Asthma is a condition caused by increased responsiveness of the respiratory passage to various allergens or to viral or bacterial infections. This is exacerbated by the secretion of a very thick, sticky mucous instead of the normal fluid phlegm. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest and a feeling of suffocation. Violent coughing often occurs as the lungs attempt to expel mucous and an attack can last from several minutes to several days. An attack can be triggered by many things including exercise, cold air, changes in temperature or humidity, upper respiratory tract infection, allergens, pollution, smoke and certain medication. The frequency and severity of attacks are influenced by several factors including mental and physical fatigue, hormonal changes throughout life, emotional situations or stress, and exposure to allergens and toxins such as smoke or fumes. General lifestyle considerations are very important for those who suffer from asthma. It is vital to stop smoking and stay away from cigarette smoke at all times. Avoid pollution and smoke as much as possible and avoid cycling or walking along heavily polluted roads.
Naturopaths will always address the cause of the problem, as well as helping to reduce symptoms. Certainly avoiding allergens becomes very important in someone with asthma. It is a good idea to have an allergy test done to determine if airborne allergens, such as dust are an issue and take steps to avoid exposure as much as possible. There are two different tests you can have done for foods. One is the IgE test, which would test for the airborne allergens as well as some foods, and this would be done through referral to an allergy specialist via your GP. The other is an IgG or food sensitivity test, done through Naturopaths, which will test for foods your body is reacting to in a different way. I also get people with asthma to avoid mucous producing foods such as dairy and refined sugar and white flour. Low blood sugar levels can lead to an asthma attack so having a diet to support balanced blood sugar levels is also important. Also some preservatives and colours in foods have been linked to asthma.
Herbal medicine is always helpful here, and there are some great herbs to reduce the allergic reaction as well as bronchodilating and expectorant herbs, herbs to reduce mucous and inflammation and herbs to strengthen the lungs. I used other supplements such as Vitamin C and bioflavonoids for their antihistamine effect, fish oil for it’s amazing anti-inflammatory effect, cod liver oil to support the mucous membranes, magnesium to help reduce spasm in the chest and probiotics to reduce the tendency to allergy.
A Naturopath will also always look at what else is happening in the body. The bowel and lungs work together, as does the liver, lymphatic system and kidneys. If there are other issues in the body, such as constipation or sluggish liver and lymphatic function, this can affect the lungs. The lungs are an eliminative organ, so if other areas important for elimination of toxins from the body are not functioning well, the lungs will be overloaded and tend to produce more mucous, and function less effectively. Drinking lots of water is particularly important to support kidney function, flush out toxins and thin the mucous.
Most importantly asthma can be a life-threatening condition, so it is important to stay monitored by the doctor and continue taking the necessary medication.