— by Cate Stevenson, BA
Asthma is a particularly troublesome condition. Its main symptom is a tightening of the airways. People having an asthma attack can find it very difficult to breath. Drugs and vaccines are often used to treat the symptoms of asthma.
Asthma can be both allergic and non-allergic. Allergens that commonly trigger attacks are animal dander, pollens, mold, chemicals, drugs, dust mites, food additives, seafood, dairy products, and tobacco smoke. Non-allergic causes of asthma include adrenalin disorders, temperature changes, exercise, extreme dryness or humidity, fear, low blood sugar, and stress.
Those who suffer from asthma have long been relying on puffers full of steroids and other drugs to help during an attack. Unfortunately, there are also side effects to using these drugs.
Medical experts have been unable to find a cure for asthma attacks. The best that can usually be hoped for is to control the severity of a particular attack, or to try to minimize the frequency of attacks.
There is some potentially helpful news for asthma suffers this week, however: low vitamin D may contribute to the severity of asthma attacks.
Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have found that those who are vitamin-D-deficient are more likely to have an asthma attack. The research team studied more than 1,000 children with asthma for four years. Over the course of the four-year study, 38% of children with insufficient vitamin D levels went to the emergency room or were hospitalized for an asthma attack. When the researchers considered other factors — including the severity of the children’s asthma at the study’s start, their weight, and their family income — vitamin D insufficiency itself was linked to a 50% increase in the risk of severe asthma attacks.
Though the researchers were unable to conclude from the results of this study that vitamin D itself could prevent asthma, it might be helpful to boost levels of this vitamin if you have breathing problems. Milk, breakfast cereals and orange juice fortified with vitamin D are good food sources. Some fatty fish also naturally contain high amounts of vitamin D.
The main source of vitamin D is the sun. It is naturally synthesized in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight, but long winters and sun avoidance in the summer mean that many do not get enough vitamin D this way. One note — vitamin D synthesis is less efficient in people with darker skin, and African Americans are at higher risk of deficiency than whites. Overweight adults can also be at risk because vitamin D is stored in body fat. The more vitamin D that gets stored into fat tissue, the less active vitamin there is in the blood.