The Natural Treatment of Asthma
We all take certain things for granted. For many of us, the most basic of actions is one of these things. But for those with Asthma, breathing is precious and something cherished.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that unfortunately once diagnosed, lasts a lifetime. It cannot be cured but can be effectively managed. Asthma causes lungs to be sensitive and airways that carry air to be restricted by swelling and mucus. It also causes inflammation and narrowing of these airways restricting the flow of air (and oxygen). Airways tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances. Asthma causes periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and persistent coughing (often at night or just after wake-up).
Asthma can affect people at any age, but it most often starts during childhood. In Canada over 8% of us report having been diagnosed with asthma. That works out to almost 2.5 million Canadians.Many times asthma symptoms are mild and go away on their own or after minimal treatment. Other times, symptoms continue to get worse. When symptoms get more intense and/or more symptoms occur, then it is classified as an asthma attack. Asthma attacks also are called flare-ups.
Treating symptoms as soon as they are first recognized is vital. This is to prevent them from worsening or causing a severe attack. Severe attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal. The exact cause of asthma remains unknown. Researchers believe that it may be caused by the interaction between genetic and environmental factors most likely early on. Your risk increases if:
Your parents have asthma
You have respiratory infections during childhood
You had contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system is developing
You have exposure to irritants (for example, tobacco smoke) which may make your airways more reactive to substances in the air.
The "Hygiene Hypothesis": One theory researchers have is the "hygiene hypothesis." They believe that our modern lifestyle obsession with hygiene, and “antibacterial products” has caused an overall decline in infections in early childhood. Now young children don’t have the same types of environmental exposures and infections as children did in the past. This affects the way that young children's immune systems develop during very early childhood, and it may increase their risk for allergies and asthma. This is especially true for children who have close family members with allergies and/or asthma.
Because there is no cure, the goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease. Good asthma control will allow sufferers to lead normal productive lives with few compromises due to asthma. It will prevent chronic symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, reduce the need for medication, maintain lung health and most importantly prevent asthma attacks.
Working to manage other conditions that can interfere with asthma management.
Avoiding asthma triggers.
Working with all your practitioners to create and follow a detailed asthma action plan including triggers to avoid, preventatives and flare up medications.
Daily Prevention: The goal of daily prevention is to minimize symptoms and prevent flare ups.
Avoid triggers: Over time sufferers will learn their specific triggers. For example pollen, air pollution or exhaust might make your asthma worse. In this case try to limit time outdoors when the levels of these substances in the outdoor air are high. Whatever your triggers are, you need to find a way to minimize exposure.
Inflammation Prevention: Many things cause inflammation. These include allergens, foods and stress. No matter how much we try, we will be exposed to pro-inflammatory substances.
To keep inflammation in check take a daily anti-inflammatory supplement. I suggest certified organic turmeric capsules. Organic is important as it will ensure the turmeric is “clean”, free of inflammatory contaminants.
Reduce consumption of inflammatory foods. These include artificial flavours, colours, junk food, processed food and processed oils. Increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods (if they are not triggers) including tomatoes, polyunsaturated oils (omega 3 rich oils including fish oil) green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and a wide variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.
Keep the airways open. Regular exercise will help keep airways open. But exercise that is too strenuous can have the reverse effect. Before starting any exercise plan talk to your doctor to set limits to ensure you don’t trigger an attack from the exercise.
Keep stress in check. Excessive stress leads to inflammation. Try keeping your stress level under control using mind body techniques such as yoga and meditation. Additionally try anti-stress supplements such as Siberian Ginseng Certified Organic capsules.
Embrace green. Chlorophyll, the green substance in dark green vegetables helps open airways naturally. Try drinking liquid chlorophyll supplements daily to keep airways open. Remember that even if you take all these measures to prevent flare ups, they may still happen and need to be attended to immediately. If you have a flare up, head for your inhaler. The preventatives are for daily, not emergency use.
With knowledge and care, people with asthma don’t have to be limited by their condition. Daily prevention can help make living with asthma much easier and safer.
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.