Asthma Self Help

Asthma affects about 5 to 8 percent of the U.S. population, more than 14.9 million. It is more common in children and people of African descent. Asthma is more common in boys than in girls during childhood, but the incidence evens out between genders in adulthood.

The incidence of asthma has been rising at an alarming rate. Between 1980 and 1993–94, there was a 75 percent increase overall, 74 percent in children aged five to fourteen, and 160 percent increase in children up to age four. These rates continue to rise.

Symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing. Its more technical name is reversible obstructive pulmonary disease (ROPD). Asthma can be a chronic or an occasional problem. Most people with asthma also have allergies.

The causes of asthma are multifactorial and not well understood. Exposure to stress, poor air quality, grasses, molds, smoke, chemicals, bacterial infections, colds, viruses, pollens, dust, and sensitivity to cockroaches and pets can trigger asthma attacks.

Increasing ozone levels are directly correlated with an increase in hospital admissions for asthma. Anyone can be sensitive to these events, but people with asthma are much more sensitive. During an attack, changes take place in the lungs that make breathing difficult.

The lungs begin to produce more mucus than normal. It’s very thick and sticky, and tends to clog up the tubes. The air tubes become inflamed and swell, which causes them to narrow, and breathing becomes labored. Oxygen supply to the rest of the body is limited, carbon dioxide builds up, and the body becomes more acidic.

On a biochemical level, exposure to allergens stimulates mast cell activity and production of cytokines as interleukins, which play a central role in initiating and sustaining the inflammation associated with asthma. Asthma attacks can come on suddenly or build over several hours or days.

Medical treatment consists of medications, inhalers, allergy shots, and peak flow meter machines, which help breathing. Reducing allergen exposure also helps. Excellent air-filtration systems, efficient vacuum cleaners, laundering bedding in hot water, and keeping bedrooms scrupulously clean and uncluttered can be effective in preventing asthma attacks.

When exposed to allergens, asthma sufferers have inflammation in their digestive tract that causes a leaky gut syndrome. Although the symptoms are felt in the lungs, it is believed that people with asthma have mucous membrane problems in general.

Candida and other fungal infections have been linked to asthma. This may initially be due to steroid medications, such as inhalers and prednisone, which are well-known triggers of candida. One study found fungal infections in fifty-two out of sixty-four subjects.

After two years of treatment for candida, a significant decrease in asthmatic symptoms was reported in 60 percent of the subjects. Other studies have found a high incidence of candida in asthmatics who don’t use steroids. I’ve had several clients whose asthma significantly cleared by treating the candida infection.

There is also a deficiency of secretory IgA found in mucous membranes throughout the body as a consequence of asthma. Asthma seems to respond best to lifestyle changes and stressmanagement techniques. Learning to develop emotional hardiness and a relaxed manner in stressful situations can greatly reduce the incidence and severity of asthma attacks.

Exercise is usually beneficial for people with asthma, although there is one type of asthma that only occurs post exercise. Cleaning up your diet is essential. Get rid of sugars, alcohol, processed foods, and food additives. Test for specific food sensitivities and allergies and then avoid those that you react to.

Reactions will be individual and cannot be generalized. In children, the most common food allergens are fruits, eggs, dairy products, and nuts. Dairy products have been shown to be protective in other studies, which is why it’s important to test. Allergies and asthma are a problem with total load of stress on the body.

If you can keep the total below the threshold, you stay symptom-free. When children are born to a parent who has asthma, it’s advised to breast-feed for at least four months. This significantly reduces the likelihood that the children will develop asthma.

Healing Options

  • Make dietary changes. Eliminate sugar, alcohol, processed foods, and food additives from your diet. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables and natural foods. Discover food allergens by testing. Avoid all reactive foods for four to six months. Slowly reintroduce those foods.

The most likely foods to cause reactions are dairy, nuts, fruits, and eggs, but virtually any food can be a problem. Remember, we breathe in about five grams of pollen and dust each year, but we eat about a thousand pounds of food during that same time. Sensitivity to foods is often a major problem in asthma.

