Asthma, in today’s world of advanced understanding and treatments, is a condition that you can manage with little, or no, discomfort at all. Most people with asthma lead lives full of productivity and enjoyment. These individuals have taken the empowering step of partnering with their primary health care professional, and other qualified clinicians, to take an active role in managing their condition.
Allergies and asthma are often considered together because many of the same triggers that can bring on your asthma will also bring out allergies. For instance, a food allergy can bring on either an allergic response or an asthmatic episode. The good news is that there are time-tested, dependable methods that manage both of these conditions very successfully.
Living with asthma requires a few easily followed steps. Developing a straightforward Asthma Action Plan with your health care professional is the first step. Be confident about asking for explanations regarding your plan, as understanding is key to execution.
Additional trained professionals will also be there to support you. Dieticians can show you uncomplicated nutritional modifications to free you from foods that may bring on your asthma symptoms. Personal trainers know how to create tailored exercise programs to keep you exercising while living with asthma. And remember to enlist the help of family and friends. They will always be there to give you the support you might need to effortlessly stick with the program.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe. If you have asthma, your airways, or breathing passages, become extra-sensitive if you are around certain things, called “triggers”, which are unique to each person with asthma. Some examples of asthma triggers are dust, pollen, cold air, smoke and one type of asthma called “exercise-induced asthma” that only shows up after fairly rigorous exercise. See your health care professional and ask for help with controlling of your symptoms. Although it can’t be cured, it can be managed allowing you to lead a normal, active life.
Common Concerns About Asthma
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor any questions you have. The more you know about asthma and your specific triggers and symptoms, the better you will be able to manage your asthma effectively. Your doctor can help you understand asthma by explaining the following:
- Structure and function of the lungs.
- Definition of asthma.
- The functional changes in the lungs that occur during an episode of asthma.
- Warning signs and symptoms of an asthma episode.
- Triggers of asthma episodes.
- Steps to achieve control of asthma.
- Benefits of proper treatment.
Below is a table of commonly asked concerns and how to address the issue.
|Common Concern||Addressing This Concern|
|Asthma is caused by psychological problems.|
Asthma can be fatal.
People with asthma cannot exercise.
Asthma cannot be cured.
Asthma medication is dangerous.
Asthma medication is addictive.
|Asthma is a physical problem. You are not to blame.|
Death from asthma is rare, especially if the asthma is well controlled.
Exercise is especially important if you have asthma. You can take medicine before you begin exercising to prevent symptoms during exercise.
Asthma can be controlled. You should expect nothing less. If your asthma is controlled, you can participate normally in all activities.
Asthma medications are safe if taken as prescribed. Report all side effects to your doctor. The dose may need to be reduced or the medication changed.
None of the asthma medications are addictive. Because these medications suppress, but do not cure your asthma, your symptoms may return if you stop taking your asthma medications.
YOU HAVE THE POWER – Strategies To Employ In Controlling Your Asthma
Have An Asthma Action Plan
After a consultation with your health care professional you will know:
- which medications you need to take
- how often you should see your health care professional, and
- how to diagnose asthma symptoms as serious enough to require immediate medical attention.
It also helps to keep a diary regarding your symptoms, your lung capacity (with the aid of a peak flow meter) and any irritants in your environment that might trigger your asthma.
A peak flow meter is a small, easy-to-use instrument that reveals how well your lungs are working. It does this by measuring your peak expiratory flow, which tells you how fast you can blow out air after a maximum inhalation. You use the peak flow meter to help you identify lung performance patterns, which give you information to prevent asthma episodes and develop your asthma management plan. 2
You can download an Asthma Action Plan from the Canadian Lung Association by CLICKING HERE.
There are health care professionals called Certified Asthma Educators. These are individuals trained to be respiratory therapists, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists or dieticians who have special training in teaching people about asthma. They are experts at explaining how asthma affects you and what you can do about it. To find a Certified Asthma Educator, ask your local Lung Association or your health care professional.
Exercise-Induced Asthma Doesn’t Have To Slow You Down
You can manage exercise-induced asthma, however it’s important to know what triggers your asthma symptoms. For example, if your symptoms occur most often during strenuous activity in cold, dry air, you may need to exercise indoors during the winter or wear a scarf or facemask when you exercise outside. Other things you may need to do include adjusting your routine during high pollution and high allergen days, or stop exercising when you feel tired, or have a cold or other illness.
