ASTHMA, NUTRITION AND DRUG ALTERNATIVES
Asthma is a hypersensitivity condition of the lungs associated with spasm of the bronchial tubes, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing,, coughing and the excessive production of bronchial mucous. There are basically two types of asthma:
1) Extrinsic/Atopic asthma caused by allergies mediated by the IgE family of antibodies, commonly dust, molds, pollens, animal danders, tobacco smoke and foods.
2) Intrinsic asthma due to cold air, exercise, infection, emotional and other stresses.
Most asthmatics have a mixture of the two types, the extrinsic type being more common. Asthma prescription inhalers (“puffers”) and pills provide temporary relief, but do nothing to halt the progression of the disease and may actually hasten it. Most conventional medical treatments of asthma do not address the underlying cause(s) and are generally aimed at symptom suppression.
Since 1980, the prevalence and incidence of asthma has increased by 80%. It affects at least 5% of the population and is most common in children under the age of 10 with boys affected twice as often as girls. Asthma is now the major cause of school absenteeism for children under 15 years of age in North America and can be a potentially life threatening condition. In fact, the mortality rate from asthma has increased by 300% since 1980.
Why is this happening? Most experts say it’s due to air pollution, increasing chemicals in the diet and the weakening of the immune system by antibiotics, fluoride, chloride, lead, mercury and other toxins. Some of the sources of these toxins include chemical household products, wood preservatives, floor and wall treatments, carpets, rugs, drapes, and synthetic- impregnated furniture.
Less well recognized reasons for the higher incidence are aspartame consumption and vaccines (especially hepatittis B, chickenpox and the flu shot) containing mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, foreign genetic material and other potential toxins. Still other reasons for the increasing asthma ratesare a relative increase in indoor house mite infestation, indoor natural gas from furnaces, water heaters, and stoves that generate nitric oxide residues. Some authors have also questioned the connection between rising asthma rates and the greater use of the microwave oven, a cooking tool capable of creating never before seen molecules of unknown toxicity. The same can be said for the ever-increasing availability of genetically engineered foods, many containing the DNA of other species of plants and animals.
Practical things to start with are to push fluids to loosen bronchial secretions. The average adult should consume at least 2 liters of spring water daily, proportionately more if activity level is higher. Avoid chlorinated or fluoridated tap water. Use a vaporizer with added eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree oil or oil of oregano.
If possible, get food allergy testing done via an elimination – provocation procedure (described in my book,” Childhood Illness and The Allergy Connection” or Dr. William Crook’s “Tracking Down Hidden Food Allergies”). An alternative way of testing for food allergy problems is blood tests that measure antibodies or immune complexes directed at specific foods. Tests that I feel are usually reliable for this purpose are the IgG RAST and various other ELISA tests. Environmental allergies (dust, grasses, trees, pollens, etc.) can best be determined by skin testing done by an allergist. Generally, the younger an asthma patient, the more the allergen triggers are likely to be foods. The older a patient, the more likely the allergens are environmental inhalants.
Asthmatics should avoid sugar and white flour products because of their negative effects on the immune system. Decrease consumption of foods with arachidonic acid (red meat and dairy products) because of their pro- inflammatory, acid-forming effects in the body.
It has been known for over 60 years that at least 80% of asthmatics produce too little hydrochloric acid in their stomachs. In these cases asthma can be improved by supplementing acid (glutamic acid, betaine and pepsin hydrochloride, stomach bitters, other digestive enzyme supplements). Many asthmatics also have poor pancreatic function and inadequate secretion of digestive enzymes. As a result, high protein foods may not be digested completely and, when absorbed into the bloodstream, may evoke an allergic reaction such as wheezing. This is especially the case if the individual suffers from what is called “the leaky gut syndrome” in which there are microscopic sized perforations in the usually intact gut lining. A repair program using supplements such as L-glutamine, gamma oryzanol, bioflavonoids and other potent antioxidants can be implemented.
Also, eliminate food additives like tartrazine, sodium benzoate, sulfur dioxide and all sulfites (sodium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, potassium bisulfite).
SIDEBAR ASTHMA – NUTRITION CONNECTIONS
Eat foods that reduce inflammation and open up the bronchi: garlic, onions, leeks, turnips, endive, green leafy vegetables, carrots. Celery, spinach, horseradish, daikon apricots. Cherries, elderberries, grapes, pineapple, figs, papaya, mango, lemon and honey high omega-3 and –6 fatty acid foods like salmon, herring, mackarel, sardines, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds., walnuts, flax seed oil, evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil and borage oil, sprouted seeds and grains.
