Asthma is a serious respiratory disease that literally leaves its victims breathless. Peo- ple with asthma usually have a combination of problems in the lungs: bronchial mus- cle spasms, swelling of the mucus linings, and increased mucus production. When a susceptible person is exposed to a trigger, such as environmental irritants, allergens, heavy exertion, or even anxiety, the passages inﬂame further and block air from ﬂow- ing freely, resulting in an asthma attack. In a severe attack, a person who doesn’t receive emergency medical care can suffocate.
In America, the number of people with asthma has increased by one-third in the last decade, probably because of pollution, the effects of emotional stress, and a West- ern diet that’s high in additives, meat products, and fats, all of which can cause inﬂam- mation and excess mucus production. Alarmingly, the incidence of asthma continues to rise among children. It is most common in children under the age of ten.
Diet, nutritional supplements, bodywork, and other therapies can go a long way toward preventing and relieving asthma, but if you suffer from this potentially life- threatening disease, you also need to be under the care of a good doctor.
• Difﬁculty breathing
• Tightness in the chest
• Loss of sleep due to coughing and blocked airways
• Increased heart rate
• Constriction of the muscles in the bronchial airways
• Inﬂammation of the mucus linings
• Increased mucus ﬂow
Triggers that bring on an attack vary from person to person but most often include
• Allergies, either environmental or food
• Pollution and irritants
• Infections (colds, ﬂu, or other respiratory infections)
• Cold air
• Heavy physical exertion
• Poor digestive function
• Hormone imbalance
• Emotional stress
Important: If you experience a severe asthma attack, get emergency help at once. Have someone call an ambulance or drive you to the hospital, where you will receive med- ication to open your air passages.
While it may take some discipline, following an antiasthma diet will reduce inﬂam-
mation and the clogging of air passages. If you have trouble getting started, try the detoxifying fast recommended further on. It will help break your addiction to unwholesome food and will allow you to “hear” clearly what your body needs.
Note: Check with a pediatrician or a holistic doctor before eliminating any food group from a child’s diet.
Eat a simple, light diet, based on foods that don’t promote mucus production: raw veg- etables and fruits, seeds, whole grains, lean poultry, and fresh ﬁsh.
Carotenoids are antioxidants that have natural antioxidant and anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁts. They are found in dark-green leafy vegetables and deep-yellow and orange vegetables.
Studies show that children who eat ﬁsh more than once a week have one-third the risk of developing asthma.
Garlic and onions have anti-inﬂammatory properties and are a savory addition to vegetable dishes.
A glass of clean water every two waking hours will help keep your system clean. Water is especially helpful after an asthma attack to break up mucus.
Ground ﬂaxseeds are an excellent source of anti-inﬂammatory omega-3 fatty acids. For children over ﬁve years of age, use 1 to 2 teaspoons, and for adults, the dosage is 1 to 2 tablespoons daily.
Food to Avoid
It is most important to discover whether certain foods provoke allergic reactions. See the Food Allergies entry, especially the elimination diet on page 253.
Even if you don’t have an allergy to dairy products, eliminate them from your diet. They encourage the production of mucus that plugs your airways. For the same rea- son, stay away from sugar, junk food, and fried and reﬁned foods.
Do not eat foods that contain additives or preservatives. This means avoiding processed foods, dried or smoked foods, and salad bars, which are often sprayed with preservatives, such as tartrazine (yellow dye number 5), red dye, sulﬁtes (as found in dried fruits), benzoates, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Never eat frozen or extremely cold foods, which can cause the muscles in your airways to tighten.
Keep pressure off your diaphragm by eating small meals and by avoiding foods that cause gas, such as beans and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliﬂower, and brus- sels sprouts are the most common offenders).
Every three months, consider doing a three-day vegetable cleansing juice fast to expel mucus. Also, daily consumption of super green foods, such as chlorella and/or spi- rulina, is recommended.
The following tests can give you an assessment of possible metabolic reasons for your asthma:
Food allergy/sensitivity testing—blood, electrodermal testing (see Food
Allergies for more details)
Vitamin and mineral analysis—blood Candida and ﬂora balance—stool analysis Toxic metals—hair or urine analysis Intestinal permeability—urine
Stress hormones DHEA and cortisol—saliva or urine
Super Seven Prescriptions—Asthma
Super Prescription #1 Homeopathy
Read the description under Homeopathy in this section, and pick the single rem- edy that best matches your symptoms. If possible, work with a practitioner who is well trained in homeopathy.