It has been shown that, in some individuals, the stronger you get as you progress with your physical training, the more episodes of exercise-induced asthma will decrease. For this reason, after consultation with your health care professional, many of those with asthma are encouraged to continue exercising.
Exercise-induced asthma doesn’t have to keep you from physical activity. In fact, exercise may be an important part of your treatment plan. Many successful athletes have exercise-induced asthma that they control with a combination of medication and environmental control. You too can remain healthy and physically fit with proper education and use of medication for your asthma.
Simple Attention To Your Diet
The use of an elimination diet can help you ascertain whether certain foods are aggravating your asthmatic condition. Although it is less often to be foods that trigger asthma symptoms, some foods common in our diet might be worth a closer look. These culprits include alfalfa, corn, peanuts, soy, eggs, beets, carrots, colas, cold beverages, dairy products, fish, red meat, processed foods, salt, spinach, chicken and turkey, white flour, and white sugar.
How Elimination Diets Work
Each week, pick a food to eliminate for the entire week and record any noticeable changes in your asthma. If you record no significant changes, chances are this food was not aggravating your symptoms.
Rather than reintroducing the eliminated food back into your diet the following week, leave it out and continue on with another food. It has happened that the culprit is not in one particular food or another, but in a combination of two or more.
To be absolutely sure, have your health care professional go over the results of your elimination diet with you. He or she may spot something that only a trained eye could.
Certain supplements have been shown to be beneficial in controlling asthma symptoms. However, as always, you should inform your health care professional of your intention to begin taking any form of supplementation. Only he or she can tell you if there are contraindications regarding a supplement and the medication you may currently be taking.
Grape Seed Extract
The medicinal and nutritional value of grapes (Vitis vinifera) has been heralded for thousands of years. Egyptians consumed this fruit at least 6,000 years ago, and several ancient Greek philosophers praised the healing power of grapes — usually in the form of wine.
Grape seed extract may be helpful in those with asthma and allergies. Several studies support the use of proanthocyanidins, such as those found in grape seed, as a supplement for allergic conditions (including airborne and food allergies).3
In part, asthma is an overreaction of the body’s own immune system, usually caused by exposure to an allergen that can trigger symptoms. Selenium protects the immune system by preventing the formation of free radicals that can damage the body. Studies suggest that people with asthma tend to have low levels of selenium. In addition, a population-based study suggested that eating selenium-rich foods may reduce the risk of asthma. And in one small study of 24 people with asthma, those who received selenium supplements for 14 weeks had fewer symptoms than those who received placebo. 4
Lycopene and Beta-Carotene
Preliminary data suggests that these two antioxidants, found in many fruits and vegetables, may help prevent exercise-induced asthma. 5
Carotenoids are closely related to vitamin A. Carotenes are a sub class of carotenoids, of which beta-carotene is the most widely recognized. Lycopene falls under this sub class as well. When you eat foods rich in beta-carotene, your liver converts only as much as needed into vitamin A.
Boswellia (also known as Salai guggal), an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine (a traditional Indian system of health care), has shown promise in treating asthma. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people who took boswellia had fewer attacks and improved lung function. Boswellia may help leukotreine modifiers work better. However, more research is needed. People who take medication to lower their cholesterol, or people who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should talk to their doctor before taking boswellia.6
Calcium, Magnesium and Zinc
Calcium – the control of smooth muscle contraction is governed by changes in the intracellular concentration of calcium ions.
Magnesium – assists in calcium uptake and is essential in muscle relaxation after contraction. Magnesium also plays a key role in the production of energy which is needed by the chest wall muscles and the diaphragm to perform the work of breathing. Magnesium promotes healthy lung function by acting as a bronchodilator, preventing the broncial passages from going into spasm. A deficiency may increase vulnerability to allergies by increasing the release of histamine into the bloodstream. The administration of intravenous magnesium has been shown to be effective in the treatment of bronchial asthma symptoms. 7
Zinc – promotes a healthy immune system. Zinc lozenges can shorten an asthma attack or halt one before it becomes severe. 8
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
Further Suggested Reading:
1. Interactive Asthma Tutorials from the National Institutes of Health
2. How To Help Your Allergies and Asthma, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
3. More about Peak Flow Meters
1. American Medical Association
2. National Jewish Health
3. University of Maryland Medical Center
4., 5., 6. University of Maryland Medical Center
7. Practical Asthma Review
8. Asthma – Prescription for Nutritional Healing,
Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC