Breathing is a basic process that we normally do not pay attention to as long as it is happening naturally. However, when breathing is labored, rather it be due to exercise, allergens or even a condition, asthma may be the cause . Asthma is responsible for about 13 million missed school days and 10 million missed work days in the USA alone. It can be fatal if it is not managed properly.
Asthma is a condition that is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the bronchi and tightening of the muscles around bronchi, which makes breathing difficult. It can start in infancy, childhood or even in adulthood. Some children seem to “outgrow” asthma, but experts say the problem never really goes away. In many cases, even if an individual has not experienced asthma symptoms for many years, they can have it triggered by a multitude of different factors . Irrespective of when it starts, the sufferer must seek medical attention fast because it can be fatal.
What Causes Asthma?
According to the World Health Organization, half the cases of asthma are 'inherited' while the other half are due to environmental factors (pollution, Nutrition, and allergic reactions).
An asthma attack can be triggered by:
Irritants such as strong odors, chemical fumes and smoke
Food additives and some medicines
Indoor allergens such as mold, dust mites and pet hairs
Outdoor allergens such as pollen
Colds, flu and other infections
Cold air or extremely wet, dry or windy weather
Signs and Symptoms
Asthma sufferers do not always share the same symptoms. However, you know you have asthma when you have the following signs and symptoms often:
Tightness in the chest
Shortness of breath
Wheezing (a whistling sound in the chest when breathing)
Excessive mucus in the passageways
Asthma is classified as a chronic disease meaning that there is thought that it cannot be easily treated but its symptoms can be managed through drugs. Medical treatment consists of long term control medications (inhaled corticosteroids) that are taken daily to prevent symptoms (even if there is no attack) and quick relief medications (bronchodilators) that are taken whenever there is an attack. For asthma that is caused by allergies, sufferers can get asthma shots and sublingual tablets or take daily antihistamines. However, there are side effects associated with the drugs, for example some medications affect the genes in children and may stunt growth and increase cardiovascular events.
Before allopathic medicine came in the late 1800s, there were natural healing methods that had been tried and tested for centuries. There is growing interest in the ancient healing methods, now collectively referred to as “alternative and naturopathic.” This method includes herbal medicine, aromatherapy, nutriton, stress management and activity and these holistic approaches may help to prevent asthma and heal the body at the same time.
1. Herbal Medicines
Valerian, kava, calendula, peppermint and lemon balm are relaxing and antispasmodic herbs that you can use at night in order to get better sleep if your asthma disturbs your sleep.
The following plants support respiratory health by strengthening the lungs and reducing inflammation. If they are used consistently they reduce the severity of an attack and may even prevent an attack in the long run. These are:
Lungwort, which is well-known for treating a variety of respiratory problems including asthma, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
Garlic, which is anti-inflammatory, supports immunity and clears mucus.
Astragalus (huang qi), which strengthens the lungs and prevents infections that can trigger an attack.
Ginger, an anti-inflammatory that supports respiratory health and clears mucus.
Cordyceps which improves lung function, reduces bronchial secretions and improves body energy.
Slippery elm which soothes the lungs, eases irritation and brings up phlegm.
Lobelia which is an expectorant and anti-spasmodic and very effective for asthma control and other respiratory problems.
Reishi mushroom which controls stress, strengthens the lungs and sedates active immune cells that create an allergic reaction.
Turmeric, which reduces inflammation of the passageways and its antimicrobial properties reduce infections that might trigger an attack.
Elecampane (wild sunflower) which treats bronchial asthma by coating, soothing and relaxing the lining of the bronchial passages, making it easier to breathe. It also acts as an expectorant, reducing phlegm in the lungs and the bronchi.
Mullein which works as an antibacterial and anti inflammatory while helping to expel mucus out of the lungs to clear bronchial passageways .
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils are absorbed by the body through inhalation and the skin to potentiate changes in the body. To potentiate this, you can make a vapor rub with peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil to open up the airways. Also, using frankincense oil in aromatherapy may lower inflammation and reduce swollen lymph nodes. Additionally, oils such as aniseed, fennel, hyssop, rosemary and peppermint have strong expectorant properties that will loosen a tenacious build-up of mucus. Lavender oil can also contribute as it reduces anxiety and panic attacks which can lead to asthma exacerbation.
3. Dietary Control
A diet full of antioxidants, vitamins and the right minerals will combat environmental toxins, prevent inflammation and improve the immune system. Make sure that you include these items in your diet:
Brightly colored carotenoid foods such as carrots, tomatoes and leafy greens.
High-folate (vitamin B9) foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans and nuts.
Vitamin C foods such as leafy greens, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits and bell peppers.
Vitamin E foods such as nuts, seeds and their oils.
High magnesium foods such as greens, nuts, seeds, beans, and cocoa.
High antioxidant and sulforaphane sources such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and broccoli sprouts.
Anti-inflammatories such as garlic, onion and mustard seeds.
Probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, coconut kefir, kombucha, natto and yogurt.
Omega-3 foods such as organic wild caught salmon, flaxseeds, nuts and other seeds.
High vitamin B5 foods such as sunflower seeds, avocados, organic cage free brown eggs, portobello mushrooms, wild caught salmon, lentils, cauliflower and corn (organic and non-GMO).
While managing asthma, it is also important to avoid a number of food items that can further worsen bronchial constriction and inflammation seen in asthma attacks. Avoid: gluten (triggers autoimmune responses), added sugar (encourages yeast growth), trans fats (creates free radicals), conventional dairy (triggers allergic reactions and increases mucus in the body), refined oils, and processed carbohydrates.
It is essential to strengthen and tone the bronchial tissue of the lungs through mild to moderate activity such as walking, yoga, swimming, light jogging and tai chi. These activities will also prevent obesity, improve immune function, reduce stress and lower inflammation in the body.
5. Manage Stress
Stress increases the severity and frequency of asthma attacks and it lowers the immune system and affects adrenal function. It is therefore helpful to manage stress through deep abdominal breathing, massage, stretching, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery and meditation.
Asthma can be cured holistically if you are consistent in: avoiding the inflammatory foods, consuming more nutrient rich whole foods, staying active, managing stress and in taking more calming herbs. All of these activities will also reduce mucus and toxin build up, which will eventually reduce the progression of lung damage and possibly reverse inflammatory mechanisms and acute exacerbations be of asthma.
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