Super Prescription #2 Essential fatty acids
Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of ﬂaxseed oil or 4 to 8 grams of ﬁsh oil daily. Essential fatty acid formulations that contain ﬂaxseed oil, ﬁsh oil, or a mixture of omega-
3, 6, and 9 fatty acids are helpful for preventing asthma. Take as directed on the container. It may take four to eight weeks for you to notice an improvement.
Super Prescription #3 Magnesium
Take 250 mg two to four times daily. Reduce the dosage if loose stools occur. Mag- nesium relaxes the bronchial tubes and improves lung function. Nutrition-oriented doctors may also use magnesium intravenously for acute asthma.
Super Prescription #4 Vitamin C
Take 1,000 mg two to four times daily. Reduce the dosage if loose stools occur. Vit- amin C lessens spasms of the bronchial passages and has antiallergy beneﬁts. Use a nonacidic product, such as calcium ascorbate.
Super Prescription #5 Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Take 500 to 1,000 mg twice daily. Astragalus is used to strengthen the lungs and to prevent respiratory infections that can trigger asthma. Do not use if you have a fever.
Super Prescription #6 Antioxidant formula
Take as directed on the container. Antioxidants decrease inﬂammatory responses of the airways.
Super Prescription #7 Enzymes
Take a full-spectrum enzyme product with each meal to improve the absorption of nutrients and decrease reactions to foods.
double-blind trial found that more than half of peo- ple with exercise- induced asthma had signiﬁcantly fewer asthma symptoms after taking 30 mg of lycopene per day for one week, compared to when they took a placebo.
Vitamin B12 reduces the reaction to sulﬁtes that causes asthma symptoms in some people, especially in children. Take 1,500 mcg orally or 400 mcg sublingually. The injectable form is also used by nutrition-oriented doctors.
N-acetylcysteine is a good antioxidant that also liqueﬁes mucus in the bronchial tubes and the sinuses. Take 500 mg two to three times daily.
Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce exercise-induced asthma. Take 30 mg daily of a natural Lycopene complex.
Betaine HCL is helpful for some people with asthma. This supplement increases stomach acid levels, which tend to be low in people with asthma. Take as directed on the container, with meals, or as directed by a doctor.
Ginkgo biloba has anti-inﬂammatory and antioxidant beneﬁts for the lungs. A study using ginkgo extract found that it decreased asthma symptoms. Take 120 to 240 mg daily of an extract containing 24 percent ﬂavone glycosides.
Quercitin is useful for its anti-inﬂammatory and anti-allergy beneﬁts. Take 1,000 mg three times daily.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), licorice, and marshmallow (Althea ofﬁcinalis) root have historically been used in the herbal treatment of asthma. Choose formulas that contain a combination of these herbs, and use as directed on the container.
Cordyceps is a medicinal mushroom used in Chinese medicine to reduce bronchial secretions, improve lung function, and energize the body. Take 800 mg twice daily of a standardized product.
Adrenal-support formulas are helpful in the prevention of asthma. They include herbs such as Panax ginseng, American ginseng, adrenal glandular, and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). Take as directed by a nutrition-oriented doctor.
Many homeopathic remedies exist for asthma. The following suggestions are for use until you can consult with a qualiﬁed homeopath to ﬁnd the remedy appropriate for your constitution. During an asthma attack, take 30C every ten or ﬁfteen minutes until the symptoms subside. Long-term use of the proper homeopathic remedy can reduce your susceptibility to asthmatic attacks.
Aconitum Napellus is for attacks that start suddenly, especially after exposure to cold air, and that cause a great deal of fear or anxiety.
Arsenicum Album is for people with asthma who feel anxious, restless, and worse in the cold air and between midnight and 2 A.M. They feel better sitting up and when sipping warm drinks. This remedy is used for chronic and acute asthma.
