We all would love to be active and healthy individuals—running marathons, playing recreational sports, and exercising at the gym are just a few fun, vigorous ways we can enjoy our lives.
Unfortunately, for many people, even “fun, healthy” physical activity can often lead to dreadful asthma attacks. And trust me—it’s hard to have a good time when you’re having trouble breathing.
What Is Asthma? What are the Symptoms?
Asthma is a lung disease that inflames and narrows the airway; it causes reoccurring wheezing and coughing that mainly occur at night and in the morning. Asthma symptoms also include difficulty breathing and chest tightness.In the U.S., more than 25 million people have been diagnosed with asthma—seven million of those patients being children. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it tends to begin at childhood.
Causes and Triggers of Asthma
Asthma can be triggered through allergens, including mold, pollen, mites and dust. It can also be triggered through viral illnesses: cold air, emotional stress, and exercise. Asthma victims may also react unfavorably to certain chemicals and additives in foods, such as shellfish, nuts, wheat and dairy products.In addition, if asthma is hereditary in your family, your chances of being diagnosed with it increase!
Alternative Treatments for Asthma Attacks
There are a few natural ways you can help prevent and treat asthma attacks:
Acupuncture is an ancient form of treatment that is based on the philosophy that the energy in our bodies flows through positive and negative forces—often called the “Theory of Yin and Yang.” Asthma is said to be one of those diseases that represents the imbalance of these forces. In ancient times, it was said that the energy in our bodies flowed through specific paths called “meridians”. Meridians are life-giving pathways that will help your organs function and keep your body balanced.
Acupuncture involves inserting needles into specific points on the body—the balance of forces is believed to be modified to the benefit of the patient. The needles are very tiny, and are placed under the skin at these points of the meridian—typically on the upper back and hand if you’re being treated for asthma.
The needles can either be rotated manually, or they can have an electric charge current pass through them. The goal is to induce a deep sensation of warmth to that point where the needle is inserted. For asthma patients, the relaxing, warm sensation is said to help with breathing.
Before you seek acupuncture treatment, make sure you do thorough research on the method. It is also imperative that you work with an experienced, licensed acupuncturist; the last thing you want is for an untrained “acupuncturist” to stick needles into you.
2. Breathing Exercises
Although the symptoms associated with asthma include trouble breathing and shortness of breath, breathing exercises have been known to help improve these symptoms.
The Buteyko Breathing Technique is an approach that helps reverse health problems associated with improper breathing. The most common improper breathing issues involve over-breathing and mouth-breathing.
When you eliminate mouth-breathing, and learn to bring your breathing back to a normal volume, you will have better “oxygenation” of your tissues and organs—including your brain.
Typical mouth-breathing characteristics include: chest-breathing, deep breaths, sighing and mouth-breathing while sleeping. All of these characteristics can lead to the symptoms associated with asthma, but they can also be caused by eating fatty foods and not exercising.
Aside from the Buteyko Breathing Technique, yoga is another hot breathing technique that many people have turned to. It relaxes the muscles, and emboldens you to use all the organs and tissues in your body to help you breathe. In addition, since stress can trigger an asthma attack, by incorporating yoga into your life, you will learn how to deal with the stress and channel different parts of your body to relieve it.
Herbal Remedies for Asthma Attacks
In Asia, herbal remedies have been used for thousands of years to treat lung problems. Here are a few herbal home remedies that you should consider trying:
1. Coleus Forskohlii
This herb contains an active ingredient called forskolin that acts as a “bronchodilator”— it increases airflow to the lungs. This herb can be taken as a supplement, but it is to be avoided for asthma patients, who are also taking anticoagulant medications, or any medication for high blood pressure.
This is a fantastic herb used to treat difficult respiratory symptoms —but it can be potentially toxic. You should use it in small doses, and also consult an herbalist or a physician before taking it. If you have high blood pressure, or heart disease, do not use lobelia.
3. Reishi Mushroom
This mushroom is a strong immune-building herb. According to Chinese medicine, this herb aids in lung strength. You can add the mushroom to food, or you can concentrate it.
Natural Supplements for Asthma Attacks
Along with natural remedies, you want to make sure you have a healthy, balanced diet! Let’s take a look at some of the nutrients you want to include in your food:
- Antioxidants: People who have asthma tend to have lower levels of antioxidants. Vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium are just some of the antioxidants that you can find in fruits and vegetables—so make sure to include fruits and vegetables in your diet. These antioxidants are said to help decrease the symptoms of asthma, but more research is needed to actually prove it.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish and healthy oils, omega-3 is said to decrease the inflammation that naturally leads to asthma symptoms.
- Vitamin D: Some studies have linked asthma patients to vitamin D deficiency. Whether or not a lack of vitamin D can cause asthma symptoms is still being researched, but it’s still imperative to include the “sunshine vitamin” in your diet.
Before you introduce a new herbal remedy or supplement into your diet, make sure you closely observe the safety concerns associated with them:
- Quality and Dose: The content that you find in herbal remedies may not be standardized, and can vary in potency. The remedies may also contain ingredients that are not listed, or they may contain contaminants.
- Side Effects: The side effects from an herbal remedy can vary, depending on the type of remedy, and the amount you have consumed. For asthma, be careful when you consume herbal remedies—some of them can contain ephedra or ephedra-like substances. This could result in high blood pressure, which has been linked to heart attacks and strokes.
- Drug Interactions: If you are on other medications, be sure to consult your doctor before taking herbal remedies because there can be consequences if the drugs you’re taking do not interact well with the remedy.
A Word to the Wise
If you’re not the natural remedy type of person, you can always try other alternatives to treat your asthma symptoms. For instance, if you’re a smoker, it might be a good time to quit that nasty habit, as it can have an impact on your ability to breathe. If you are allergic to dust, pollen or anything else, avoid outdoor areas with heavy pollution.
You can outgrow asthma, but in order to do so, you need to ensure your diet is healthy and that you are exercising on a daily basis. Avoid eating food additives and processed foods—substitute with organic foods as much as possible. Decrease refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and starches, hydrogenated oils, artificial food additives, and sweeteners.
Remember—breathing is the most important element of our lives. After you find an alternative asthma treatment that works for you, take a deep breath and just relax.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Asthma treatment: Do complementary and alternative approaches work?” Mayo clinic web site; August 29, 2014; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/in-depth/asthma-treatment/art-20044554?pg=1.
Rouse, J., “7 Non-drug Asthma Treatments + 5 Herbal Remedies,” Gaiam Life web site; http://life.gaiam.com/article/7-nondrug-asthma-treatments-5-herbal-remedies.
“What is Asthma,” National Heart and Lung Association web site; http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma.
“Breath of Fresh Air Articles,” Acupuncture Asthma, partners healthcare web site; http://www.asthma.partners.org/NewFiles/BoFAChapter17.html.