Asthma is an unfortunately common condition that is defined as a chronic inflammation of the airway passages. The causes of asthma are unknown. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and tightness and pain in the chest, which can be accompanied by coughing. When an asthma attack is occurring, the lining of the airway becomes inflamed and the muscles tighten. The airways narrow and it becomes difficult to breathe. An attack can be caused by any number of triggers that will be different for each and everyone who suffers from it.
About one in twelve people in the United States has asthma. Each year, asthma claims more than 3,000 lives. Women are more likely than men to suffer, and non-Hispanic blacks seem to be the most afflicted ethnic group. In 2009, 10 percent of all American children suffered from asthma. These numbers are staggering, and it appears as though the problem is getting worse.
People who live with asthma will recognize that certain triggers are more likely to bring on asthmatic symptoms. When possible, avoidance of the trigger will be the best method of preventing an asthma attack. Some common triggers are familiar allergens like dust mites, animal dander, mold, and pollen. Allergic triggers cannot be entirely avoided, but keeping windows closed, vacuuming, and using an air purifier are some good ways to reduce exposure.
Non-allergic triggers will not cause inflammation, but they can cause the airways to contract. Second-hand smoke, exercise, strong scents (like perfumes or chemical odors), cold air, and pollution can cause an asthma attack. Some of these triggers are difficult to avoid, but if nothing else, an asthma sufferer should take care to avoid being in enclosed areas with smokers.
The easiest treatment for an asthma sufferer will be to avoid the trigger. Since this is not possible in every case, your doctor will usually insist on prescribing you or your child medication upon confirming a diagnosis of asthma. Controllers are a type of medication that work to limit the inflammation within the airway. They are preventative in nature and will probably be needed in the long-term. Relievers are a short-term treatment that provides immediate relief of wheezing.
Naturopathic treatments for asthma are varied and must be monitored by a doctor. One such approach that has offered patients moderate relief from symptoms is a multi-faceted one called the Edgar Cayce treatment. This regime involves chiropractic adjustments, dietary modifications, and the use of Calcidin (or calcium iodate) and hydrotherapy treatments. The theory behind this treatment is that asthma is caused by problems in the spine and digestive toxicity. Most patients felt some improvement in their symptoms over the course of the study.
Halotherapy is another popular natural treatment for asthma. Halotherapy involves inhaling dry saline and is said to have anti-inflammatory effects and improve the flow of air through the bronchi. It has been used for bronchitis, COPD, and cystic fibrosis. Halotherapy is particularly popular for children, for parents who don’t want to use steroidal drugs to treat asthma. The downside of halotherapy is that it is expensive and cannot treat every case.
Acupuncture has long been used as an alternative therapy for many different ailments – from depression to back pain. It works based on the idea that energy in the body functions only when opposing negative and positive forces are in balance. Diseases such as asthma occur when these forces are imbalanced. By inserting needles along specific paths, the balance of forces (yin and yang) can be restored. Research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for asthma has received mixed reviews.
Ayurvedic medicine is an alternative method of healing that originated in India but is available in North America. Honey is said to be an effective treatment for an asthma attack. Consuming honey mixed with dates, pippali, and black resin can thin out mucus and clear up the respiratory system. During an actual attack, inhaling honey is thought to help the sufferer breathe more easily.
Another ayurvedic method is to massage the chest with camphor. This is thought to loosen mucus and facilitate breathing. Adding caraway seeds to boiling water and inhaling the steam is supposed to relieve bronchial dialation.
Butterbur, also referred to as petasites, is a plant used for many alternative medicinal therapies. The active ingredient is called petasin. It can be used to reduce inflammation. Butterbur works by blocking leukotriene and histamine, which cause inflammation of the airways. It is available by capsule form in health food stores.
Dried ivy is another common herbal remedy for asthma. Ivy leaf drops are said to be the most effective, and they work by improving airflow in the lungs. It can start to work in as few as three days, although in studies it did not show significant improvements in wheezing or cough. Ivy drops can be taken orally alone or in a glass of water.
Ginkgo biloba has been widely recognized as beneficial for those experiencing memory loss. However, ginkgo may hold benefits for asthma sufferers as well. Ginkgo is thought to decrease spasms in the bronchi and reduce inflammation. Ginkgo can interfere with certain medications like diuretics or blood thinners, so it is imperative that you speak with your doctor before starting any gingko biloba treatment. Some people experience side effects from taking gingko such as dizziness, headache, or diarrhea.
Breathing exercises are another alternative therapy for asthma sufferers. Research shows that regular breathing exercises can reduce the need for preventer and reliever medications significantly. One such exercise is called the Buteyko method. It involves simple daily repetitive exercises that are said to restore the body’s nature pattern. This method was developed in the Ukraine and has mixed reviews.
The Asthma Diet
Some other less than traditional treatments include altering your diet. Being overweight can exacerbate asthma symptoms as carrying extra weight forces the body to work harder during exertion. It follows that weight loss will alleviate some asthma symptoms. Specific foods may also reduce symptoms and the likelihood of developing asthma altogether. Eating habits while pregnant can even have an effect on your child’s chances of developing asthma.
Produce – fruits and vegetables – is thought to either prevent or mitigate asthma. This could be due to the high nutritional value in produce. When your immune system doesn’t have to work as hard, your body (including your lungs and bronchi) are able to function at full capacity. Also, foods high in antioxidants have reparative effects and can reduce the likelihood of tissue damage.
Calcium and magnesium are considered to play a role in asthma prevention. Calcium controls muscle contractions at the cellular level. Magnesium helps muscles relax after a contraction. A diet low in magnesium can lead to poor lung function and respiratory fatigue. A diet that meets the daily recommended intake of both calcium and magnesium should be sufficient, but many people fail to fulfill their daily requirement.
Eating honey may also be beneficial to asthma sufferers. Many people tout honey’s effectiveness at relieving allergy symptoms, and it is possible that honey may reduce one’s sensitivity to allergic triggers. It is believed that for best results, you should consume honey that is produced locally, as the bees that made the honey will have gathered pollen from the local plants that may be triggering your allergies.
Alternative asthma therapies are often used as a complementary treatment to traditional medicine. The research on such therapies is conflicting, so it is best to take caution when making changes to your treatment protocol. All changes to your asthma treatment must be discussed with your doctor as the repercussions can be dangerous. Alternative treatments might conflict with your current medications that can make other health conditions worse.
Remember that the best way to control your asthma without the constant need to reach for your reliever is to avoid your triggers. If you suffer from allergies, use an air purifier in your home with a HEPA filter. Keep your windows closed when pollen levels are higher. Launder your sheets and curtains in hot water. Since carpets can harbor dust and other allergens, hardwood, tile, or laminate floors are better options for asthmatics. If cold air is a major trigger, you may want to consider moving to an area with mild winters.
Asthma can be controlled, although not eliminated. With proper attention and giving it the respect it deserves, you can live a long and healthy life with asthma.
©2012 Off the Grid News