Carbo Vegetabilis is for people who feel chilly and faint, yet better when being fanned or near a window. They may have a sensation of fullness in the upper abdomen
and the chest and may feel relief from burping. They feel worse from talking, eating, or lying down.
Ipecacuanha is helpful when a lot of mucus formation causes coughing, gagging, and vomiting.
Kali Carbonicum is for asthma that is worse between 2 A.M. to 4 A.M. The person is usually chilly. Sitting up and leaning forward help to relieve symptoms.
Lachesis is for a feeling of constriction in the throat and the chest. Symptoms are better with fresh air. The person cannot stand any touching or pressure on the throat or the chest and tends to feel warm.
Medorrhinum is for chronic asthma, where the person is prone to reoccurring res- piratory tract infections, is usually very warm, and craves citrus fruit, especially oranges.
Natrum Sulphuricum is for asthma that comes on or is worse in cold, damp weather. Symptoms are often worse from 4 A.M. to 5 A.M.
Nux Vomica (Strychnos nux vomica) is for a constricted feeling in the chest and fullness in the stomach or stomach upset. Asthma symptoms are often worse upon awakening in the morning. Overindulging in food, especially alcohol, spicy foods, or sweets, can bring on symptoms. The person feels chilly and irritable.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is for asthma symptoms that are worse in the evening; in hot, stuffy rooms; or after eating fatty foods. The person often coughs up yellowish mucus, which may also cause gagging. The person desires fresh air and to be comforted by someone.
Acupressure is highly effective at increasing lung capacity and relaxing the muscles of the airways. Massage these points daily for best results. For more information about pressure points and administering treatment, see pages 668–675.
• Conception Vessel 17 relieves tension in the chest.
A back massage will relax your bronchial muscles. A professional treatment is always nice, but you can ask a loved one to rub your back, if you like. And children enjoy receiving back massages from their parents, especially just before they go to bed.
To break up congestion, get a cupping massage on your back or chest.
Any kind of massage, especially with a calming essential oil, will dispel stress and anxiety.
Other Bodywork Recommendations
Osteopathic, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatments are useful for long-term treat- ment. Craniosacral therapy should also be highly considered, especially for children.
Massage the points that correspond to the lungs, the diaphragm, and the adrenal glands.
Hot baths and saunas are relaxing ways to sweat out toxins and mucus. Do not take a sauna if you have hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
Test separate oils for an allergic response before using any in a combination.
• Many oils open airways and loosen congestion. Try eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree, or a combination of these in a steam inhalation or a bath.
• Frankincense encourages deep, relaxed breathing. Do not use frankincense in a steam, as it can inﬂame the mucus membranes.
• Mix lavender oil in a base, and rub it directly on your chest to ease breathing and loosen congestion.
Anxiety can trigger an asthma attack, so keeping stress levels down is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Children in particular often feel helpless and fearful as a result of asthma; teaching them to manage stress can help them live normal lives that are not dictated by their disease.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Yoga and deep breathing will help train asthma sufferers to take deep, regular, and calm breaths.
EEG biofeedback can teach you to control your brainwaves, and children, who love working with computers and machinery, respond especially well to this therapy.
Bach Flower Remedies
Consult the chart on pages 648–650 to ﬁnd the right ﬂower remedy for your partic- ular condition. Once you’ve found the right remedy, place 10 drops of it under your tongue. Hold them in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Take Rescue Remedy if you feel a crisis coming on. It is in no way, however, ade- quate treatment for a full-blown asthma attack.
• Mild to moderate exercise will increase your ability to take in oxygen, so get in a daily walk or other activity. Cold air can trigger an attack, though, so either wear a mask over your face and mouth during the cold months or exer- cise indoors.
• Perform deep breathing exercises every day.
• Use a HEPA (high energy particulate air) ﬁlter to clean the air in your room
• Have the air vents in your house professionally cleaned each year.
• Wash all bedding in hot water one to two times weekly to remove dust and dust
mites, which can trigger asthma. Use allergy-proof coverings for the bed mattress, the pillow covers, and the box spring.
• Vacuum twice weekly with a HEPA ﬁlter vacuum. Consider removing carpets
and rugs, especially in the bedroom, and replace with nontoxic wooden or laminate ﬂooring.
• Avoid all sources of smoke.