Julian Whitaker, MD
On any given day, asthma leaves some 20 million Americans wheezing and gasping for breath. And those numbers are skyrocketing: Over the last 20 years, its incidence has more than doubled, and asthma now kills more than 5,000 Americans each year.
Despite its recent surge, asthma is not a new disease. In fact, rabbi-philosopher-physician Moses Maimonides wrote the first full-length book on asthma in the twelfth century, advocating sexual abstinence and chicken soup. His recommendations were not entirely off the mark—chicken soup inhibits inflammation, which research has shown is a key factor in asthma.
Drugs and More Drugs
If you’re diagnosed with asthma today, you’ll be treated not with soup but with drugs. Although medications are sometimes unavoidable, they come with a host of adverse side effects. Corticosteroids increase risk of osteoporosis, cataracts, glaucoma, and hypertension, and impede growth in children. Bronchodilators (beta2-agonists) can cause rapid heartbeat, muscle tremor, hyperglycemia, and headaches.
If your condition is serious enough to require asthma drugs, talk to your doctor about lowering your doses (most asthmatics do equally well on half their medication). And because some asthma drugs are known to deplete calcium, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, it is important to take a potent multivitamin and mineral supplement daily.
Furthermore, you need to understand that most cases of asthma are responsive to natural treatments. By following a few simple steps, you can raise your trigger threshold, reduce the frequency and severity of attacks, and lower or even eliminate your dependency on drugs.
Know Your Enemies
Your first step in easing asthma symptoms is to identify your triggers and avoid them when possible. The most common triggers are animal fur, dust mites, pollen, aspirin, ibuprofen, cold air, and exercise. (Many of my asthmatic patients say laughter gets them wheezing, too, but I don’t recommend avoiding that.) If you suffer from airborne allergies, vacuum and dust your home regularly and use a high-quality air purifier.
In addition, up to 75 percent of all asthmatics have an undiagnosed food allergy. Discuss food allergy testing with your physician, or follow an elimination diet to uncover food sensitivities on your own.
Another hidden enemy is dehydration. When your body is dehydrated, it releases histamine in an effort to block water loss through the lungs. Histamine worsens inflammation and causes the smooth muscles of the lungs to constrict, which can lead to shortness of breath, wheezing, and an all-out asthma attack. Some patients are able to control symptoms simply by drinking 10 to 12 glasses of water a day.
Keep Airways Open With Supplements
At the Whitaker Wellness Institute we recommend several supplements for our patients with asthma. One is magnesium. Many asthmatics are deficient in this mineral, which promotes relaxation of the bronchial smooth muscle and keeps airways open. In fact, intravenous magnesium is proven to halt an acute asthma attack in its tracks. Although oral magnesium is not as effective in stopping a full-blown attack, it can help prevent future episodes.
Another is fish oil, which has been shown in several studies to reduce asthma severity. Researchers speculate that the anti-inflammatory properties of the omega-3 fatty acids may prevent or reduce symptoms of asthma by minimizing airway inflammation and responsiveness to asthma triggers. One study found that its benefits were not observed until after nine months, so be patient with this therapy.
Antioxidants are extremely important. Free radicals constrict airways and increase sensitivity to potential allergens. Antioxidants, especially vitamin C, counteract this effect by inhibiting bronchial constriction and histamine release. Furthermore, the asthmatic response itself generates excessive free radicals, eating up antioxidants at a faster rate. Another option is Natural D-Hist, an herbal anti-allergy therapy that contains quercetin, bromelain, stinging nettle, N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), and vitamin C. Finally, try B vitamins. They help regulate the immune system’s response to environmental triggers and also help to counter stress, which can worsen asthma symptoms.
Perhaps no one approach—natural or otherwise—will cure your asthma. But following these guidelines will help you on your way to breathing freely.
- If you’d like to speak to someone about receiving treatment for asthma at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253 or click here.
- To order my special report, Asthma and Allergies, or any of the natural products discussed above, call (800) 810-6655.
- Dry J et al. Effect of a fish oil diet on asthma. Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol. 1991;95:156-157.
- Hill J et al. Investigation of the effect of short-term change in dietary magnesium intake in asthma. Eur Respir J. 1997;10:2225-9.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2006. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.