seen unable to utilize this vitamin correctly and increasing intake of this vitamin helps reduce wheezing. Theophylline, a drug used to treat asthma, causes Vitamin B6 deficiency. Pantothenic acid is also involved in adrenal function and stress plays a large role in asthma.
Chiropractic Care for Asthma
Asthma has also been linked to a condition known as Forward Head Posture. FHP occurs when your head shifts out in front of your body. As a result, the nerves in the lower part of your neck and upper part of your back from Vertebrae T1-T4 become compressed and compromise lung function. To correct FHP, I recommend you seek the assistance of a corrective care Chiropractic physician.
This is a specific field of chiropractic that deals with improving your posture through adjustments and spinal rehabilitation exercises. By retraining the spine back into it’s ideal alignment, pressure is taken off the nerves feeding out to the lungs.
Stress Causes Asthma
The Western lifestyle includes high degrees of stress. It is well known that stress increases the severity of asthmatic attacks and can be the trigger for attacks.
67% or more of asthmatics have diminished adrenal capacity, increased anxiety and other mood disorders. Mood disorders are considered “adaptive diseases”, that is, they result from a person’s inability to deal with stress. Vitamins C, B6, zinc and magnesium all support adrenal function.
Stress management techniques help reduce asthma severity.
The British Guideline on the Management of Asthma recommends Buteyko and pranayama yoga for asthma management. A review of 7 studies found that these breathing exercises reduce the severity and length of asthma attacks.
Massage, deep abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery and art therapies can all help to reduce stress and give asthmatics the tools to modulate their stress response. This will lower susceptibility to attacks and lessen reliance on asthma drugs.