The bronchi are the airways in our lungs that allow us to take oxygen into our bodies. When these become inflamed or irritated, they can cause asthma – restricting the airways and causing the body to create more mucos than normal.
Symptoms of Asthma
The symptoms of asthma are all related to constricted airways, including:
- Difficulty taking a deep breath
What Causes Asthma?
Though asthma can be triggered by seasonal allergies, and even a bout of moderately strenuous exercise, this is not what causes asthma. Contributory factor include:
- Low immune function
- Genetic predisposition for asthma (passed down from family)
- Poor diet
- Work-related toxic exposure
- Air pollution
- Chemical fertilizer and herbicide exposure
- Food allergies
Asthma Treatment Options
Allopathic Cures for Asthma
Allopathic medicine attests that asthma has no cure. Even when the symptoms disappear, you may still have asthma flare ups when you least expect them. Natural medicine has a different viewpoint, which we will discuss in a moment.
Asthma medications commonly prescribed by doctors can help control symptoms in the case of an emergency attack, they can sometimes make asthma worse long term. For example, the regular use of albuterol could cause your symptoms to get worse, not better.
Others argue that the medications didn’t ever stop working, but that your asthma just got worse over time. Both explanations are likely since the medications prescribed do not address the root cause – which could be as simple as a gluten intolerance, or a sensitivity to environmental toxins.
Once these are removed from the diet, and our toxic burden is lessened in the body, asthma “magically” disappears. Functional medicine – also called “natural medicine” aims to remedy the root cause, not just cover up the symptoms with chemical medicines.
Natural Cures for Asthma
Natural cures for asthma will depend on the person. If they are to be effective, several courses of change may be in order. For example:
- Gut health may need to be addressed. Asthma is a common reaction of the body when it is chronically inflamed due to poor gut health. The intestinal tract houses billions of healthy bacteria that are responsible for about 70 percent of our immune system. When the gut flora (bacteria) is out of balance, with the “bad” bacteria outnumbering the healthy bacteria, we are much more likely to get sick. This includes having upper respiratory ailments like asthma.
- Prescribed medications may be causing asthma. Beta blockers, pain relievers like aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as ACE inhibitors may all cause asthma flare-ups. It is pointless to try to treat asthma with medication if medication is what is causing your asthma!
- You may have vitamin and mineral deficiencies which are causing your asthma. When the body is deprived of certain vital nutrients, it starts to attack its “lesser” organs to save the most vital ones – like the heart and brain. Sure, you need to breathe, but without vitamins like A, and C, you are more likely to suffer from asthma and upper respiratory disease.
- You may be working or living in a toxic environment and not know it. Numerous studies have shown that the offices we work in are pumping in polluted air. It can be even worse than the air quality outside. We may also have lots of irritants at home, and be unaware that these are triggering asthma symptoms. By keeping a record of when your asthma is triggered you may discover that it gets worse when you are in certain places. Likewise, many people working in the industrial agricultural system may not realize that the chemicals they are using cause asthma. Once you figure this out you can dig a little deeper to discover what may be causing it.
Chinese Traditional Medicine for Asthma
Traditional Chinese Medicine has its own viewpoint about what causes asthma. It is largely centered in a belief that all disease is psycho-physiological in nature. In other words, your deeply held emotions can cause disease – including asthma. If you tend to be anxious and worry excessively, you are much more likely to suffer from asthma. Of course, we cannot discount environmental contributors to this disease, but the body is always more resilient in dealing with pathogens and toxic exposure when we are emotionally “free.”
This modality will attempt to alleviate qi in the organs which contribute to worry and sadness. This is usually done by cleaning the blood with herbs, and utilizing acupuncture, cupping, and moxibustion so that stagnant energy can move freely.
Yoga for Asthma
Many yoga practices aim to cure the underlying stress which may be contributing to your asthma and causing inflammation in your body. These postures will open your chest, and throat, while increasing the prana or qi in your lungs, and generally calm the sympathetic nervous system. Postures like camel, bow, and bridge will also counteract the muscular contraction that causes the chest and shoulders to collapse.
There are also a multitude of breathing exercises (pranayama) which you can turn to help increase your lung capacity, and stop “panic” breathing when an asthma attack is about to be triggered.
From a yogic perspective, you can even “retrain” poor breathing patterns caused by a lifetime of suffering from asthma. By learning to breathe in a deep, relaxed manner most of the day, we actually lessen the probability that we’ll be triggered by something in our lives like stress or seasonal changes.
Meditation for Asthma
Echoing the TCM premise, that asthma is primarily a disease of emotional stagnation, meditation may be able to remedy asthma by lowering stress. It also allows subconsciously stored emotions to come to the surface to be released.
Research has also verified that meditation change sour brainwave patterns which can lessen the severity of an asthma attack when you do have one. How we handle our own emotions is critical in the treatment of asthma. People often panic when they have an attack. The sudden inability to breathe leads to a fear of dying – which causes the bronchial passages to tighten even more. Meditation can teach an asthma sufferer to be calm when the first signs of an asthma attack appear.
The University of Cincinnatti conducted a study proving meditation could eliminate asthma symptoms altogether.
Herbal Remedies for Asthma
Most herbal remedies for asthma are anti-inflammatory. This is because the lungs and bronchi are inflamed and constricted. This is what causes shortness of breath or the “panic” breath. The following herbs are usually recommended for their powerful anti-inflammatory power:
- Manuka Honey
- Comiphora mukul
- Withania Somnifera
- Omega 3s
Lifestyle Changes for Asthma Sufferers
- It should go without saying that smoking can trigger an asthma attack. Quit smoking if you do, and remove yourself from environments that are heavy with second-hand smoke.
- Get regular exercise. Though an asthma attack can be triggered by exercise, regular exercise can actually help to reverse chronic inflammation in the body and reduce asthma flare ups.
- Lowering your weight if you are overweight can also help to reduce chronic inflammation, thereby promoting a healthy immune response – and less asthma attacks.
- Reduce stress. Stress is closely correlated to asthma attacks. Try to slow down, meditate, do yoga, or go for a walk outside in nature. Take deep breaths before you ever anticipate an asthma attack coming on. These things will calm the sympathetic nervous system which is charge of making your breathing shorter and “stressed” instead of relaxed and even.
- Check for food allergens to dairy, or gluten. Just removing these from your diet may cause all your asthma symptoms to disappear.
- If you are pregnant, it is especially important to address your asthma symptoms as you are breathing for two. The more oxygen you can take in, the healthier your baby will be, and the easier you can progress through the later stages of child-birthing.
- Eat more fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. The more nutrients in your diet, the less likely you are to suffer from asthma.
In brief, asthma is directly correlated to our diets, food allergies, gut health, how often we exercise, stress levels, and toxicity in our environments. By improving all of these root issues, we can often get rid of asthma symptoms without relying on medications that can cause our asthma to get worse over time.