Avoid known food allergies and mucous forming foods: cow’s milk and other dairy productswhite bread, sugar and other refined or processed carbohydrates, chocolates,salty and fried foodsfoods high in arachadonic acid like beef, pork and cold cutscanola oil, corn oil, peanuts, pistachios and margarine
Natural Anti-inflammatory Supplements (doses depend on age, tolerance and severity of the condition) all help decrease leukotriene formation and reduce inflammatory compounds.
Essential Fatty Acids e.g. fish oils (cold water fish like cod and halibut, herring, sardines, salmon and trout), hempseed oil, evening primrose oil, flax seed oil, borage oil, black currant seed oil – all have powerful anti- inflammatory effects and can reduce or eliminate asthma symptoms through their content of omega-3-EPA.
Vitamin B12 injections – Dr. Jonathan Wright has shown that daily vitamin B12 shots will reverse asthma, especially in children. The exact mechanism of how this takes place is unknown.
Vitamin C – asthmatics have been shown to have lower serum levels of vitamin C as well as lower levels in white blood cells.
Other Anti-inflammatory Supplements:
Carotenoids – anti-oxidant Vitamin E – anti-oxidant Selenium – anti-oxidant N-acetyl-cysteine –precursor to glutathione, a very powerful antioxidant; also has strong mucolytic (dissolving mucous) effect
Coenzyme Q10 – antioxidant especially important for healthy cellular (mitochondrial) respiration and energy Magnesium – relaxes bronchial smooth muscle Molybdenum – a mineral that activates an enzyme capable of neutralizing sulfites.
Potassium iodide liquid – effective mucous expectorant and natural antibiotic: lymphatic stasis and chronically inflamed or enlarged lymph glands are also helped by liquid iodine solutions Querecetin and other bioflavonoids (rutin, grape seed extract, pycnogenols, catechin, hesperidin) are all powerful antioxidants which help stabilize the mast cell membrane and strengthening capillaries and other blood vessels. They help prevent or weaken any allergic reaction to a food or chemical.
Herbal and Other natural Remedies
Astragalus – boosts immunity and lung strength; boosts interferon production thereby helping to reduce the number of infectious episodes. Ephedra (Ma Huang) – controversial because of its effects on the heart and blood pressure but used for over 5000 years in Chinese Medicine as an effective bronchodilator. It’s best used in lowest effective doses in combination with herbs and nutrients that support the adrenal glands like licorice root, ginseng, vitamin C, zinc, vitamins B5, B6 and magnesium.
Herbal Expectorants Lobelia, Licorice Root, Grindelia, Euphorbia, Sundew and Senega – help clear irritants from airways.
Chinese Skullcap (Scuttalaria Baicalensis) – an anti-inflammatory herb high in bioflavonoids which stabilize the mast cell membranes and help prevent histamine release caused by allergens.
Angelica Sinensis – prevents the formation of IgE antibodies. Elecampane - effective as a cough remedy but also has anti-microbial properties.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) – works to reduce inflammation and asthmatic symptoms due to its ability to prolong the half life of the bodys own cortisone.
Curcumin - the yellow pigment of tumeric (Curcuma longa) is primarily an anti-inflammatory agent comparable to cortisone, ibuprofen and other NSAIDS.
Forskolin - is a derivative of the herb Coleus Forskoli and has been found to be a good natural bronchodilator. It does this by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory compounds and inhibiting the smooth muscle contraction in the airways.
Garlic and Onions – high in vitamin C and quercetin inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes
Probiotics (lactobacillus acidophilus and bifido bacteria) are friendly bacteria that help prevent colonization of the gastrointestinal tract with unfriendly/pathogenic microbes like candida and parasites.
Mullein – decongestant and antispasmodic
Thyme – antispasmodic and immunity booster. Echinacea – natural antibiotic and immune system modulator.
Other herbs advocated by some herbalists for asthmatics include horehound, colt’s foot, blood root, nettles and eyebright.
Asthma can best be treated by using a combination of conventional and natural therapies as needed. The natural approaches are most applicable in the prevention of wheezing attacks and associated infections while conventional therapies should be reserved for serious, acute situations only. See a natural health care practitioner for a personalized regimen.
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