  • Exercise. Research shows that twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic exercise four or five times each week will reduce use of medications and symptoms of asthma. It is important to go at your own pace and to not overdo—you don’t want to cause exercise-induced asthma. If you are not already exercising, build up slowly and ask your doctor or a fitness instructor for a personalized program.
  • Focus on healing mucous membranes. People with asthma benefit from nutrients that promote healthful mucous membranes in the lungs and gut. Helpful nutrients include vitamin A, glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), and folic acid.
  • Take vitamin C. Vitamin C is well documented in the literature to be of use in asthma protection. It protects lung responsiveness and function and reduces asthma symptoms. Vitamin C has antioxidant, antiallergy, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. Take at least 1,000 milligrams. For best results, start with a vitamin C flush (see Chapter 8) once a week for four weeks.
  • Take magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is common in people with asthma. Magnesium is a powerful muscle relaxant and can help prevent and reduce the severity of asthma attacks. Take 400 to 800 milligrams daily. I also recommend increasing the dosage until you get diarrhea, then back off. If the dose you need is more than 1,000 milligrams, you may benefit from a teaspoon of choline citrate daily to help increase magnesium uptake into the cells.
  • Increase fish oil consumption. The research on fish oils and asthmatics has been extensive and mixed. Some people benefit tremendously, while others don’t. You have nothing to lose from a month-long trial. It is well known that fish oils decrease inflammatory leukotrienes, cytokines, and arachidonic acid.

Cod liver oil may be a good supplement because it also contains vitamin A, which is protective of the lung mucosa. Eat fish high in EPA/ DHA at least twice each week, take 2,000 to 2,500 milligrams EPA/DHA fish oil daily, or take 2,000 to 2,500 milligrams cod liver oil.

  • Try quercetin. Quercetin is a powerful and gentle mast cell inhibitor and antihistamine. Take at first sign of lung tightness and through the duration of the asthma attack, 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams daily as needed. As far as I know, there is no toxic dose.
  • Try arginine. Nitric oxide (NO) acts as a bronchodilator. The amino acid arginine is a precursor to NO release. Take 250 to 1,500 milligrams daily.
  • Use ginkgo biloba. One study on ginkgo showed improvement in symptoms, lung function, and reduced airway hyper-reactivity. Ginkgo is a known free radical scavenger, enhances circulation, protects nerves, and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Take ginkgo biloba standardized extract, 180 to 240 milligrams daily.
  • Take a multivitamin with antioxidants. Research documents the increased need for glutathione peroxidase, vitamin C, and vitamin E in asthma sufferers. The enzyme glutathione peroxidase depends on both selenium and glutathione. Vitamin B6 and B12 levels have also been found to be lower in asthmatics.

Look for a multivitamin that contains at least 400 IU vitamin E, 1,000 milligrams vitamin C, 200 micrograms selenium, reduced glutathione or NAC, and 5 or more milligrams of manganese. If you look for a multivitamin that has a dosage of three or more tablets, you may also find 400 to 600 milligrams magnesium as well.

  • Try bee propolis. Propolis is a resin that bees collect from trees and buds and is used to repair their hives. It has antibiotic and antifungal properties. One study looked at the benefits from use of bee propolis in adults with asthma.

After two months, the number and severity of nighttime attacks had decreased, pulmonary function tests had improved, and inflammatory cytokines had decreased. Caution: some people are really allergic to all bee products. If you are one, don’t use this. Otherwise, take 1,000 milligrams daily.

  • Try Traumeel S. Traumeel S is a homeopathic product that was used in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Subjects continued to use their corticosteroid medications along with Traumeel S during the study.

Over twenty weeks, the use of medications was reduced from 4.6 milligrams daily to 2.6 milligrams daily. Their general symptoms improved significantly, and people had an increased sense of well-being. Take 1 ampoule subcutaneously every five to seven days.

  • Take coleus forskohli or forskolin. Coleus forskohli is an Ayurvedic herb in wide usage. Forskolin is one of the active ingredients and is now marketed as a separate product. This herb has been shown to have bronchodilating effects on the lungs and to be beneficial for asthma.

It stimulates the production of cyclic AMP. Impaired cyclic AMP production is believed to be an underlying cause of asthma. Take 50 to 100 milligrams coleus forskohli daily or 9 to 18 milligrams forskolin daily.

  • Provide adrenal support. Asthma, like all allergies, responds to adrenal support. Corticosteroid drugs mimic the body’s natural adrenal hormones. Anything you can do to enhance your body’s own production of steroid hormones will be of benefit.

Although literature is scant, animal studies with licorice hold promise. Use DGL licorice unless blood pressure is extremely low. Most licorice candy does not contain any licorice, but some gourmet licorice does. Be careful, as too much may raise your blood pressure. Adrenal glandulars, pantothenic acid, vitamin B2, and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus) may also be of use.

  • Try Meyer’s cocktail. IV nutrients, given by a physician, can quickly help revitalize your nutrient status. Nutrients can be absorbed and used at higher concentrations. Meyer’s cocktail is a combination of magnesium, calcium, vitamins B12and B6, pantothenic acid, and vitamin C. It has been used successfully in people with a variety of ailments.